Apple integrated digital photo storage and editing features a long time ago within OS X, but significant changes are afoot. iPhoto became a familiar interface not only for organizing photographs but also for cropping, editing, adjusting, and publishing photos. iPhoto also streamlined creating and sharing projects, including slideshows and published products, and introduced photo synchronization across multiple devices that actually worked. The new 10.10.3 OS X update introduces a significant new upgrade, replacing iPhoto with Photos. In addition to simplifying editing functions, Photos significantly improves cloud-based sharing features.

While Photos debuts a refined user interface, including the addition of four new navigation tabs–Photos, Shared, Albums, and Projects–user interaction remains intuitive. Books, slideshows, and calendars now appear within the Project tab. Events now appear in Albums. Just look for a folder named iPhoto Events within the Albums view (clicking View and selecting Show Sidebar opens a similar navigation sidebar with which many iPhotos users are familiar).

Photos, meanwhile, remain easy to access. They’re now organized using Moments, Collections, and Years views, which was previously introduced and popularized within the iOS platform. Editing functions are more streamlined, enabling light, color, and similar adjustments using slider bar-like action, called Apple’s Smart Sliders. Apple states that Smart Sliders intelligently make multiple adjustments at once to produce improved images.

In an effort to better unify Photos operation with similar iOS techniques, Photos also adds pinch and zoom functionality. The addition proves helpful, especially since many business users (myself included) have replaced traditional Apple desktop computer’s mice with Trackpads.

Understanding that users, non-professional photography business users in particular, are typically in a rush and repeatedly perform several of the most basic photo editing features, Photos sports the Enhance magic wand icon. This shortcut performs automated actions to improve images, while enabling an immediate Revert To Original option if the pre-programmed adjustments don’t meet the user’s preferences. Within the default editing view, icons appear for all traditional tasks: rotate, crop, adjust, retouch, and Red-eye. A new filters option, with which iOS users are already familiar, is now available as well.

Perhaps Photos’ most important new feature is its iCloud Photo Library capability. With the iCloud Photo Library option selected, Photos shares and displays photos, videos, and edits on all devices with which the user associates his or her iCloud account. The feature is enabled by clicking Photos from the menu bar, selecting Preferences, highlighting iCloud, and checking the iCloud Photo Library box. Users possessing large image and video libraries may opt for the Optimize Mac Storage option, which stores full-resolution photos and videos in iCloud. The default option is Download Originals to this Mac, which downloads from iCloud and stores all original photos and videos from the user’s iCloud library on the Mac.

Business users toting fast MacBooks, MacBook Pros, and MacBook Airs but possessing smaller flash storage drives should slow down when proceeding through the Photos introduction that appears when iPhoto is upgraded. After presenting a brief tour, Photos asks whether you wish to Use iCloud Photo Library. Proceeding blindly may result in more resources being dedicated to photo and video storage than was intended. Just be sure to navigate to Preferences and review the iCloud Photo Library options before committing.

Do you use the Photos application on OS X? Tell us what you think about the iPhoto upgrade.