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Magical Reappearing Keywords Mystery

Joseph @PhotoApps.Expert's picture
July 24, 2012 - 6:11pm

Reader Matthew London was trying to get to the bottom of a problem where keywords would magically reappear that had been deleted from the keywords HUD (and therefore all images) after doing a database repair or rebuild. After talking to Apple support, it turns out that there is keyword data stored in the Aperture preferences (.plist file) and therefore this should be deleted before a repair or rebuild.

I’ve added a new entry to the FAQ “Why do deleted keywords seem to reappear in my keywords list?” and also updated the FAQ entry “How do I repair or rebuild my Aperture library or permissions?”.

Apple Aperture
Joseph @PhotoApps.Expert

Although I can’t test anything for the next several days (major project in progress), I’m wondering if instead of deleting the .plist file, and potentially messing up several other settings, this might work:

(1) FIRST, export your good keywords list (which would not/should not include any of the previously deleted keywords) from the Keywords HUD.

(2) THEN do a repair/rebuild as desired, knowing that undesired keywords will reappear.

(3) Re-import good keywords list on top of funky keywords list.

As long as the re-imported list REPLACES the existing list, rather than merely adds to it, I would think this should work. If instead it ADDS TO or MERGES WITH the existing funky list, then perhaps a modified steps 3-4 would be:

(3) Delete ALL keywords, leaving your keywords list completely empty (so nothing undesired can be merged).

(4) Re-import good keywords list.

Can anyone test and report? If not, I’ll try this sometime later next week.


I am quite sure this would not work.

The keywords are merged, not replaced, for one.

Second, a keyword can not exist on a photo that does not exist in the list. Therefore if you deleted your keywords from your list, then you would be deleting them from all photos. And reimporting them to the list would certainly NOT reapply them to your photos.


-Joseph @PhotoApps.Expert
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O K …

Thanks for the speedy reply, Joseph. And sorry to suggest what could have thus been a disastrous solution…oops!

I think I’m going to go back to my current project now, and keep half-baked “bright ideas” to myself! :-D

LOL not at all Kevin, I’m actually glad you posted that. Hopefully others will read it and learn from it ;-)


-Joseph @PhotoApps.Expert
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What if you tell Aperture to write all your metadata back to the masters, rebuild/repair your database, then tell Aperture to rebuild from the masters? It would take a while, but it might fix the keywords HUD.


You might be right. However it’s a lot easier to just spend a few minutes resetting your preferences to the settings you want — and trashing prefs occasionally is just good housekeeping anyway.


-Joseph @PhotoApps.Expert
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Useful for many apps, I duplicate the prefs plist (for backup), and then carefully edit out or otw change the settings using Pref Setter.

This way, I can make changes and test ‘em, without losing other settings, and fall-back if there’s a problem.



Interesting app! Although I think for most users that’s a big overwhelming (I got kinda scared myself ;-)

FWIW, there really aren’t that many preferences in Aperture. If you really wanted to avoid having to reset them, then I suppose you could trash the prefs so you start clean, set them all the way you want and quit Aperture, then zip the preferences file so in the future you could just trash what you have, unzip your old backup, and be back to a default preference that’s the way you want it to be. However I’d be concerned that as Aperture is updated, those older prefs may not be the best thing for it.

I know my settings well, and it takes less than a minute to trash prefs, relaunch, and reset all my preferences the way I want them. It’s worth my time, for sure.

-Joseph @PhotoApps.Expert
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