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Ten Tips to a Clean Aperture Library (3 of 10) — Name Your Projects

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April 14, 2012 - 12:01am

(If you’re just joining us, start with Tip 1)

Tip 3 — Name Your Projects

If you’ve read any of my ebooks, watched any videos, or even heard me talk about Aperture on a podcast, you probably know that my number one, if-nothing-else-you-gotta-do-this Aperture organization tip is to NAME YOUR PROJECTS. It’s so easy to just think “I’ll name that later”, and a year later end up adding photos to project Untitled-815. Eek.

You probably also know that I’m a huge proponent of putting the date into the name of my projects. All projects in my Library have a name format of “2012-04-13 | project name” in them, and that makes things really clean, like this:

I add yyyy-mm-dd in front of each project nameWhen making new projects, I use TextExpander [$34.99 Mac App Store] to fill that in, so all I have to type is “ymd” and that automatically expands to “2012-04-13 | “ (notice it even includes the space-bar-space so I’m ready to type a descriptive name). This works out very well and keeps things consistent.

But what if you’ve already got a ton of “Untitled” projects staring you in the face?

Two different readers on this site, Tim Doyle and John Day, both wrote AppleScripts that look inside each project in a defined folder, finds the oldest photo in the project, and prepends that date to whatever the project is currently called. So all you have to do is put those unnamed projects into a specific folder, then activate the script. I used Tim’s script to help a client sort out literally thousands of projects with erroneous names — by simply putting a date in front of each project, it made the process of adding a proper name that much easier.

You can read about Tim’s script here, and also about John’s script here (both have slightly different approaches). To make life really easy though, Tim is letting me include the script for free right here. Place the downloaded script in the folder ~/Library/Scripts/Aperture and ensure that Show Script menu in menu bar is enabled in the AppleScript preferences. Create a folder called “Events” and place projects to rename in there — when you run the script, just sit back and watch the projects get renamed! It takes several seconds per project, and the more photos in it the longer it takes, so just have a little patience and watch it work. (If you want, you can modify the script to change the name of the target folder or how it renames the projects as well).

Click the icon to download the script.

Click to download Tim’s script


Update on April 13, 2012 - 3:00pm by Joseph @ApertureExpert

I name projects in a very similar fashion to Joseph. I put the date first, but in a different format, like this: “20120411” — and instead of space-bar-space ( | ) I use an underscore, and have no spaces. My project would look like this: 20120411_projectdescript. I also use Typinator instead of TextExpander.

I’ve read in forums that some users name their projects by topic and organize by topic in folders. I think this is a horrbile plan. For instance, what if you are traveling and shoot a photo of a moose eating a flower in Alaska. Do you file it under Travel, Wildlife or Flowers. It’s going to be a problem. Trust me, name your projects by date.

Update on April 13, 2012 - 5:43pm by Joseph @ApertureExpert

John Day has provided more info on what his script does, and also provided it for download. It turns out his is quite different from Tim’s, so you’ll want both! It also replaces and builds on a feature that’s missing from Aperture, but exists in iPhoto — Autosplit Events. Here’s the scoop:

To run this script, you select a single Project — it doesn’t matter where it is — and select the script from the AppleScript menu. When you run it, the script will break the Project into one Project per day of photos, and name the Project “yyyy-mm-dd”. It will create those Projects in a folder titled “Imported by Date”, and the script will create that folder for you if it doesn’t already exist.

If you want the name to include the space-bar-space (” | “) that the other script does, then make this change to the script (just open it in AppleScript Editor):

change this:

set isoImageDate to projectYear & delimiter & projectMonth & delimiter & projectDay as string

to this:

set isoImageDate to projectYear & delimiter & projectMonth & delimiter & projectDay & " | " as string

You can also change the name of the target folder, by modifying this line:

make new folder with properties {name:"Imported by Date"}

AppleScript can be complicated if you’re starting from a blank page, but when you have existing scripts like these at your disposal, it can be quite easy to modify them as needed.

Here’s John’s script to download. For instructions on where to put it, download the original script above as well.

Click to download John’s script


Apple Aperture

I just ran Tim’s script and it works well.

If I read it properly, Tim’s script will rename an existing project in the Events folder. However, if there are photos from different dates in one project, the project will be renamed to one of the dates. You obviously don’t want a project named “2012-01-03 2012-01-15 etc. | Black Bear”

My script will take a project that contains photos from multiple dates and split it into several projects, each named in the YYYY-MM-DD format.

Although both scripts name projects by date, Tim’s should be used when your projects are already separated by date.


I don’t think I realized that yours split projects… that’s fantastic. I know the code is on the page noted above but I’d be happy to amend this post with a download link to your script if you want to provide that. Email it to me and I’ll upload it. Sweet!


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John - correct, my script does not split events if there are multiple dates in one folder. However, it doesn’t just randomly pick one of the dates - it looks at every photo and picks the earliest date in the folder.

I’ve always broken up my library by making one project for each year, then within that project I have a separate album for each month or special event (e.g. trip to Hawaii). Needless to say my projects will have a few thousand photos in them by December, but are there any really compelling reasons to break my photos up into smaller projects? This has worked well for me so far, and I’m just an amateur photographer.


If it works, it works. A few thousand in a project is OK; I think if you go much beyond that you’ll want to break it into fewer projects. Maybe get into the habit of doing one per month now before they do get too big? There’s no hard-number on how many images a single project can have, but I think most users will agree that keeping the project smaller is better. The intention of the container called a “project” is quite literal. It’s meant to be a single project, be that a shoot, a trip, an event, etc. Then you can create albums from that project.

The way you’re doing it now, you have a project for a large time span, then presumably albums for events, and then when you want to create collections within the event, what do you do… more albums?

Again, if it works, it works. There’s no wrong answer. But it may not be quite how the features were intended.

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