Laura Shoe's Lightroom (and Occasionally Photoshop) Blog for Digital Photographers

When Words Fail Us

In Uncategorized on October 14, 2009 at 1:10 am

As you may have guessed, I love Lightroom.  Its design is efficient and elegant, and the library/catalog model really works.   However, in my humble opinion as an instructor who sees students struggle time after time, what doesn’t work is the language around this model.  Specifically, what doesn’t work is the idea that you “Import” images into Lightroom, and “Export” them when you are ready to share them.  As an experienced user, I realize that we are really importing image information into the LR catalog rather than importing images into LR, but this is not how many users interpret the process.

My Honda was made in Japan and imported into the U.S..  When this happened, it physically left Japan and entered the U.S..   Similarly, when we export Chrystlers to China (do we?), they physically leave the U.S.  and enter China.

However, when you import images into Lightroom, you are not moving your images into Lightroom.  (See my post The Library Analogy for how it actually does work.)  This trips up so many users — it is not uncommon for newer users to import their images into LR, and then delete them from their hard drives — and then they wonder why they have question marks all over their folders and images.   Users also often think that because they back up their LR catalog when prompted, and their images are in the catalog, that no further backup of their images is needed.  Of course when their hard drive containing their images fails, they realize otherwise. 

From what I have seen, users who are not very computer saavy really struggle with this, and plenty actually give up.  Does it matter?  It depends on how broad of a market Adobe wants to appeal to with Lightroom.  Certainly the fact that newbie users struggle creates teaching and income opportunities for me, but I would love to see more people be able to get further with LR on their own. 

The solution isn’t a revamp of LR — the solution in my opinion is a revamp of the language, or packaging.  We need another word for Import, that does not imply that the images are moved, but rather that an entry for the image is created in the central catalog.  What would that word be?  I’m not sure.  I think an “Add to Catalog” button would be less misleading  than an “Import” button.    Do you have any better ideas?

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  1. I think Add to Catalog is a much better term than import. It does take quite a while to understand that LR is sort of like an overlay on top of your picture files.

  2. But “add to catalog” implies that the actual images are being added into the catalog. Maybe “Import Previews”? I don’t know! I’m a fairly new user to LR myself, and I admit “import” and “export” were a little hard to get used to, but within a couple of days I understood the concept and feel comfortable with what I’m doing.

  3. “Register” might convey the meaning of import better.

  4. “Register” would be my choice.

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