Aperture is a Mac-only program, but anyone using a PC might want to keep reading, just to see how Apple approaches image cataloguing.

The features in Apple Aperture 2 are much the same as those in Aperture 1.5 and, for that matter, Lightroom. Images are stored in an image library, which acts as a giant database that can be searched for keywords, copyright information and other IPTC and EXIF data.

A welcome redesign from Apple

RAW conversions are handled by a brand-new RAW engine and adjustments are stored in the library rather than being applied permanently to the image.

Related images can be grouped in 'stacks' which can be expanded or collapsed, and individual collections of photos can be stored in Albums or Smart Albums.

Aperture 1.5 was great but very slow. Its RAW conversions, while decent weren't as good a Adobe's. It was expensive, too. Aperture 2 has changed all that.

The database structure has been redesigned, and now Aperture is extremely fast, even on a MacBook.

Improved, and cheaper too

The RAW conversions are improved, with lower noise, better highlight recovery and more tools, including a Vibrancy slider to increase saturation only where it's needed.

The highlight recovery is as good as Lightoom's, and Aperture produces lower noise levels more consistently.

Finally, the new price easily undercuts Lightroom, which is starting to seem ponderous and expensive. Where the Lightroom interface is dark and claustrophobic, Aperture's is light and 'open'.

Lightroom looks like a lugubrious old labrador, while Aperture is like a sleek greyhound.