Lightroom Preferences - Part 2

By Gene McCullagh
February 10, 2009

In Part 1 we took a look at the options available on the first three tabs of the Preferences dialog. In Part 2 we'll tackle the remaining three tabs. So let's get started!

External Editing Preferences


The next three tabs are External Editing, File Handling, and Interface. External Editing has three main sections.


The Edit in Adobe Photoshop section allows you to set the options for editing images in Photoshop. Lightroom will show the most current version of Photoshop that is installed on your computer as the main editor. Two file formats are available: TIFF and PSD. While both formats are supported in Photoshop, PSD is Photoshop's native file format and will provide more flexibility than a TIFF file. However, note the suggestion in this section that mentions the efficiency of TIFF with respect to metadata.

Three color spaces are available in the Color Space drop-down: ProPhoto RGB, AdobeRGB (1998), and sRGB. ProPhoto RGB is a larger color space then AdobeRGB (1998). sRGB is even smaller. Depending on what your final destination is for the image, you should choose a color space that will preserve the image's color quality. I believe it's best to preserve as much data as possible until you are ready for your final output.

Which brings us to Bit Depth. Here your choices are 16 bits and 8 bits. Again, 16 bits preserve more data than 8 bits. Weigh this against the fact that not all tools and filters are available for 16 bit images. Still, I recommend you work in 16 bits until you need a tool or filter that is only available for 8 bit images.

Finally, in the Resolution field you can set the resolution of the file that is opened in Photoshop for editing.


New to Lightroom 2 is the ability to set more than one Additional External Editor. This is done via the Preset drop-down menu. The example shown here presents Noise Ninja as an external editor. If any changes are made to the other fields, including which application to open, you can choose from several options.


Save Current Settings as New Preset... will allow you to save and name your new preset so it appears in the list of presets as show above. Delete and Rename allow you to delete the current preset or rename it. This opens up a world of possibilities in Lightroom since you can now setup all of you external editors and speciality programs as presets. this then lets you bring the image out to that program and back into Lightroom when you're done. It's a great productivity booster!

File Format lets you choose between TIFF and PSD. For most external editors TIFF is the better choice since it is most compatible.

Color Space determines what color space the exported file is in. Here the choices are ProPhoto RGB, AdobeRGB (1998), and sRGB. ProPhoto RGB will retain the maximum color information.

Choose between 8 bit and 16 bit with Bit Depth. Resolution lets you set the resolution of the file that will be edited in the external editor.

The Compression option is only available when you choose TIFF as the file format. Here you can set whether the exported TIFF file is uncompressed or compressed via ZIP compression. This is a lossless compression method and will save you some disk space. Just be sure that your external editor can read compressed TIFF files.


The last section, Edit Externally File Naming:, is where you can setup the file name defaults for externally edited files. When you externally edit a file a separate file is created and returned to Lightroom so a new name is needed to distinguish it from the original file. All of the file naming templates are available here.

File Handling Preferences


This set of preference choices are a bit esoteric and more of a housekeeping nature.


The Reading Metadata section deals with keyword separators. Normally, hierarchical keyword patterns are separated by a vertical bar (|). These two options allows you to add . and \ as hierarchical separators.


Filenames come from many sources and operating systems. Sometimes they include characters which can cause problems in your operating system when used in a filename.

Treat the following characters as illegal let's you choose between two sets of characters that will be considered invalid in a filename. The following option, Replace illegal file name characters with, will substitute an underscore (_), a dash (-), or a similar (but legal) character for the illegal one.

Some operating systems do not handle spaces in a filename very well. The When a file name has a space option let's you substitute an underscore (_), a dash (-). or do nothing and leave the space there.


Every time you open an image through Camera Raw, the entire image is cached. This allows for a quicker response time on reopening. Here you can choose where the cache is stored and what size it is. If you have lots of disk space then increase the cache size for better performance.

The Purge Cache button will clear out the cache. However, if you have the space I recommend you don't purge the cache.

Interface Preferences


The last tab in the Preferences dialog deals with the interface options. These control the look and feel of the Lightroom interface.


Panels control the graphic that appears at the end of the panels in each of the modules. Here's an example of Tattoo, one of the built in graphics.


You can also create and use your own graphics files as end marks. You can set the font size for the panels to Small or Large in this section as well.


In the Lights Out section you can set how much of the interface is visible in Dim mode and what the resulting screen color is for full lights out mode (black, dark gray, medium gray, light gray, or white).


Background options deal with how you surround your images in the various modules. The Fill Color drop-down has the same choices as Screen Color in the Light Out section. You can overlay a pinstripe texture on the background if you like. However, I think this unnecessarily uses resources that can be better used editing your images.


Filmstrip lets you turn certain indicators on or off in the filmstrip that is available in every module. Keep in mind, though, that if you shrink the size of the filmstrip too small these indicators will not be shown regardless of what you have chosen here.


Lastly, Tweaks (and here is a sure sign that Adobe was running out of names for these sections), has only two options. Zoom clicked point to center is very useful. It will center the zoomed image on the point you clicked.

Use typographic fractions determines how numbers like 1/160 are shown in the interface. Here is an example of a fraction with this option unchecked:


And here is the same section with typographic fractions turned on:


That brings us to the end of our tour through Lightroom preferences. As you work with the application you can revisit these preferences and customize Lightroom to your personal workflow. Adobe has incorporated much of the feedback from beta testers and photographers in this latest version. I am sure there is much more to follow as this application matures.

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