Get An iLife

When Steve Jobs introduced iLife at January's Macworld Conference & Expo in San Francisco, Apple was doing more than just rolling out upgrades to several of its digital-hub applications. It was giving us a more tightly integrated combination of those four programs -- iDVD, iMovie, iPhoto, and iTunes. So does the iLife package deliver what it promises? Read on for our expert reviews of the three updated programs, along with tips that will help you make your iLife all that it can be.

iPhoto 2 may turn out to be the most welcome of the iLife upgrades, since iPhoto 1.1 -- though it was functional -- had frustratingly poor performance, no proper integration with the other i-apps, and clumsy keyword features. Although iPhoto 2 has some stability problems, many of the flaws in iPhoto 1 have been fixed, and a few new features make version 2 a must-have for current iPhoto users.

Better, Faster Organization

The most visible change to iPhoto is the new Keywords window, which makes this version's interface much easier to use. It also allowed Apple to move the sharing tools into the Organize tab and eliminate the Share tab entirely. But we would have liked a programwide search tool similar to the one in iTunes.

Also new is a Trash album that holds snapshots deleted from your Photo Library. You can restore mistakenly trashed photos by dragging them back to the Photo Library album or by choosing Restore To Photo Library. An Empty Trash command deletes photos for good.

iPhoto retains its chronological approach to storing photos in the iPhoto Library folder in your Pictures folder. Although you can now select multiple albums at once, there's still no way to have hierarchical albums in which you could, for instance, keep all your vacation photo albums together. But iPhoto 2's new archiving capabilities for backing up photos to CDs or DVDs should help you organize your permanent collection and minimize the worry that photos controlled by iPhoto could become inaccessible. (Users hoping that iPhoto 2 would let them store photos anywhere on their hard drive will be disappointed.)

Generally, iPhoto 2 seemed somewhat faster than its predecessor. It tries to load images in advance, to increase responsiveness when you're switching between different full-window photos. However, many activities -- including resizing the main iPhoto window, calculating disc space before burning a CD, and changing the thumbnail size of thousands of photos -- remain choppy, even on a dual-1GHz Power Mac G4. And OS X's spinning beach-ball cursor still makes frequent appearances.

Photo Fixing

Although iPhoto's editing tools will never compete with those of programs such as Adobe Photoshop, iPhoto 2 does include two useful new editing tools: Enhance and Retouch. (For more-powerful editing capabilities, you can still set iPhoto to open an image in another application when you double-click on a photo.)

Enhance The Enhance feature tries to solve color and contrast problems. For example, if your flash gives everything a bluish tint or fails to illuminate backgrounds properly, you can adjust an entire photo's look automatically with the click of a button. We found that Enhance was functional but not a complete success. It did a good job with most of our photos, making images a bit more vibrant. But when we tried to improve some photos of a track meet, Enhance blew it -- everything in one image turned the color of the red clay track. When we cropped another photo and then used Enhance, all the people in the image turned a shade of green -- though the image looked fine if we used Enhance before cropping.

Retouch More welcome is the Retouch tool, which lets you make it seem that your toddler wasn't wearing a pea-stained bib when you snapped an otherwise amazing photo of her. Just click on Retouch and scrub over the offending blemish to replace it with blended color from adjacent areas. Retouch worked well in our testing, as long as the area being fixed wasn't too large or too different from the surrounding area.

Integration

The highest-profile changes in iPhoto 2 involve integration with iTunes and iDVD. When you're creat-ing an iPhoto slide show, you can now easily access your iTunes playlists and give it a soundtrack. Unfortunately, iPhoto still can't play more than one song per slide show.

iPhoto's integration with iDVD allows you to quickly move your iPhoto slide shows (albeit without iPhoto's snazzy transitions) onto DVDs that can play in any DVD player. This is a great way to send a lot of photos to friends or relatives, who can then enjoy your photos on a TV screen.

Printing

iPhoto 2 offers two new print templates: N-Up, which prints a user-specified number of photos on a page, and Sampler, which lets you choose between two templates that print several photos at different sizes on a single page (however, it isn't customizable). iPhoto 2 can also print 2-by-3-inch prints for carrying around in a wallet, but there's still no way to add text to greeting cards printed from iPhoto.

Outside iPhoto

With iPhoto 1.1, you couldn't use e-mail programs other than Apple's Mail without a third-party utility. With iPhoto 2, you can use America Online, Microsoft Entourage, and Qualcomm's Eudora -- as well as Apple's Mail. (Since iPhoto supports only a limited number of e-mail applications, you have to select yours from the list in iPhoto's preferences -- the program does not pick up the default e-mail reader selected in the Email tab of OS X's Internet Preferences pane.)

Gone is iPhoto's Screen Saver button; confusingly, a Desktop button sets the chosen album both as your screen saver and as a rotating, slide-show desktop picture. Although the screen saver can display pictures on two monitors, you must set the Desktop picture for the secondary monitor manually.

Moving Your Photos Around

Especially gratifying is iPhoto 2's ability to burn photos to CDs and DVDs, which can be used as backups or as a means of sharing with other iPhoto users. When you insert a CD or DVD that was burned in iPhoto, it appears as a new Library in your Album pane, and you can view and copy snapshots from it (the photos are stored in the same chronological hierarchy as on your hard drive).

Exporting to a CD or DVD may be the best way to transfer a lot of pictures from one Mac to another, since iPhoto 2 doesn't offer any way to synchronize iPhoto libraries on two machines. It would be nice to be able to easily transfer photos from the iBook you brought with you on vacation to your Power Mac at home.

iPhoto's integration with the .Mac service's HomePage feature is essentially unchanged, but iPhoto 2 can upload photos to your iDisk as a .Mac slide show, and anyone using Jaguar can then use that slide show as a screen saver. And finally, if you want to extend iPhoto's capabilities, you can do so via AppleScript.

Macworld's Buying Advice

iPhoto 2 is a free download from Apple's Web site, although you can avoid the lengthy download time by buying the $49 iLife suite, which includes iPhoto 2, iTunes 3, iMovie 3, and iDVD 2 -- this option makes even more sense if you need the iDVD update, which is available only on the iLife DVD. If you're already an iPhoto user, iPhoto 2 is a shoo-in; you'll appreciate its improvements (though you'll likely be left wanting more of them). If you currently use other photo-editing and -cataloging programs, you may not find the changes reason enough to warrant changing programs. -- adam c. engst

iPhoto 2 Tips and Tricks

Although most of iPhoto's features are relatively obvious, a few keyboard and AppleScript tricks can make iPhoto even easier to use.

Optional Behaviors In a number of situations, holding down the option key changes the behavior of a feature in iPhoto. To rotate a photo in the opposite direction from the default, option-click on the Rotate button. When cropping, you can switch from a portrait aspect ratio to a landscape aspect ratio by holding down the option key as you're dragging a selection rectangle. To open a photo for editing in a separate window when the default is to edit in the main window, option–double-click on the photo. To switch to an album and to toggle between Organize mode or Book mode, option-click on the album. And double-clicking on a keyword in the Keywords window searches for that keyword (even if it was used only in the title or comments of a photo); to assign that keyword to selected photos, option-double-click on it.

Control Freak Another neat trick involves the control key. If you edit a photo in any way and then press control, iPhoto will show you how the photo looked before the edit. Release the control key, and you see the changed version again.

Quick Culling The beauty of digital cameras is that you can take a lot of bad photos while trying to capture that great one. For a fast keyboard-only method of culling the discards in iPhoto after importing them all, switch to Edit mode, use the arrow keys to move between photos, and then press the delete key to send a lousy snapshot to iPhoto's Trash. This technique doesn't work in Organize mode, even when you're viewing only a single thumbnail at a time, because iPhoto loses track of the selection after you delete a photo, forcing you to click on the visible photo before the arrow keys work again.

Keyword List When you're creating new keywords, be careful about what you select. iPhoto 2 creates new keywords underneath the selected keyword. If that's not where you want the new keyword in the list, you must delete and re-create it; there's no other way to rearrange keywords.

AppleScript Unlike its predecessors, iPhoto 2 supports AppleScript, so you can integrate iPhoto with other applications and even add features that iPhoto doesn't support on its own. Apple has posted a collection of sample scripts at www.apple.com/applescript/iphoto/ to get you started. Among the samples are scripts that automatically apply a Photoshop action to a photo and scripts that generate an HTML summary of selected iPhoto images. Expect exchanging data between iPhoto and other image-cataloging applications, such as iView MediaPro, to get easier -- it shouldn't be too long before you'll be able to transfer photos, keywords, and comments back and forth at will, all thanks to AppleScript. -- adam c. engst and jason snell

It's been two years since Apple last revamped its easy-to-use video-editing application, and for many users, it looks as though the company's time has been well spent. iMovie 3.0.1 sports a number of deep enhancements, and the program benefits immensely from integration with the rest of the iLife suite.

Refined Interface

From the outset, iMovie 3 presents a more refined, yet still familiar, interface. Instead of taking over your entire screen, the application's contents reside inside a single resizable window -- especially great news for users with large monitors who want access to the rest of their screen real estate. The iMovie monitor, Clips pane, clip viewer, and timeline viewer remain in the same relative positions.

The way you work within the clip viewer is much like it was before -- but now when you drag a piece of video from the Clips pane into a sequence, the other clips fluidly make room for the newcomer.

iMovie 3's difference is more apparent in the timeline viewer, where a new and very useful option called Edit Volume lets you adjust volume throughout a clip to create audio fade-ins and -outs, cut unwelcome noise, and boost weak voices.

However, we did find that iMovie 3 was noticeably sluggish in some cases, including when we edited projects converted from iMovie 2, pressed the spacebar to begin playing a clip, and first opened a project. iMovie 2 users on slower systems should upgrade with caution.

Integration

iMovie 3's expanded iMedia Browser is where iMovie and the rest of the iLife apps interact.

iPhoto Pressing the new Photos button displays the contents of your iPhoto 2 Photo Library. You can easily grab photos from iPhoto and slide them into your timeline, or you can animate them with the new Ken Burns Effect tool. Named after the documentary filmmaker behind Jazz, Baseball, and The Civil War, the Ken Burns Effect is a powerful feature that lets you zoom into and pan across still images. To use it, establish the position and size of the image at the start of the clip and then set the position and the size for the end -- iMovie animates the in-between movement. Unfortunately, iMovie applies the same settings to all subsequent still images you add to your sequence; this isn't helpful because you'll rarely want to animate two images in exactly the same way. It would be more logical -- and reduce mouse-clicks -- if iMovie's default photo treatment was a standard still image. To make matters worse, it's not easy to turn the Ken Burns Effect off. There isn't a reset button for the effect. To turn it off, you need to load the clip into the Ken Burns Effect window and set the Start and Finish points to a Zoom value of 1.00.

iTunes Next in the iMedia browser is the Audio button. Pressing it reveals a pane that gives you access to your entire iTunes Library, as well as an expanded set of sound effects. While this is a helpful element, the interface is clunky -- there's only a Play button for previewing music and sound. This forces you to preview the audio clips in real time from the start, which can be very annoying with long clips.

iDVD In iMovie 3's iDVD pane, you can set chapter markers at logical breaks in your project, giving viewers the option of skipping ahead to particular scenes while they're watching your movie on a DVD created in iDVD 3. To create a chapter marker, place the playhead on the timeline, click on the Add Chapter button in the iDVD pane, and name the chapter.

When you've finished editing your project, you can transfer the project to iDVD just by choosing Create iDVD Project -- you no longer need to perform a lengthy QuickTime export of your movie, and the transfer to iDVD 3 takes only a few moments.

Welcome Changes

Beyond the marquee features, there are a few other new touches that make iMovie 3 even more of an impressive update.

Special Effects iMovie 3 includes an expanded set of video effects with filters such as Aged Film, Fairy Dust, Ghost Trails, and Earthquake. These filters take iMovie one step closer to its more-professional counterparts. The Title tool has similarly been updated with additional settings.

Video Import Click on the Clips button, and you'll see the familiar Clips pane, which stores and catalogs recorded video elements. But now you can import all sorts of different clips into the pane, instead of just footage from a DV camcorder. iMovie 3 lets you import any QuickTime movies (provided that the resulting clip is less than 9 minutes, 57 seconds in length -- a 2GB file-size limit). You can drag them into the Clips pane or choose Import from the File menu. Either way, you can easily import DV clips from Final Cut Pro or AVI movies from your digital camera into iMovie.

Macworld's Buying Advice

iMovie 3 is a significant upgrade to Apple's easy-to-use video-editing program. iMovie benefits greatly from integration with all the other iLife applications, both in terms of easy access to source media and easy links to iDVD for disc burning. -- anton linecker

iMovie 3 Tips and Tricks

These tips will help you overcome the limitations of the Ken Burns Effect and use iMovie's new audio tool.

Controlling Ken The Ken Burns Effect animates still images between the beginning and end of a clip, but the image is in constant motion. Often, constant motion is all you need, but sometimes you don't want the image to begin moving immediately at the cut -- or you may want to hold on an image after the animation is done. Indeed, in many of Ken Burns's documentaries, a pan or zoom will stop on an image to emphasize its importance.

To hold on an image before the animation starts or after it ends, you need to treat the animation and the still images separately. First, apply the Ken Burns Effect to an image and add it to your timeline. At this point, you have a clip with different pan and zoom positions for the beginning and the end. If you want the animation to start on a still image, position your playhead at the beginning of your animated clip. Choose Create Still Image (shift-1-S). This creates a still image in the Clips pane. Insert the still image ahead of the animated clip, and choose the amount of time you want the still image to linger.

If you want to end the animation with a still frame, choose the animated clip in the sequence and place the playhead at the tail of the clip. Again, create a still image and drag the new still from the Clips pane to your timeline after the animated clip.

Volume versus Volume When iMovie is in timeline mode, you'll see two volume sliders -- one above the timeline and one underneath. Although they look identical, they actually do very different things. The slider above the timeline is a permanent fixture in iMovie that controls the computer playback volume. The second volume slider appears only in the timeline window -- it's the clip volume control. To activate the slider, click on the Edit Volume button.

To adjust a clip's audio, click on the section of the clip you want to adjust and either drag the marker (also known as a keyframe) up or down, or move the slider. This way, you can reduce the volume of background music when you want to hear someone speaking in your movie, for example, and you can make as many adjustments as you like. -- anton linecker

iDVD 3 is a shining example of elegant simplicity -- it lets you build complex, professional-looking DVD projects with ease. It has limitations, to be sure (for example, it doesn't support external DVD burners -- it works only with Apple's internal SuperDrive), but most casual DVD creators probably won't notice them. This massive (1.3GB) upgrade is what you're really paying for when you buy iLife.

Themes

iDVD 3 includes two dozen new customizable DVD menu themes to choose from (and you won't lose your version 2 themes either). These new themes, such as Theater and Projector, are simply dazzling. Many of them have a drop zone -- areas where you can customize Apple's prebuilt backgrounds by dropping in your own photos or video clips.

In the Projector theme, for instance, the drop zone corresponds to the movie screen lit by a film projector. When you drop video into this zone, iDVD plays the video back as if it were projected film, adding some scratches and dirt with an old-film–look filter. The only drawback to the drop zone is that the video or photo album plays back with a constant framing -- although you can click and drag the video to the desired placement, the adjustment is applied throughout. As a result, some photos in an album may appear awkwardly framed. In addition, tall photos are sometimes incorrectly displayed (squished vertically, for example).

Integration

The way you work with iDVD is basically the same in version 3. But new features can add a layer of sophistication to finished projects.

iTunes iDVD 3 accesses the other iLife apps through the iMedia Browser, which is located at the top of the Customize drawer. Pressing the Audio button opens the iTunes Library, letting you easily pull audio in for background music (you can still import non-iTunes audio the traditional way, via the Customize: Settings pane). Any sound element imported from iTunes starts playing from the beginning by default (and menus can only contain a 30-second music loop).

iPhoto The Photos button links iDVD to iPhoto 2. Here you have access not only to individual photos but also to iPhoto albums. These photo albums play like preview QuickTime movies when they are applied to some of iDVD 3's new menu pages with special Photo or Movie drop zones. And if you drop an iPhoto album onto a menu page (outside of a drop zone), iDVD will create a slide show for you.

iMovie The Movies button connects to the Movies folder in the user's Home directory, as this is the default location for iMovie media. This feature is useful only for video projects that originated in iMovie. Final Cut Pro and Express users will need to drag and drop movies into iDVD 3.

Chapter Markers

Perhaps the most impressive new feature in iDVD 3 is chapter-marker support. With chapter markers, a DVD can have scene selections that let viewers jump to their favorite scenes quickly, as they can with professional DVDs. Chapter markers are embedded in the imported QuickTime movie and can come from iMovie 3, Final Cut Pro, Final Cut Express, or even QuickTime Pro. Once these QuickTime clips are dropped into iDVD 3, the program creates two buttons: Play Movie, which plays the entire clip, and Scene Selection, which leads to a separate menu page that lists the individual scenes.

iDVD 3 limits you to 36 chapter markers per video clip, divided into 6 chapter markers per menu page. Another limitation is that iDVD displays the Play Movie and Scene Selection buttons for only one video clip with chapter markers at a time (the first movie loaded into iDVD). If you drag a second clip with chapter markers to the menu page, only the clip's name will be displayed. The Play Movie and Selected Scenes buttons for the second clip are displayed on the following menu page.

Slide Shows

When you add photos to a slide show, iDVD 3 converts them to video resolution. With the new Add Original Photos On DVD-ROM option, you can now include the full-resolution photos as well. While you can't view these high-resolution pictures with a set-top DVD player, they are accessible by computer -- so people you send them to can print out their own copies.

Macworld's Buying Advice

iDVD 3 is a software marvel that lets you create stylish, professional-looking DVDs easily and quickly, and it's well worth its $49 price. -- anton linecker

iDVD 3 Tips and Tricks

Improve your iDVD experience with these hints on preparing your content.

Importing Chapter Markers from Final Cut Since version 3.0.2, Final Cut Pro has had the ability to export chapter markers to DVD Studio Pro. Now it (and Final Cut Express) can also export chapter information to iDVD 3 -- but the process is significantly different.

To create chapter markers in Final Cut, position your playhead in the timeline. Typing m twice will place a marker in the timeline and bring up the Edit Marker window. Name the marker (this will become the button name in iDVD), and click on Add Chapter Marker. For iDVD 3, adding a compression marker isn't necessary.

For DVD Studio Pro, you would convert your movie to MPEG-2 in Final Cut, but since iDVD 3 doesn't import MPEG-2 files, you need to export a Final Cut Reference Movie. Make sure that Chapter Markers is selected in the Markers options -- the movie doesn't need to be self-contained.

Adding DVD-ROM Material It's possible to make your own enhanced DVDs with iDVD -- adding material accessible only via computer. The last button in the iMedia Browser brings up the Status window -- click on the Encoding Status button, and a DVD-ROM Contents option will appear. You can now drag almost any file into this window and even create folders to organize content.

Organize Your Content First Of course you want to edit your main video footage before putting it on DVD, but you may be less prepared with supporting elements such as photos, background movies, and music. While you can access iPhoto, iMovie, and iTunes files from iDVD, you cannot edit these elements within iDVD.

For example, if you want to have a particular sequence of photos play in one of iDVD's new menu drop zones, you need to build a photo album -- putting photos in the order you want them displayed in -- within iPhoto and then drop the album into iDVD. The same holds true if you want a short video sequence to play with a menu drop zone. You should edit the video element in iMovie first, so it will be available to you in iDVD.

If you want background music in iDVD but you want only a section of a song, you'll need to edit it in an application that supports sound editing, such as iMovie. iTunes doesn't let you edit sound. -- anton linecker

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