Using the Unified Photo Library

Learn more about using the Unified Photo Library.

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Using a Unified Photo Library with iPhoto and Aperture

With iPhoto 9.3, you can directly open and work with libraries from Aperture 3.3 or later. The unified library format now shared between the two applications offers a number of advantages:

  • There’s no need to import, export, or reprocess photos as you move from one app to the other.
  • If you use Faces, Places, have created albums, Smart Albums, or shared photos to Facebook or Flickr, these automatically work across both apps.
  • Slideshows created in one app can be played back in the other.
  • Because iPhoto and Aperture now share a common imaging system, when you adjust images using any tools in Aperture, you’ll see the changes when you open the same library in iPhoto and vice versa.
  • If you’re new to the tools available in Aperture, you can maintain your photo library in iPhoto and open Aperture only when you want to try your hand at retouching, for example, making selective corrections with brushes. All edits are non-destructive, so you can remove them at any time.
  • If you’ve collected more than one iPhoto library over the years, you can now open your iPhoto libraries in Aperture and merge them into a consolidated master library. You can then access your merged library in iPhoto. Learn more about using Aperture to merge iPhoto libraries.

Opening an Aperture Library in iPhoto

iPhoto can open Aperture libraries created in or upgraded to Aperture 3.3. You must upgrade older Aperture libraries by opening them in Aperture 3.3 before iPhoto can open them. A library cannot be open in both iPhoto and Aperture at the same time.

To open an Aperture library in iPhoto:

  1. Choose File > Switch to Library from the main menu in iPhoto.
  2. Select the Aperture library you’d like to open.
  3. Click the Choose button in the library selector.

Opening an iPhoto Library in Aperture

Aperture 3.3 or later can open iPhoto libraries created by or opened at least once in iPhoto 9.3 or later.

To open an iPhoto library in Aperture:

  1. Choose File > Switch to Library > Other/New from the main menu in Aperture.
  2. Use the library selector to navigate to and highlight the iPhoto library you wish to open.
  3. Click Choose in the library selector.

Notes on working with unified libraries in iPhoto and Aperture

Events, Projects, and Albums

Events in iPhoto are called Projects in Aperture:


Likewise, Projects in Aperture are called Events in iPhoto:


Smart albums from each application are visible and functional, but each smart album's settings must be edited using the application in which the album was created.


iPhoto always detects faces, regardless of the Aperture library setting. In Aperture, it is possible to turn off Faces on a per library basis. Aperture maintains its setting when it again opens the library.

Print projects

Books, calendars, and cards created in iPhoto are visible in the Source list in Aperture, but you cannot edit them. Books, web pages, and web journals created in Aperture are not visible in iPhoto.


You can play back Slideshows in iPhoto that you created in Aperture, but you cannot edit them there.

You can edit Slideshows you created in iPhoto in Aperture, but once edited there, you cannot edit them again in iPhoto. However, the slideshows will continue to play correctly in either application, regardless of which is used to edit them.

Photo Stream

If you activate Photo Stream for a library in iPhoto, and then open it in Aperture, that library is still linked to Photo Stream. Only one library can be linked to Photo Stream at a time, so if you subsequently open another library and activate Photo Stream, the previous library is no longer linked.

Browsing photos

Aperture Browser filter queries do not show up in iPhoto. All images are visible in iPhoto.

Photos hidden using the Hide Photo command in iPhoto cannot be accessed in Aperture. If you open the library in iPhoto, unhide the photos, and then open the library again in Aperture, the previously hidden photos are accessible.

Photos rated as rejected in Aperture are not accessible in iPhoto. If the photo's rating is subsequently raised in Aperture, it will then be accessible in iPhoto.

PDF files in Aperture libraries are not visible or accessible in iPhoto.

Audio file and audio attachments in Aperture library are not visible or accessible in iPhoto.


Only the pick image of an Aperture stack is visible in iPhoto. For example, if you created several stacked versions of a photo in Aperture, each with different adjustments, only the image you selected as the stack's pick image will be visible when you open the library in iPhoto. When you return to Aperture, the entire stack will again be accessible.


iPhoto always creates full-size Previews. Aperture offers various options to set the size of Previews, or whether to use Previews at all. When you open an Aperture library in iPhoto, existing Previews are not changed unless you edit an image in iPhoto. Then, iPhoto creates a full-size Preview for that image.

iLife Media Browser

When you use the iLife Media Browser to access the library from other applications such as Keynote or iMovie, the icon displayed is from the application that originally created it.

Learn more

For more information about using Aperture content with iPhoto, see the following articles:

Aperture 3.3 - Tips on working with iPhoto Libraries

Some files work in Aperture but not in iPhoto

Using AVCHD video in iPhoto

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