The latest iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite betas have revealed what appears to be a new file format for transferring non-destructive photo adjustments between different apps and Apple devices. When using Yosemite’s built-in photo transfer app Image Capture, iOS 8 JPEG photos transferred to the Mac now include an additional “AAE” file in an XML format, containing keys with names such as “adjustmentData,” “adjustmentBaseVersion,” and “adjustmentFormatIdentifier.” The AAE files are typically less than 1KB each for lightly edited files.

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Although it is unclear why Apple would introduce a new way to store photo adjustments, the additional file could enable third-party apps to see the same version of a photo edited with Apple’s upcoming Photos app, or potentially export edits made with prior Apple photo apps such as Aperture and iPhoto. With the recent announcement that Apple will be ceasing development of Aperture and iPhoto—a change that has necessitated export workarounds for replacement pro photo apps such as Adobe Photoshop Lightroom—it’s possible that the AAE files could provide a smoother migration path for users.

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