Adobe has released the Lightroom 4 Public Beta! There are quite a lot of resources already devoted to coverage, so I will be focusing on a few areas of interest relating to TTG plugins and the Web module. For more complete coverage, please see the offical release notice and list of resources.
I have tested the Lightroom 4 Public Beta with all CE2 version plugins. To use CE2 plugins with LR4, you should be running the CE2 2012-01-04 product updates or newer.
The current version of TTG CE2 Cart will not run in LR4 Public Beta. We will be updating the engine for LR4 compatibility in the next release. In the meantime, users should continue to run LR3 when using the cart plugin. The LR4 Public Beta may be used to create cart-enabled galleries however, using TTG CE2 Highslide Gallery, TTG CE2 Horizon and TTG CE2 Photoswipe Gallery.
Lightroom 4 has changed its handling of Flash galleries. Our ActionScript 3 galleries -- TTG MonoSlideshow and TTG SimpleViewer -- currently do not function in LR4. The fate of these plugins is currently uncertain, as I will need to contact the original Flash authors to make changes to their galleries' SWF files.
Lightroom 4 introduces some wonkiness to ActionScript 2 galleries. These Flash galleries still run in LR4, but you may notice some general unresponsiveness, especially using TTG Polaroid Gallery. Again, because I am not the original Flash author, these things are beyond my control. Rest assured, however, that whatever wonkiness is exhibited in LR4's Web module will not carry over to the exported gallery, and you may continue to publish galleries to the web without concern.
the Map module
One of my favorite additions in LR4 in the Map module. Using the Map module, users may provide geolocation data for their images by dragging images from the filmstrip onto a map. It's brilliant, and finally puts geolocation metadata into the hands of photographers without GPS equipment.
Happily, geolocation data from the Map module works very well with the Google Maps integration already found in TTG CE2 Highslide Gallery and TTG CE2 Photoswipe Gallery, meaning that you are now capable of deploying map support to your website's photo galleries. Cool!
the APE browser
Unfortunately, not everything in LR4 makes me happy. The Web module preview now uses APE -- AIR Player Embedded -- Adobe's proprietary AIR runtime, in-app web browser. And this introduces some … well, let's call them problems.
First the good news. In all previous versions of Lightroom, the Web module has embedded the system's default browser for rendering the web preview -- LR/Win therefore used Internet Explorer to render previews, while LR/Mac used Safari -- which caused some discrepancies between OS versions. With APE, both LR/Win and LR/Mac users can expect an identical Web module experience.
APE is based on the Webkit framework, the same framework as Apple's Safari browser and Google's Chrome browser, as well as Mobile Safari, the Android browser, the latest version of the Blackberry web browser, and others. But the current version of APE is built on an older cut of Webkit, and lacking some important features.
Most notably, APE does not support CSS3 styling of background gradients, nor the border-radius property used for rounding corners. These are features supported in CE2 engines which cannot be previewed in the LR4 web module. For LR/Win users, not a big deal; your reliance on IE for preview rendering didn't allow you to see these anyway. For LR/Mac users, this is a step backward; Safari allowed these properties to be rendered in our LR3 preview, and now we can't see them.
According to my sources at Adobe, this is not likely to change. While newer builds of Webkit do support these and other bleeding-edge CSS3 features, APE is a shared component used in many of Adobe's CS products, and the APE team had to draw the line on which version of Webkit on which to base the browser. I have been told that over time we may expect to see APE migrating to newer builds of webkit, but that the browser is basically set-in-stone for LR4.
This disappoints me immensely. With real-world web-browsers now in rapid development and constantly adding new support for HTML5 and CSS3 features, with Mobile browsers being at the forefront of adoption and a growing part of Internet culture, and with Webkit being one of the more forward-thinking browser frameworks currently available, it is nothing short of shameful that the APE browser be so far behind the times, and that Adobe has no plans to remedy that situation in the immediate future.
Flash galleries are now color managed, but so what? Adobe seem to be the only ones who haven't yet realized that Flash websites are going away. I'd much rather have capable HTML and CSS support than color-managed Flash galleries.
Added to this are a handful of other minor issues, like the fact that APE's scrollbars, checkboxes and other form elements are Netscape 4 hideous. Or that, for all of Internet Explorer's many shortcomings, at least users were previously able to view their work in a real-world browser, while we are now forced to preview our work in a browser that only exists within the confines of Adobe's software.
And it bears repeating that we are now forced to work in a browser for which updates will be few and far between, which is pretty lame when you consider the fast pace at which the Web moves forward.
Then there are the more technical issues, like what the APE browser has done to destabelize AS2 Flash galleries, the changes I must now ask the MonoSlideshow and SimpleViewer authors to make to their galleries so that we might continue to use them in Lightroom (changes they may or may not be interested in making), the fact that APE's preview doesn't support something as simple as CSS @import statements and provides no graceful fallback for their use (instead, the preview just dies) -- which doesn't effect the end user, but which places certain unexpected and head-scratching restrictions on third-party plugin developers such as myself.
And LR/Mac users actually losing some of the CSS3 support they've always had in past versions of LR should be furious. I am.
So, the Lightroom 4 Public Beta packs in some really great things. The Map and Book modules are stellar, the new Develop tools are really cool, the new video support is neat, and the application features a number of impressive improvements overall. But the introduction of APE is a massive disappointment, and for many users will be a step in the wrong direction. I will surely enjoy using many of the new features in LR4, but will definitely be keeping LR3 on-hand for the purpose of developing web templates.
One good thing, web templates saved using LR3 may be loaded in LR4's Web module. So you can always design your web galleries in LR3, save a template, then use that template in LR4 to publish galleries from the newer catalogs. Not a perfectly solution by any means, but it works.