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What is the purpose of the "Store Presets with Catalog" option?

Feb 1, 2010
West Sussex, UK
Lightroom Experience
Lightroom Version
There is an option available in the Lightroom Preferences (Edit Menu>Preferences on Windows, Lightroom Menu>Preferences on a Mac), where you will see on the Presets Tab an option to "Store presets with catalog" - see screenshot below:


This particular setting has very limited useful applications, and when used unwisely or without proper knowledge of its implications it can (and often does) cause a certain amount of chaos. So, unless you have a specific requirement to use it, you are strongly advised to leave the setting in the default unchecked position.

The following explanation is aimed at those few users who think that the setting would be useful to them:

1. What does this setting do?

With the option in its default unchecked state, Lightroom will store and look for any user-created presets, such as Develop Presets, Export Presets, Metadata Presets, etc., in the default location for all the Lightroom settings. Clicking on the adjacent "Show Lightroom Presets Folder" button will open a (Windows) Explorer or (Mac) Finder window to show where the folder resides.....note that this default location is within the 'Current User' application data area, usually on the 'system' hard drive, and cannot be easily changed.

Lightroom will always look for (and find) them there, so that even if the user uses multiple catalogs the one set of user presets will be available at all times.

However, when the option is checked, Lightroom instantly does two things:

a) It creates a Folder called 'Lightroom Settings' which is stored in the same folder as the catalog that is currently open, and will populate it with a subset of the various sub-folders that exist in the default location. Note my use of the word subset: it is important to note that not all of the sub-folders in the default location are replicated in the new 'Lightroom settings' folder, see later under 'Implications'.
It logically follows that if you are a multi-catalog user a new Lightroom Settings folder will be created when you first open each catalog instance if it is (as is usual) in its own discrete folder. Furthermore, a multi-language user will find additional specific language versions of each Lightroom Settings folder are also created, further complicating an already complicated setup.

b) From that same instant, Lightroom will write any new user presets that the user subsequently creates into the appropriate sub-folder within the Lightroom Settings folder (e.g. a new develop preset will be stored in [Catalog Folder]>Lightroom Settings>Develop Presets>User Presets). Furthermore, Lightroom will then show the user presets from this Lightroom Settings folder, and it will no longer show user presets from the original default locations.

Note that the option does not mean that your presets are stored in the catalog! This incorrect assumption, or the belief that storing presets with the catalog "sounds like a good idea" has led many people to check the option when they really shouldn't have, with unforeseen consequences - see later.

So, having established what happens when that option is checked, the next question is:

2. When/Why should the option be used?

There are several situations where this option could be useful:

a) The most obvious use is in a single-catalog, multi-computer scenario. Typically this will involve having catalog and associated picture files on a single external hard drive which can then be individually connected to two or more computers (e.g. at the office, and at home), all of which have Lightroom installed. This avoids the need for regular Export/Import Catalog routines, and it allows the single current catalog to be available to whichever system has the external drive connected.
In this situation, therefore, it makes perfect sense for all the user presets to be stored alongside the catalog, thus being always available no matter which computer is the active Lightroom system. Create a preset on one computer, and it'll be available when Lightroom is started up on any other. All that is needed is for the "Store Presets with Catalog" option to be checked in the Lightroom Preferences on all Lightroom computers.

b) The second possible use is in a single-catalog, single-computer, but multi-user environment. For example, husband and wife each having their own user account (for email, personal documents, etc.) but who wish to use the same Lightroom Catalog. Provided that the catalog and picture files in a shared area on the shared computer (i.e. not in either user's personal libraries), checking the "Store Presets with Catalog" option again makes perfect sense as it would allow presets created by one user to be seamlessly available to the other.

c) Another very limited application for this setting is where a user wishes to include a backup of the settings sub-folders within their normal backup routine, and finds it easier to accomplish this if the settings sub-folders are in the same folder as the catalog. However, see in the implications section below that this would result in an incomplete backup of the settings.

3. Implications of using this option.

  • First and foremost it is imperative to understand that - when you first select the option - the new Lightroom Settings folder initially contains only empty sub-folders. All of your carefully created user presets are NOT automatically copied from the default locations to the equivalent sub-folder in Lightroom Settings. This creates the rather startling situation that the instant you check that option all of your existing users presets "disappear", simply because Lightroom has stopped looking in the default folders (where they still are) and now looks in the new Lightroom Settings sub-folders (which are initially empty).

  • The trick, therefore, is to copy all your existing presets into the equivalent sub-folder in the new Lightroom Settings folder (or folders if you have multiple catalogs). I suggest that before checking the option, make a list of all the sub-folders that contain presets that you have developed or imported, and also make sure you know the location of these default folders and the location of your catalog so that you can determine the source and destination preset sub-folders for the copy. Using the "Show Lightroom Presets Folder" button as mentioned earlier will show the default location when the "Store presets with catalog" option is unchecked, and will show the new location after the option has been checked.

  • However, as I intimated earlier, irrespective of the 'Store presets with catalog' option Lightroom will only refer to the default settings location for certain of the settings sub-folders. Manually copying these folders to the new Lightroom Settings folder will make no difference. I have been unable to determine the definitive list, though the following are known to be to be always sourced from the default settings location:
    • Lightroom Preferences
    • Modules
    • Export Actions
    • Scripts
    • Email Accounts
    • Email Address Book
    • Some third-party plug-ins (e.g. Nik)

  • Ensure when copying your presets that you copy into the correct sub-folders....several of the preset types (such as Develop, Export, Import, etc) have two different sub-folders - Lightroom Presets for packaged presets, and User Presets where Lightroom saves the user-created presets. But not all preset types have these distinct sub-folder types, for example the External Editor Presets, so be very careful that you copy correctly.

  • Lastly, we have recently come across a slight 'quirk'....Local Adjustment Presets (such as Dodge and Burn) are sometimes, but not always copied to the Local Adjustments Presets sub-folder in the new Lightroom Settings folder. If, after checking the 'Store presets with catalog' option, these presets 'disappear' they can easily be restored by going to Preferences>Presets Tab and clicking on "Restore Local Adjustment Presets".
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