How to batch remove keywords in Aperture 3

As much as I love Aperture, I'll be the first to admit that the way keywords are implemented is confusing and often infuriating.

Once you get the hang of it you can make them work well, but it's not at all intuitive. I'm not sure what they were thinking when they designed keywords but it has caused me a lot of grief over the years.

One of these grievances is removing a keyword from multiple photographs. It took me a while to figure this one out. It's certainly not obvious, but there's a very simple way of doing it using the Keyword Controls in the Control Bar.

Here's a quick 25 second video showing it in action:

If you're not familiar with the Control Bar, you can bring it up by selecting Window > Show Control Bar or pressing 'D' on the keyboard. 

The Control Bar has 2 views:

Control Bar with Navigation & Ratings buttons

Control Bar with Navigation & Ratings buttons

Control Bar with Keyword Controls

Control Bar with Keyword Controls

To toggle between the two, press Shift-D

With Keyword Controls you can apply keywords by pressing the buttons or searching for existing keywords via the Add Keyword text box. You can also create your own custom button sets for quick access to your most used keywords for each type of photography or subject/topic. And of course, you can also remove keywords.

To remove an individual keyword from multiple photographs at the same time, do the following:

  1. Select all the photographs you want to remove the keyword from.
  2. In the Control Bar, type the keyword you want to remove into the Add Keyword field.
  3. Press Shift-Return.

If there's already a button for that particular keyword in the set, you can just Shift-click on it to remove it from all photographs.

In the example in the video, I applied "black and white" to all the images in a project. I had scanned a lot of negatives and imported them all into one project. I thought they were all scans from black & white film, so I applied the keyword to all. After looking at the project in detail during my rating process I realised some were in colour.

Of course, I didn't want to remove the keyword from each photograph one at a time. I needed to batch remove the keyword. So I opened the Control Bar, selected the colour photographs, typed in "black and white" into the Add Keyword field, and hit Shift-Return.

Poof. The keyword was removed from all photographs in one go.