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Archive 2012 · LR4 File System

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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · LR4 File System

I am new to LR4 (and LR in general) as well as MacBook Pro (finally giving up on Windows!!). Is there a good on-line reference that explains the file system & catalog system used by LR4 and with a MBP?

Thanks in advance,


Aug 30, 2012 at 06:03 PM
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · LR4 File System

Apple uses the HFS+ file system read about it here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HFS_Plus.
As for the catalog system it is largely the same as in Windows.

Aug 30, 2012 at 07:22 PM
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · LR4 File System

LR4 uses SQLite as its database. It's a simple, self-contained database where the db is a binary file sitting in the Mac OSX filesystem.

If you really want to know about the Mac filesystem, then read the previous HFS+ entry. There isn't any real documentation on the catalog other than grabbing a database browser that supports SQLite and opening the .lrcat file (do it on a copy of the .lrcat file). It's reasonably straight-forward.

If your question is more generalized as in 'I want help understanding the basics of navigating on the Mac', then a book like Pogue's 'Missing Manual' might be of value.

Aug 30, 2012 at 07:28 PM
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · LR4 File System

I may be wrong but I'm not sure the OP meant things quite that deep. The way I read the OP was more like a Reference on how LR4 stores and catalogues your images.

If so the there are many books and online videos for the new to Lightroom user.

I know the Lynda.com videos start you off at the basics of the catalogue . And the videos are quite informative .

But also be aware that you can pretty much get lightroom to store your images in just about anyway you want .
One thing you do need to remember is that do any image moves FROM WITHIN Lightroom . That way Lightroom still knows where everything is.

Aug 30, 2012 at 08:49 PM

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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · LR4 File System

you're probably right and we seriously over-read his question

Aug 30, 2012 at 10:00 PM
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · LR4 File System

Mike, I know from experience that you are doing it tough by tackling Lr and a new OS at the same time. Good luck.

you can leave your photos wherever you want them on your drive(s).

I think it is best to have all of your images in folders that are under a common parent folder. "Best" because if you ever want to move them to a different drive or a different parent folder you only need to tell Lr where to find the new location of the parent folder and it will find all of the images. This will not matter at all during normal operation but makes it easier to use backed-up copies of your image library after a drive failure.

A single Lr catalog file can cover images in multiple folders in multiple drives.

Initially you should use a single catalog because it allows more thorough searching capabilities. It is messier to switch between catalogs because it can only open one at a time.

Your catalog lives in the Lightroom folder that lives in the Pictures folder that lives in your Username folder. It can be moved elsewhere but leave it there to begin with. Back it up often, and back it up to a different drive.

Lr can use sidecar files (with a .xmp extension) that hold the edit instructions and other info about each image. This doubles the number of files and can get messy, but the same info is held in the catalog. If you tell Lr not to update xmp files automatically then that will reduce the number of disk read/write operations and speed up Lr, but be sure to keep that library catalog backed up !

Lr catalogs show specific folders that you "import" into Lr - not all folders. The hierarchy in the Lr folders panel will not look like the hierarchy on the drive unless/until you tell Lr to show the parent folders. When enough parent folders are shown you will see the full hierarchy but in doing so some of the folders will change location in the folders panel. That's not a problem but it can be disconcerting at first.

Lr does not alter the original file data ! It just keeps track of edit instructions and presents modified previews of the files. If you want a physically new file then you have to tell Lr to export it and it will convert the original to the new format. Because of the way Lr works it is rarely necessary to have duplicate copies in your catalog. Instead, Lr can create virtual copies that seem like different versions of the same files but are all based on the one master file.

Exported files are no longer raw files and cannot be handled as raw files by other software.

Once folders or files have been imported into Lr do not use any other program to relocate them. If you do that then Lr will lose track of the files and will show them as missing. Then you have to tell Lr where they have gone or risk losing your edits. You can relocate files and folders within Lr.

I use a program called carbon copy cloner to duplicate drive volumes and do regular backups of selected folders. It copies my changed Lr data (not the previews and stuff that are easily recreated) from one drive to another every few hours. I also clone my drives periodically. CCC keeps archive folders of things that changed if you tell it to do so, so you can review what has been going on. And Time Machine is always running to a wifi time capsule. I use TM with directly connected drives too. I've had way too many drive failures over the years, on both Windows and Mac.

- Alan

Sep 02, 2012 at 05:07 AM

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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · LR4 File System

Thanks everyone. Over the past few days/evenings I have viewed the Adobe videos on LR. They are very good and helped me understand whats going on with LR, especially the filing system. The idea of virtual files/folders makes sense considering the size of the image files, clever!!

The Mac is becoming more "friendly" everyday, so friendly that I now have a 27" Apple Thunderbolt display. I was waiting for some other 27" IPS displays and weighing the pros and cons. Friday I went to Best Buy after work and they had the new 27" display, one was new the other was opened/returned. It was on sale for $950 and the returned one was another $95 off. Since I had my MDP with me I had them hook it up to the returned display, I needed a special Mag something for the power. The new Thunderbolt Display has a power pigtail for the MBP off the TB connector, has good speakers, and 3 USB ports plus 3 other ports. It's really a docking station. And this combo works with my wireless Microsoft mouse and keyboard...so I can close up the MBP and place it under the display.

So for $855 this seems like a good deal. Now I need a big HD for backup, it never ends!!

Sep 02, 2012 at 03:54 PM

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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · LR4 File System


Thanks for the details. You are right about me taking the tough route, seems like just about everything I do isn't easy. Get reminded of that everyday at home!!

Sep 02, 2012 at 03:57 PM

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