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.

Why I back up my best photographs in Evernote

You can never have too many backups of your most important or precious files. In my case, my best photographs are both important and precious, so I back them up multiple times. One of them is in Evernote.

Every time I mention this, people look at me like I'm insane. You're probably thinking that right now!

Let me explain my overall photography backup programme first so I can put the backing up photographs in Evernote idea into context.

Evernote Photography Backup Notebook

Evernote Photography Backup Notebook

I organise and keep all my photographs in Aperture as managed files. This means each Aperture Library is a single special type of folder called a package that behaves like a self-contained entity. It includes everything in one place. I like the managed approach because I never have to worry about where my original photographs are.

I have 2 Aperture libraries: a Main library in an external Thunderbolt drive that has everything, and a Mobile library in my retina MacBook Pro's internal drive that has only a copy of the projects I'm actively working on. I merge the mobile one back to the main one regularly.

In the external Thunderbolt drive I keep my main Aperture library and my main Final Cut Pro library. Nothing else.

This is my overall backup strategy:

  1. Time Machine: One at home via Wi-Fi and one at work via USB. They back up both my rMBP and external Thunderbolt drive, which includes all my photographs.
  2. Backblaze: Continuously backing up both rMBP and Thunderbolt drive to the cloud.
  3. Clone: About once a week I clone my rMBP using Carbon Copy Cloner. This only backs up my Mobile library.
  4. Aperture Vaults: This is my primary photo backup. An additional external USB drive holds Vaults for both Main and Mobile libraries. Vaults are one of the great things about managed files in Aperture.

My photographs live in at least 5 places: the original drives, two Time Machine drives, the Backblaze cloud, and the external drive with the Aperture Vaults. I think I'm covered.

So where does Evernote fit in?

Aperture is non-destructive. Many photographs don't exist in their final form since Aperture doesn't touch the original files. Any adjustments you make in Aperture are just instructions that Aperture interprets. This is good because it preserves your originals intact, you can further adjust the photos later, and you don't fill up your drive with duplicate files.

However, I still like to keep an extra copy of my very best images in a final "rendered" format. Full size JPEGs are good quality even for print and will be readable for a long time by pretty much any computer.

I used to export these to MobileMe Galleries back in the day. Now I store them in Evernote.

Once I'm done with a project in Aperture, I filter out the 4 and 5 star images and export JPEGs in their original resolution. In Evernote, I create a new note for each project with the same title as in Aperture and I add all the JPEGs to it. All these photo backup notes are then stored in a dedicated stack called "Photography Backups (JPEGs)".

UPDATE: Several readers asked me to expand on how I put the photos into Evernote, so I wrote a follow up explaining it.

Backing up my best photographs in Evernote is really just in case the worst happens. I don't think I'll ever need them, but it helps me sleep better at night.

If you want to learn or get better at Evernote, I suggest you get Brett Kelly's ebook, Evernote Essentials. It will save you a ton of time and give you great ideas to get the most out of Evernote. I believe it's a good investment. You can find my review of the ebook here.

What do the Aperture badges mean?

There are a myriad things you can do to a photograph in Apple's Aperture. A typical workflow may include applying ratings, keywords, location, adjustments, and round-tripping your images to external editors. Then there are albums, stacks, books, light tables, and more. It's easy to loose track of what you've done to and with each photograph.

Fortunately, Aperture makes it easy for you to quickly identify the key things you need to know. It does this by overlaying small symbols in the corners of your photographs called badges.

I get asked often what these badges in Aperture mean, so I've put together the table below to point people to. It shows you the icon for the badge, a description, and the location where this badge will appear.

The badges in Aperture

badge adjustments This means adjustments have been made to the photograph. This badge will appear whenever you add any adjustment from the adjustments tab. It basically lets you know that you've already done something to the image. A version with two sliders is sometimes used. Lower Right
badge keywords This means the photograph has keywords assigned to it. Lower Right
external edit This means the photograph has been edited in an external editor. Whenever you select "Edit with..." and choose an application or a plug-in (ie. Photoshop, Nik, onOne, etc.) Lower Right
badge referenced This means the photograph is referenced. That is, the master file (or original) is not stored within the Aperture library, called managed, but it's somewhere else and Aperture is only referencing it. Lower Right
badge referenced offline This means the photograph is referenced, but the master image is offline. This will happen if you have the masters in an external drive and it's not attached to the computer. Lower Right
badge referenced lost This means Aperture expects the photograph to be referenced, but cannot find the master and it's lost the path to where it is. You may need to re-sync. Lower Right
badge ratings stars This is the rating you've assigned to the photograph. It goes from 1 star to 5 stars. If the photograph is unrated it won't have a badge, and if it's been rejected it'll have an 'X' instead of stars. Lower Left
badge stack This badge tells you the image is part of a stack and how many photographs are contained in the stack. Upper Left
stacks This is also for stacks, but it tells you you're looking at the second image in a stack of 3. It will appear, for example, within a smart album where not all images in the stack are visible. Imagine a smart album where the filter is 3 stars or more. If only the second image in the stack is a 3 star photograph, while the others are 1 star, you'll see this badge. Upper Left
badge low resolution This badge will appear whenever the image resolution is too low for the book or webpage you're trying to create. The badge appears in the image within the book/webpage, not in the thumbnail though. Upper Right
album-pick This badge tells you the photograph is the album's pick. It's useful when you have, for example, a stack of 3 images. One Black & White, one Full Color, one Color Monochrome. If you do 3 albums, one for B&W's, one for color shots, etc, you can "pick" the one that goes into each album from the stack. Upper Centre
book This badge tells you the number of times the photograph has been used within a book, web journal or light table. Upper Right
globe This one doesn't seem to be documented anywhere. I haven't seen it since MobileMe died. The badge is a little globe and it was used for images that came from a MobileMe gallery. For example, if you exported a gallery to MobileMe, then deleted the original image from your Library, and then synced the MobileMe gallery again, Aperture would know the master is missing from the Library and will pull down the jpeg from MobileMe with this badge. Lower Right
badge photostream This one means Aperture downloaded this image from Photo Stream, Facebook or Flickr. Lower Right
“badges This means a location has been assigned to the image. You'll see it in the Places view. Upper Centre
“badges This means the image is part of a RAW + JPEG pair (you imported them together), and this is the RAW version. Lower Right
“badges This means the image is part of a RAW + JPEG pair (you imported them together), and this is the JPEG version. Lower Right
“badges This means the photograph has an audio file attached (some cameras let you record an audio file when you take a photograph) or the file is an audio file. Lower Right
“badges This means the file is a video and not a photograph. Lower Right

Of course, you can also consult the manual, which includes a short description for most of Aperture's badges. It doesn't, however, include them all.

You can also get to the manual from within Aperture itself. Just go to Help > Aperture Help. Unfortunately, the search doesn't work very well here. Searching for "badges" doesn't point me to the right page. But searching for "badge overlays overview" does, which is the title of the page. Very annoying if you ask me.

How to read the badge overlays in Aperture

Let's look at a specific example. The thumbnail below has several badges, can you identify what it's telling you?

Aperture badges

Aperture badges

You can learn multiple things just from looking at the badges in the image above:

  1. I've rated it 4 Stars.
  2. I've edited in an external editor (Nik Plugin).
  3. I've made further adjustments in Aperture.
  4. I've assigned keywords.
  5. It's part of a stack of 4 images.
  6. It's the album pick (for a book).
  7. I've used it once in the book.
  8. I've applied the grey label.

Aperture's badges are a great way to know what you've done to a photograph. I find them immensely helpful as part of my workflow and a huge time saver.

How many megapixels do I need for a specific print size?

I get asked how many megapixels do I need for a specific print size quite often. It's a common question and it seems to be a source of confusion and frustration for many people.

The truth is that most modern cameras have enough megapixels to cover the print sizes most people would want, so my admittedly cheeky answer is if you have to ask, don't worry about it.

But this question seems to keep coming up. In the last few weeks I've heard:

  • How big a print can I make with my camera?
  • If I want to make an X size print, how many megapixels do I need?
  • Can I make A3 prints with my camera? (A3 is roughly equivalent to tabloid)

So, the short (and more polite) answer is if you bought your camera in the last few years, don't worry. You have enough megapixels for an A3 photograph, and probably even higher.

The long answer is, of course, it depends.

It's important to understand that the quality of a print is not based purely on how many megapixels your camera sensor has. Many factors influence the quality of a final print, such as:

  • Exposure
  • Focus
  • Lens quality
  • Digital Noise (from high ISO)
  • Sensor dust
  • Sensor size (or more accurately, pixel size) Post-processing (I use Apple Aperture for most of my work)
  • Ink and paper choice

As an example, I have printed photographs from my very old 6 megapixel Nikon D70s at 16" x 16" that look amazing. And this is a 10 year old camera! But I have also printed photographs from the same camera at 5" x 7" that look pretty average.

Megapixels definitely are not the be all, end all of print quality.

Another point to consider is viewing distance. You can expect the viewer to hold a 5x7 print and look at it up close, but you wouldn't expect them to do the same with a 40 inch one. Bigger prints are usually framed and hanging from a wall, where the viewing distance is a meter or more. Resolution is not as critical in this case. Think of a billboard up in the roof of a building. If you got close enough to it, say 30 cms (the size of a standard school ruler), you'll see the photograph is highly pixelated and blurry, but from farther away (the appropriate viewing distance), it looks fine. Consider the viewing distance when deciding on the print size and how many megapixels you might need.

So how many megapixels do I need then?

OK, if you want details, here we go. All things being equal, the table below will give you an idea of the maximum print sizes you can make from a given camera's megapixels.

File sizes are based on a 12 bits/pixel RAW file. Hi-Res Print are based on 300dpi, which is roughly the standard for "photo quality" prints. Normal Print sizes will give you a good print if you start with a good file to begin with.

2 1600x1200 ~ 2MB 5" x 4" (13cm x 10cm) 10" x 8" (27cm x 20cm)
3 2048x1536 ~ 3MB 7" x 5" (17cm x 13cm) 13" x 10" (35cm x 26cm)
5 2560x1920 ~ 6MB 8" x 6" (21cm x 16 cm) 17" x 13" (43cm x 32cm)
6 2816x2112 ~ 8MB 9" x 7" (24cm x 18cm) 19" x 14" (48cm x 36cm)
8 3264x2468 ~ 12MB 11" x 8" (28cm x 21 cm) 21" x 16" (55cm x 42 cm)
12 4000x3000 ~ 18MB 13" x 10" (34cm x 25cm) 26" x 20" (68cm x 50cm)
24 6048x4032 ~36MB 20" x 13" (51cm x 34cm) 40" x 27" (100cm x 68cm)

In summary, if you have 5 megapixels (photos from your iPhone 4 for example) you can print 8X10 with pretty decent quality (assuming a well exposed and sharp file).

If you have 10 megapixels you can print an A3 size photograph at photo quality. Most modern cameras have at least 10 megapixels.

See? Unless you're planning to make huge prints, don't worry about how many megapixels you need!

How to open plain text in MindNode Pro

MindNode Pro is an wonderful mind mapping application. There are versions for Mac, iPad and iPhone, and the documents are kept perfectly in sync via iCloud. I use MindNode Pro often for a multitude of things, one of which is to visualise my Aperture keywords.

In fact, a few months ago I started the laborious process of cleaning up my Aperture library (which I haven't finished) because I made some fundamental changes to my workflow. Part of this involved organising the keywords I attach to photographs.

Open plain text in MindNode Pro

At the time, I started a new MindNode Pro document and did a mind map of all the keywords. Once I was happy with the new structure and all the keywords, I exported the mind map as a plain text file and used that to import into Aperture.

MindNode Pro lets you export a mind map as a plain text file. It indents the text to match nodes, so it looks like a simple outline and it's easy to understand. Aperture's keyword list can be imported and exported as plain text as well, and it uses the same indent method to show parent/child relationships, which are effectively the same thing as nodes on a mind map.

Over time, I've added new keywords to Aperture. This weekend I wanted to update the MindNode Pro mind map to match what was in Aperture.

I thought I'd just reverse the process. Export a plain text file from Aperture and import that same plain text file to MindNode Pro.

But to my surprise, MindNode Pro can't import plain text. At least not directly.

What MindNode Pro does accept is pasting indented text directly onto an open document.

It turned out to be fairly simple.

After exporting the plain text file from Aperture, I just opened it in a text editor, selected everything (⌘A), copied (⌘C), went over to a new, empty document in MindNode Pro and pasted (⌘V).

Fix for Apple Aperture 3 green tint error

A while ago I merged multiple different Aperture libraries into a single big one (more on why in another post). It took a long time as some libraries had close to 10,000 photographs, but I now finally have all my photos in one library, which is what I wanted.

The process was relatively easy. However, one big problem I had was that a bunch of my photographs had a green tint over them. It was like a green layer on top of the image, which made it impossible to work with. Some looked like they'd been crossed-processed or something to that effect. Really annoying.

Apple Aperture Green Tint Problem

I tried to fix it by repairing the library, then rebuilding it, then deleting the Aperture preferences file. Nothing seemed to work. So I went to Google to see if others had experienced the green tint problem and if someone had a solution.

The green tint problem seems to be fairly common and it's been discussed quite a bit. There are several threads in the Apple forums. Unfortunately, none of the suggested fixes solved the problem for me.

In my investigation, some images that had the green tint in the thumbnails looked ok in full screen, and some the other way around. The fact that they looked ok sometimes suggested it could be the preview (the jpeg Aperture creates to display the image), so I gave rebuilding all previews a go. And that solved the problem! All my photographs are back to normal.

Here's what I did step by step:

1. Select Photos in the Library section.

That shows you all the photos in your library irrespective of which projects they're on. It's just every singe photo you have.


2. Click on any photo in the viewer and Select All.

This will of course select all your photographs. Now, anything you do from the menu will affect them all.

3. Go to Photos and select Generate Previews.

To see it you need to hold the Option key and the menu item will turn from Update Previews to Generate Previews.


4. Wait.

And wait some more. And then keep on waiting. Aperture is generating new previews for all your photographs. To see the progress click on "Processing…" at the bottom or go to Window > Show Activity to open up the Activity window. Depending on the size of your library this step could take a long time, so be warned!

That's it.

I guess you could just select the ones that have the green tint and generate previews for those only, but I found it more time consuming to go through my entire library trying to select the problem ones. I just let it do its thing while I cought up with Breaking Bad, so no problem. Hope that helps those with the same issue.

How to organise iCloud folders by name

Today I realised you can organise folders in iCloud by name, date, or tags. I assume the default is by date (as in modified date) since I'd never changed this before and that's what my Mac is doing.

I'll use Byword as an example, since that's where I just experinced it. I use just three folders. One for the files I'm actively working on, called Writing; one for drafts where I keep new ideas and unfinished drafts that are not urgent; and one where I dump all text files once I'm finished writing and I've published the content elsewhere, called Archives. I specifically put a number in the folder name so they were always in the same order, but today I noticed 03. Archives was first.

iCloud folders organised by name, date, or tag

It's a small thing, but one that really irks me. On instinct, I control-clicked (or right-click) on the gray area and got the option to sort by name, date, or tag. Easy fix.

But I wondered why I'd never notice this before. Turns out the order of folders in Byword for iPhone and iPad is always by name, and I almost always start new documents from an iOS device. In Byword for iOS you can choose to sort documents by date, but it affects only documents, not folders.

VSCO Cam for iPhone (and fix the download error)


Visual Supply Co. (VSCO) develop VSCO Cam, which has quickly become my favourite photography app for iPhone. I have it permanently on my homescreen and use it for 90% of photos I take with the iPhone now.

VSCO Cam replaced a previous app by the same company called VSCOCam (yep, without the space), which I onwned and really liked. When I say replaced, I mean exaclty that. The previous version is no longer available or supported.

While the previous one was a paid app (from memory it was US$.99), the new one is free with in-app purchases. If you own the old one and have it installed, you get a bunch of paid filters for free when you download the new one. This is a nice touch from VSCO.

But the new filters are even better than the old ones. I purchased the full pack of filters and I'll be spending some quality time with them. So far, I really like it.

One thing I noticed when I bought the filter pack is that it kept giving me an error in the middle of the download. The error message said only "There was a connection error" and all I could do was start the download again. I tried multiple times and always got the same error.

Frustrated, I tried again and watched the phone through the download instead of just letting it do it's thing. That's when I realised the download took so long that the screen went dark and the iPhone locked.

If you purchase the full filter pack, it's about 108MB and I assume the app can't download in the background.


So, to fix the VSCO Cam download error issue, just go to the Settings app, then General > Auto-Lock and set it to Never. Then start the download again. It'll take a while, but it'll finish fine.

Once it finishes, remember to go back and set the Auto-Lock to whatever you had before.

Spotlight - Refine search results by Kind

This morning I had to find a specific document that I hadn't used in a couple of years. I couldn't remember where I'd archived it or what the exact file name was. And I needed it now. Right now.

I panicked for a split second. Then I typed what I could remember about the file into Spotlight: two keywords and the application I'd created it in, and there it was.

Apple Spotlight search bar

Spotlight is the search technology built into every Mac and it's quite powerful. It's not only an excellent search engine, but an application launcher, a calculator, a dictionary, and so much more. A quick example, type date:yesterday into Spotlight and it'll show you the applications, documents, folders, etc. you used yesterday. There are many such features that make Spotlight a great tool. The one I use the most is searching by kind.

Searching by Kind in Spotlight

Almost every time I use Spotlight to search for something I know what kind of file I'm after. It's rare that I type in something and think to myself, "I'm not sure if what I'm after is a presentation or a song or an application". In fact, I typically not only know the file type, but the application I used to create it as well.

Spotlight has a handy feature that lets you refine your search results by what it calls "kind".

Apple Spotlight search by kind:application

To pre-qualify your results by kind, just type into Spotlight kind:[type], where "type" can be any of the below. The most common ones are:

kind:application - Searches only applications (kind:app also works)
kind:document - Searches across all document types
kind:image - Searches across all image types
kind:audio - Searches across all audio formats
kind:video - Searches across all video formats
kind:music - Searches only music files
kind:movie - Searches only movie files
kind:folder - Searches only for folder titles

Spotlight lets you get even more granular than that. You can refine to only files created with a specific application, or just music, or even particular file extensions.

kind:keynote - Searches only Keynote presentations
kind:pages - Searches only Pages documents
kind:numbers - Searches only Numbers spreadsheets
kind:omnigraffle - Searches only OmniGraffle documents
kind:mindnode - Searches only MindNode mind maps
kind:pixelmator - Searches only Pixelmator documents
kind:word - Searches only Word documents
kind:powerpoint - Searches only PowerPoint presentations
kind:excel - Searches only Excel spreadsheets
kind:pdf - Searches only PDF documents
kind:jpeg - Searches only images in jpeg format
kind:tiff - Searches only images in tiff format
kind:raw - Searches only images in RAW format
kind:docx - Searches only across recent (.docx) Word files
kind:zip - Searches only zip compressed files

In the case of the document I needed this morning, I knew it was a Keynote presentation. I also knew it was about mobile marketing. And I knew it was a keynote I did for ad:tech Unwired in Sydney. So I typed into Spotlight kind:keynote adtech mobile and voila.

Apple Spotlight refined search by kind:application and keywords

How to delete saved talks from the TED iPad app

The TED Conferences iPad app is a great way to watch TED Talks. The app is well built with a good user interface that is, for the most part, intuitive.

When you open up the app you get a list of the recently posted videos to browse through. If you want to watch a random talk, you can tap on the 'Inspire Me' button and choose from videos tagged as courageous, funny, inspiring, informative, etc. that are a given length. I love this feature. You can also browse by themes or search for a specific talk by speaker or title. Overall, it's my favourite way to watch TED talks.

One feature I use particularly often is saving talks to watch offline. My iPad is WiFi only, so I'd rather have a selection available wherever I may be.

At one point, I had saved so many talks that I had over 4GB worth of video downloaded to my iPad. It became a problem when I had about 10 apps with updates and tapping the 'update all' button showed me an error message that I didn't have enough space to update.

To free up some space, I wanted to delete saved talks from my iPad that I had already watched. It should be a pretty straightforward thing to do, but it took me a while to figure out. This is where the "for the most part" comment above comes from. In hindsight it is fairly logical, but I spent way too much time swiping, tapping, and generally getting frustrated trying to find out how to delete them. And I've had so many friends ask me this question that I guess it's not as intuitive as it should be.

So how do you delete saved talks for the TED iPad app?

Just tap on 'My Talks' and hit the 'Edit' button in the upper left hand corner. The typical iOS 'X' will appear over each talk. Tap that and delete one at a time. The Edit button turns to 'Done' while in editing mode. Tap 'Done' to finish.

One more tip for faster OmniFocus synchronisation

Sven Fechner at Simplicity Bliss recently published an article on how to speed up OmniFocus synchronisation with great tips to get a significantly faster sync time.

A few years ago, I too noticed that synchronising between iOS devices and Macs took a long time. It happened back when I was syncing via MobileMe, which was notoriously slow in general, so I just lived with it for some time assuming that was just the way it was. But when I switched to the OmniSync Server I didn't see the increase in speed I was expecting, so I began searching for information and testing ideas on how to get faster sync times.

After a lot of trial and error, I came to almost the same conclusion as Sven. His advice is good and certainly worth following.

However, I did one additional thing: I deleted unnecessary attachments.


Attachments can be big, and if they're truly attached (as opposed to just a link) in OmniFocus, they'll sync over to your iOS devices. The image above is of a quick test to show how an attached image in a task shows up in OmniFocus for iPhone. That png is 85 kb.

One common way to end up with a bunch unnecessary attachments is by creating tasks from emails. I do this often and every single image in an email gets attached to the task. That includes useless things like logos, buttons in newsletters, and other graphical elements. It all adds up and there's no reason to have them there.

How to delete unnecessary attachments in OmniFocus

Deleting attachments in OmniFocus is easy, but you have to do it from the Mac version. Just go to Window > Attachment List.


The Attachment List window opens up. Here you can see all the attachments in your OmniFocus library that will sync over to other devices. Just select any attachment you don't need and click the delete button in the lower left.


Just be careful that you don't delete the ones called "icon.png" though. Those are your custom icons used for Perspectives.

The first time I did this, my OmniFocus database wentfrom over 8 MB to just over 1.4 MB and sync speed was drastically faster.

OmniFocus Clean Up project

I now have a recurring task in OmniFocus to remind me to do it called OmniFocus Clean Up which includes archiving old data, deleting unnecessary attachments, and deluting old backups. And it's due today, so I better get on to it.