Companies want to sell their products to as many customers as possible. The fastest way to do this is to target different price ranges with different versions of your product.

This is why Toyota makes Lexus cars, Nikon has SLR and point-and-shoot cameras, and why McDonalds has something called the Premium Crispy Chicken Club Sandwich.

It’s all so they can take money from the frugal as well as the rich.

Percentage of my readers who were paying attention

People are fairly used to the idea that more money gets you more features. When you buy a Macbook Pro you understand that you’re getting a Macbook + “more stuff.”

“It’s ok, little bro. You can live a very fulfilling life without firewire!”

We get that. It makes sense.

The software world does the same thing. Even if you’ve never used them before you can instantly undertand the difference between Final Cut Pro and Final Cut Express by their names alone. Here are some examples.

Final Cut Pro, Aperture, Photoshop, and DVD Studio Pro
Final Cut Express, iPhoto, Photoshop Elements, and iDVD

The basic idea here is the same as it is for hardware. When you buy DVD Studio Pro you can do everything iDVD does + more. And for the most part, that is how things work with all of these programs.

This is all a very long way of explaining what it is that I still don’t like about Aperture. (Oh good lord, he’s still on about that, is he?) I’ve recently been trying to move from iPhoto to Aperture, and at first I didn’t like it. Then I learned some more about it and I did start to like it. Finally, this week, I went back to not liking it.

This got me thinking about my likes and dislikes of the applications pictured above. I realized that I’m most frustrated when I find things that the basic programs do but their pro counterpart won’t. Once I buy the top level application, shouldn’t I be able to stay there? Why should I ever be tempted to fire up the smaller program for any reason whatsoever? But it happens.

I’m not alone, either. Just ask my wife (the Photoshop teacher) about Photoshop Element’s Selection Brush, Quick-Fix mode, or Batch Processes. She’d love to tell you all the reasons why Photoshop should have these hidden away as options somewhere. (And don’t bother explaining how to do these things with Photoshop’s tools. Of course it’s possible, the point is that these are unique ways of doing these things and you shouldn’t have to give these things up just because you moved up.)

On the other hand, I find that DVD Studio Pro goes above and beyond what’s expected. It features a ‘Basic’ mode which re-arranges its windows to be a bit more like iDVD’s setup.


DVD Studio Pro’s “Basic” Mode

I certainly don’t expect this level of accommodation from every program, but it’s a strong sign that the DVD Studio Pro programers feel the same way I do. It shows in the rest of the program, too. There’s nothing in iDVD that ever tempts me to return there from DVD Studio Pro. Quite simply, DVD Studio Pro gets it. And Photoshop, despite a few issues, does fairly well on this front as well. The Adobe programers seem to understand this idea, even if they’re not 100% perfect at it.

But Aperture…hrnnnn

What!? What did I do?

The fact is, I was never able to fully say that Aperture is ‘better’ than iPhoto in every way. Better in a lot of ways? Yes, most certainly. But better in every way? Well, not quite. Not in the same way that some of these other programs are “better” than their counterparts.

So what’s missing? There are, of course, the obvious features. iPhoto’s location maps and face-recognition being the big two. The message-board consensus on the ‘net seems to be that people don’t even want these ‘consumer’ features in their professional program. They’re quite sure about this.

But what about Aperture’s ability to print books? That sure seemed like a ‘consumer’ feature when it was just in iPhoto. Now that the pros have it they’re happy to print portfolios with it or sell albums made from it. That was something that consumers used to print Disney World photo books back in the day and then the Pros found other uses for it. I’m convinced that ‘Faces’ and ‘Places’ features would similarly be put to use by hard-working photographers in ways that consumers don’t currently use them. Photographers tend to be pretty creative people, after all.

But” you say. “But those features are new to iPhoto and Aperture hasn’t been updated yet!” First off, you’re always yelling, do you realize that? Secondly, I actually agree with this argument. Why shouldn’t I just suck it up and wait for Aperture 3.0 to come out?

If these were the only things then I really would just wait it out. But the problem is, it’s not just those 2 features. It’s all the little things too. For example, when iPhoto syncs with my iPhone it puts the photo in chronological order. That makes sense. Aperture, on the other hand, doesn’t really care what order they show up in.

Birthday followed by the Birth!
I seem to remember it differently.

It’s the same thing as the other ‘consumer’ features, I suspect. iPhone syncing is not a very ‘pro’ feature so Aperture just doesn’t worry about it all that much.

Here’s the point where you all point out how wrong I am and how I totally don’t understand Aperture at all and I can fix all of these problems in the settings. Please educate me if you’re able to. I love to learn. But for the time being I’ve switched back to iPhoto. It doesn’t have all the advanced editing features, but honestly I’m doing just fine with Photoshop for that stuff. If Aperture would commit to being “iPhoto + more” then I would be back in a heartbeat. But that doesn’t seem to be their plan.

~  ~  ~

Outside of my own little problems I still find these larger concepts very interesting. If you make two versions of your software and the cheaper one contains features the ‘pro’ one doesn’t, why is that? I understand removing things from menus and tool bars if they won’t be widely used. UI bloat is the worst enemy of pro-level software. But why not hide these features away where they can be enabled if the user so desires? A Photoshop user should never envy an Elements user, after all.