Today’s Question: I don’t understand why the options in the Catalog Settings dialog in Lightroom Classic aren’t just included in the Preferences dialog. Why do we need two dialogs to establish different settings?
Tim’s Quick Answer: The key difference is that the Preferences dialog contains settings that relate to Lightroom Classic on the computer it is installed on, while the Catalog Settings dialog relates only to the current catalog. In other words, if you had more than one catalog, the Catalog Settings options would be unique for each catalog.
More Detail: As many of my readers know, I strongly recommend using a single catalog in Lightroom Classic. That would mean that the distinction between Preferences and Catalog Settings would not be applicable, since you would only have one catalog to manage settings for.
However, if you ever need to use a different catalog, such as when traveling, it is important to realize that the options in the Catalog Settings dialog only relate to the currently open catalog. If you create a new catalog to temporarily manage photos during a trip, for example, you would want to evaluate the Catalog Settings for that catalog.
If you are using multiple catalogs on the same computer, the settings in Preferences would apply equally regardless of which catalog you were using. Of course, if you’re using Lightroom Classic on more than one computer, you would need to configure Preferences individually for each of those computers.
So, in summary, Preferences are applicable to a single computer for Lightroom Classic, and Catalog Settings are specific to an individual catalog.