How to create a Year / Month structure in Aperture

First published on: Wednesday, 25 March 2009

This tutorial covers the steps you need to take to organize your Aperture Library in a Year / Month hierarchy, and have that same structure mirrored on your hard drive.

It is assumed that the current structure from which you’re moving is one where photos are organized by Year only, and that you don’t wish to preserve Aperture-specific metadata such ratings, captions and the like in the process.

In essence, we’re starting from scratch.

Specifically, the objective of this Aperture tutorial is as follows:


  1. To create a new Aperture Library that is organized in a Year (Blue Folder) > Month (Project) structure.

  2. To create the same folder > sub-folder hierarchy on the hard drive.

Step 01 — Launch Aperture and create a new Library

Hold down the option / alt key when you click on the Aperture icon in the Dock. This will allow you to create a new, empty Library.

Step 01 -- Launch Aperture and create a new Library

Step 02 — Click Create Library button

Click the Create Library button and you will be presented with a dialog box.

Step 02 -- Click Create Library button

Step 03 — Create a new, empty Aperture Library

Select a destination folder and enter a meaningful name for your new Library.

Step 03 -- Create a new, empty Aperture Library

Step 04 — Import Folders as Projects

The main purpose of this step is to use Aperture to copy or move your exisiting images from a Year-based folder structure to a folder structure that is organized by Year / Month.

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The main purpose is to copy or move images from a Year-organized physical folder structure to a Year and Month-organized one

I’m not able to come up with an easier way to do this short of writing code or Automator actions, so your mileage may vary. One other option is to consider using Phil Harvey’s ExifTool to move your images into a Year / Month hierarchy, but I haven’t personally tried this application yet.

Additionally, you’ll have to bear with the overhead of Aperture generating thumbnails and previews for the imported images. You can reduce the load on the system by switching off preview generation (available in Aperture > Preferences…, or hit command+,) for this initial round of import, but remember to turn it on again after the final import, which we’ll go through later.

Step 04a -- Turn off preview generation for a quicker initial import

On to the initial import step. First, ensure that Library is selected, then hit shift+command+i or File > Import Folders as Projects….

Step 04 -- Import Folders as Projects

Step 05 — Specify options for the Import Folders as Projects dialog

It’s important to choose the correct options for this dialog.

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Step 05 -- Specify options for the Import Folders as Projects dialog

The source folder should be the enclosing, or parent folder of the physical Year folders on your hard drive.

For the destination folder, either select the existing parent folder, or create a new one just to be safe.

Decide whether you want to Move, or Copy, the images from the old structure to the new.

We want aperture to create a Year folder, and a subfolder for each Month within that Year, for all the images that we are performing this operation on, so you should select Image Year/Month for the Subfolder field. Aperture looks at the EXIF data in each image to help with this process of copying / moving the images to the appropriate Month folder.

Hit the Import button, and if all goes well, you will see the Import Complete dialog box.

Step 05a -- Import successfully completed

If you bring up the destination folder in Finder, you should see a Year > Month > Images structure created nicely for you.

Step 05c -- Check that the new Year / Month structure is in place

In your Aperture Library structure, you will see that your images have been imported into a single Project that is named after your source Parent folder.

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Step 05b -- The new Library structure

Each Year folder gets imported into Aperture as Albums under the main Project. Here is my beef with Aperture. I wish that it would allow for images to be imported as Year (Blue Folder) > Project (Month) instead. As it stands, all photos are now categorized into one gigantic project, and if you go to the All Projects view, you’ll see a single thumbnail — what’s the point?

So, we will have to proceed to Step 6 to work around Aperture’s “feature”.

Step 06 — Manually create a Blue Folder for each year

To create a new Blue Folder, simply hit shift+command+n or select File > New Folder from the menu.

When creating a top-level Blue Folder, it’s best to ensure that another Blue Folder isn’t currently selected in the Inspector pane, otherwise, your new Blue Folder will be a child of that selected Blue Folder in the hierarchy.

Alternatively, simply make sure that the Library name is selected prior to creating a Blue Year Folder.

Step 06 -- Manually create a Blue Folder for each year

You should now have one Blue Folder for every year that you have imported images in.

Step 06a -- Blue Folders for all the years

Step 07- Delete the Project

Yes, delete that big, gigantic project. We want to purge all image data (EXIF, IPTC, thumbnails) from Aperture’s Library, while retaining the actual images in their new Year > Month folder structure.

Step 07- Delete the Project

IMPORTANT! You MUST uncheck the “Move referenced file to trash” option in the dialog box that pops up.

Step 07a -- Ensure that you uncheck Move referenced files to trash

When the Project is deleted, you will be left with an empty Aperture Library with just the Year-based Blue Folders that you created earlier.

Step 07b -- An empty Aperture Library with just the Year-based Blue Folders

Step 08 — Drag all the months for a specific Year folder and drop them onto the corresponding Blue Folder

We now begin the final import process.

This is where we create a structure in Aperture that mirrors the new one that we have on the hard drive.

As a refresher, we want Year (Blue Folder) > Month (Project) as the structure in Aperture.

First, turn on the preview generation feature of Aperture (the option that we turned off earlier).

Switch On Preview Generation in Aperture

Next, open up Finder, and navigate to the first Year folder, 2003 in this example. Select all the Month folders, and drag them to the 2003 Blue Folder in Aperture. An import process will be triggered as soon as you let go off the mouse button.

Step 08 -- Drag all the months for a specific Year folder and drop them onto the corresponding Blue Folder

If all goes, well, you’ll see an Import Complete dialog box and Month Projects below the Blue Year Folder. You can delete the extraneous views that appear below each Month Project. I honestly don’t know why Aperture creates those in this context.

Step 08b -- Delete the extraneous views that exist below the Month Projects

Conclusion

Well, we have gone through just one way getting your Aperture Library and folders on the hard drive to follow a Year / Month hierarchy.

Hopefully, you don’t have to do this too often as it can be a massive and time-consuming project if you have tens of thousands (or more) of photos.

Good luck!

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