Adobe has made available the next "beta" build of Lightroom, and at a glance it looks like they've made some amazing improvements to this already-powerful program.
I've only had a few minutes to play with it, and will do a more thorough examination of the program in a couple weeks (I'm on the road until April 22nd) but at a glance I see at least three things I know I'm gonna love:
1) The ability to make localized adjustments.
What does this mean? Simple. You want to dodge someone's face? Go ahead. Darken or desaturate some other small part of the photo? Do it. Now you don't have to adjust the entire image to get just the part you want right. Far and away, this is the most useful feature I am seeing in the new build, and it may just mean for me that I don't launch Photoshop CS3 nearly as much as I used to. This is too cool for a screenshot, kids. You just gotta play with it, and smile.
2) You can "export" your files as jpegs to size with a specific color profile.
This is extremely useful for those of us sending our work to color labs, where they have either provided a profile to us for their printers, or in my case I have painstakingly built them by hand using old-world craftsmanship. In any case, this saves a step for me. I used to export all the files I wanted printed to a folder on my computer, and then I had to run a batch action in Photoshop to apply the profile for printing. Now I can do this in one step.
The "print to jpeg file" menu in the PRINT Module
BUT, Adobe didn't exactly make this intuitive. Rather than it being in the Export menu, where it would make sense, they have put it in the PRINT module. Maybe someday they will be able to put this in the Export window where it would more naturally fit in with this kind of workflow.
3) It appears that all my existing presets and templates are automatically showing up in the new build.
So even though it won't read my version 1.3 libraries (which kinda makes sense, because this is a beta and you don't want to mess up your existing database if there's an unforeseen problem) it does see the folders where I've put custom settings from earlier versions. Maybe a minor thing, in the long run, but it saves me from having to re-build some of the things I've done before.
There are many other cool tweaks and features that are part of the program, but so far I've just not had the time to play with them. There's a better sharpening window in the Develop Module, for one thing, and new ways to handle keywords, filter, and collections. Curse you, Adobe, for putting this out the day before I leave the country!
There are a number of good sources of information out there for this version 2.0. Ian Lyons over at Computer Darkroom has a good review if you want a darned thorough first impression.
If you're a NAPP member, they have an entire new section devoted to Lightroom 2.0. You need to be a member to see it, but it's well worth the cost to join this organization. They have valuable tutorials and juicy discounts on good stuff for members, and I may have learned more from these folks in the past few years than almost any other site on the web.
And John Nack from Adobe has some very good info on this, including some of the more interesting technical stuff involved with Lightroom. He's got a blog you should be reading every day anyway, because even when he's not talking about Adobe or technical stuff he puts in very interesting content.
Existing users get to use the beta for the length of the trial, which runs until August, and new users can download it as a trial and use it for 30 days, which is gonna be long enough for you to want to open your wallet for it.
I'll have more in late April about this, but now I gotta pack my bags and head to Germany.