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Adobe Lightroom 3.2 Import bug solved — aliases and symbolic links followed as “subfolders”

In my previous post, I reported a Lightroom 3 Import bug which wasted hours of my time cleaning up a Lightroom catalog. It can get very, very nasty, depending on the circumstances. Thanks to Martin Doudoroff for deducing the cause. It all boils down to this:

When does importing 5 small files mean importing 157,337 images totaling over 1TB?

Here is what Lightroom 3.2 does when I try to import images in folder TEMP, with Include Subfolders unchecked; it does what I want it to do:


Importing folder TEMP with Include Subfolders off

Next, turn on the Include Subfolders checkbox. The checkbox does not mean subfolders only as it claims, it means subfolders and aliases and symbolic links, a nasty little detail that is not scrumptiously crunchable.

Any Mac alias or symbolic link causes Lightroom to follow that alias, in turn leading to other aliases which are followed, and the net effect is to scarf up just about every image on every volume on your Mac (depends on aliases that you have of course).

As in 157,337 photos totaling over 1TB in size as shown below— all by checking that one box.

On my system, I use symbolic links on my Boot drive to all my other volumes, so any alias or link that points at my Boot drive will cause Lightroom to recursively pick up every image on every volume on my system.

It’s easy to create aliases on Mac OS X, even by mistake. Aliases (and symbolic links) are very useful, so I’m not about to stop using them, and the system uses them extensively too, nothing you can do there.

The problem is not always self-evident; point Lightroom at a top-level folder that you want to import, and it will display the images, but if you do not scroll down and see the 20,000 clip art images it also picked up, you’ll have a heck of a mess to clean up when the import is done, as I did with a client. All it takes is one alias pointing somewhere interesting.

157,337 photos totaling 1TB instead of 5 files

Importing folder TEMP with Include Subfolders off

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