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Darktable, the free Lightroom alternative, is available for Windows

A man using a computer.
Dzianis Apolka/123RF / 123RF
Windows users that don’t want to fork over cash for a RAW photo editor and digital asset manager like Lightroom now have access to a free alternative. Darktable, a free photo editor and asset manager, recently updated to 2.4.0 and brought a Windows version, along with expanding the earlier options for Mac and Linux.

Darktable is an open-source software similar to Lightroom with tools for organizing files and processing RAW images. And while the free software has been around since 2009, bringing in a new developer, Peter Budai, allowed the system to expand to Windows platforms as well. After testing a beta version this summer, the official Windows version is now available, though developers note a few shortcomings, including no printing options and some buggy TIFF file management.

Like the Mac and Linux versions, Darktable for Windows includes tools for non-destructive editing and organizing large photo libraries. As an open-source platform, Darktable previously didn’t have a Windows version because there wasn’t a developer willing to make the modifications and keep the program current. With a new programmer willing to work on the system, the open-source platform was able to expand to a third operating system.

While Windows users now have a version to install, the Mac and Linux versions just got an upgrade as well. The latest version includes a haze removal tool that can help remove fog and similar distractions. The contrast slider also has a wider range, developers said, and for local adjustments, a mid-tones option was added. Contrast can also now be adjusted through a new local Laplacian filter, a new module that allows photo editors to adjust the detail, highlights, shadows, and mid-tones separately.

A number of other changes allow more control over colors, including support for channel blend modes while using the RGB or Lab color spaces. Another change allows for automatic color adjustments inside the tone curve tool.

Other improvements add support for additional camera file types and profiles, while some tools will see a speed improvement with the update. Other adjustments fix previous bugs in the program.

While open source means Darktable is free to download, like other open-source programs, Darktable isn’t going to offer identical tools and performance of the similar paid programs. One example is that open source tends to be a few years behind in adding new features — for example, the new haze tool that just because available this month has been around in Adobe Lightroom and Camera RAW since 2015.

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