Manage iPhoto exports more 'smartly'

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Do you do a lot of exporting from iPhoto? For me, the answer to that question is a definitive yes. You see, I don’t use iPhoto’s built-in ‘export to web page’ feature, as I find its feature set too limiting. Instead, I use jAlbum, a free Java-based web slideshow creation tool, and then upload the resulting album to my site.

But I do use iPhoto for managing my photos, which means that every time I want to use jAlbum, I have to root through my collection to find the photos I want to use. I had been doing this by Command-clicking on the various images I wanted to use, then choosing Share: Export for the actual export. I’ve also used a simple drag-and-drop to a folder on the Desktop. While both of these methods work, and are fine for smaller exports, they’re not exactly failsafe. One bad click or a slip of the finger, and my carefully crafted selection of 42 images immediately vanished. It also caused problems if I had to re-export an image from iPhoto (due to an editing mistake, for instance): I’d have to figure out where that one particular image was within my library again. I thought that there must be a smarter way to export the images I wanted to use.

And there was a smarter way, through the use of Smart Albums and keywords. I first created a new keyword—do this by opening iPhoto’s Preferences, selecting the Keywords section, and clicking the Add button. I named my new keyword ToExport , but you can call yours whatever you want. Next, I created a new Smart Album by holding down the Option key, and then clicking the gear icon at the lower left of the iPhoto window. You can do the same thing with File: New Smart Album. When the Smart Album dialog box appeared, I named the new album _To Export (the underscore just forces this Smart Album to show up above any others I may have). In the condition section of the dialog, I listed only one condition, Keyword - is - ToExport as seen here:

So instead of having to multiple-select images and worry about losing the selection, I just assign the ToExport keyword to each image I want to use, and it then shows up automatically in my _To Export Smart Album. You can assign keywords to images by dragging the image(s) to the Keywords area in the lower left-hand corner of the iPhoto window. If you don’t see the keywords list, just click the small key icon at the bottom of the window.

The only real problem with this solution is that it’s a bit of a pain to assign a keyword to a photo—you either have to use the photo’s Info panel, or drag and drop it onto the keyword list. Both are time consuming. That’s where Keyword Assistant, a free plug-in for iPhoto, comes into play. We covered this nifty tool in the May 2005 Working Mac column, but it’s worth a quick repeat mention here.

Using the plug-in, I just have to select the images I want to tag, and then type T in the Keyword Assistant floating window and hit Return—since I don’t have any other “T” keywords, Keyword Assistant assigns the ToExport keyword to my selection. You can even tag images when you’re in the iPhoto image browser, making it really easy to quickly scan a large number of images.

When I’ve made all my selections and assigned the special ToExport keyword, I just click on the _To Export Smart Album in the Source column, then choose Share: Export. Presto, that’s all there is to it; the images are now ready for use in jAlbum (or pre-processing in Photoshop Elements, which is what I usually do).

When I’m done with the project, I just remove the ToExport keyword, and my Smart Album is once again empty and ready for the next batch of images. Keyword Assistant even helps with this step. I just highlight all the images in the _To Export Smart Album, type T into the Keyword Assistant panel, and then hit Option-Return, which does a “remove keyword” action instead of an “add keyword” action. Using Keyword Assistant really saves time on projects like this…and with a small child here and grandparents elsewhere, I seem to be doing them all the time!

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