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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

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