Apple has released what it calls a “major update” to its Aperture all-in-one professional post production tool for photographers, in the form of version 1.5, which will be available to current users with a free upgrade.

Aperture 1.5 operates on a new open library, offers seamless integration across Apple’s other applications, including iLife, iWord, and even iTunes, and has added new adjustment tools and XMP metadata support.

The open library system means that photographers can store image files wherever they want, including external hard drives and removable media. The software generates high-res previews in a variety of sizes and quality levels, and lets users review, rate, and organise these previews while the original images are offline. This means the user can take a compact version of his or her entire library to work on while travelling.

With tighter integration with other Apple applications, users can now build websites through iWeb, create self-contained slideshows with Keynote, or produce DVD slideshows with iDVD, all using JPEGs from the Aperture library.

Users can also sync to iPod using iTunes, making it easier to download images to the device, and access Aperture photos within iPHoto.

Adding metadata is easier with pre-filled IPTC Metadata Prests, while RAW images can be exported with IPTC data stored in XMP sidecar files so that they can be read from within other applications.

New photo adjustments include luminance-based Edge Sharpening, and a new Color tool for tuning hue, saturation, and luminance of specific colour ranges.

The Loupe has also been enhanced with new onscreen tools and the option to detach the curser from the loupe while making adjustments.

And plug-ins from third party developers means that Aperture’s functionality can be extended and connected to complementary applications. Getty Images, iStockphoto, Pictage, Flickr, PhotoShelter, and more have already developed plug-ins.

Pricing in the US is around $299 for the full version; it's £219 in the UK.