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Goodbye 2, Hello 3: New Lightroom Still Holds Surprises

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While working on his book Photoshop Lightroom 3: Visual QuickStart Guide, Nolan Hester figured he’d seen all the secrets with the Lightroom 3 betas. But when the final version of the program arrived, his heart skipped a beat.
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Never judge a program by its beta. Take the newly released Lightroom 3. Its development stretched out so long that it had two betas, each packed with new features. Now that it's finally released, you might wonder if there's anything left to discover. Well, yes, actually.

The main window in Lightroom 3—and all its related chrome—look very similar to Lightroom 2. But under the hood, Adobe has packed some nice surprises, including a brand-new processing engine and some powerful tools for correcting lens-related problems.

Speedier Operation

Compared to its two betas, the final release of Lightroom 3 offers a far more nimble interface. Scroll bars work more smoothly, and tools are more responsive. The speed bump is all the more impressive considering that it doesn't demand screaming chips on the latest computers.

The minimum RAM requirement has bumped to 2GB, compared to the 1GB needed by Lightroom 2. But system requirements remain relatively modest. While Lightroom 3 no longer runs on non-Intel Macs, it runs well even on a first-generation (2006) Intel MacBook with just 2GB of RAM and a 2 GHz Intel Core Duo chip. On the Windows side, it supports Windows 7 and Vista, but it also works fine on machines running Windows XP with Service Pack 3.

Previews may take a bit longer to display than in Lightroom 2. That's partly because Adobe deliberately focused on speeding up the most often-used aspect of Lightroom—the overall interface—rather than previews, which can load in the background. The other reason is that Lightroom is now doing a lot more work behind the scenes to handle image noise.

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