Mac Troubleshooting FAQ

Mac troubleshooting FAQ: iLife

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Apple packs each new Mac with a terrific multimedia suite—iLife. But while iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand are generally solid performers, their behavior can sometimes be confounding. Here are a few things you can try when they give you trouble.

I can’t seem to open my iPhoto library. Have I lost my pictures?

That’s doubtful. It’s more likely that your iPhoto library needs rebuilding. You can do that by holding down Command-Option while launching iPhoto. A Rebuild Photo Library window will appear that offers multiple repair options. Select the first option—Repair The iPhoto Library Database—and click the Rebuild button. iPhoto will set about repairing and rebuilding your library.

I deleted several images in iPhoto by mistake and I want them back. But I don’t have a backup. Is there another way to retrieve them?

When you select images and press the Delete key in iPhoto, they’re moved to iPhoto’s trash, not OS X’s Trash. And they stay there until you Control-click on the iPhoto Trash icon and choose Empty Trash. To recover your pictures, just click on that Trash icon and drag the images you want to the Photos entry in the Library list.

The downside of this scheme is that you may be storing several gigabytes’ worth of pictures you thought you’d deleted. Choosing Empty Trash takes care of that.

My iPhoto library is huge, and I’d like to split it so I can store nonessential photos on an external hard drive while keeping my favorite pictures on my Mac’s startup drive. How do I do this?

This is best left to a third-party solution, specifically Fat Cat Software’s $20 iPhoto Library Manager ( ). To use it, create a new album in iPhoto, call it something intuitive like My Favorite Pix, and into it move the pictures you want to keep on your Mac’s internal drive. Launch iPhoto Library Manager and click the New Library button to create a new library—call it Keepers and save it to the Photos folder inside your user folder.

iPhoto Library Manager
iPhoto Library Manager makes it easy to create multiple iPhoto libraries with just the images you want in them.

Select the library you’re currently using from the iPhoto Libraries list and locate the My Favorite Pix album. It will appear in the list of albums for that library. Drag that album to the Keepers library you just created. iPhoto Library Manager will copy the images to the new library along with their tags, keywords, and metadata (including Faces and Places information). The Keepers library is now the one iPhoto will open when it launches. Copy your original iPhoto Library (within youruserfolder/Photos) to the external hard drive.

Before deleting the copy of the original iPhoto library still on your internal hard drive, relaunch iPhoto while holding down the Option key. iPhoto will prompt you for a photo library to use. Click the Other Library button and navigate to the library that you just copied to the external drive and click Choose. iPhoto should open that library and display all of your pictures. When you’re sure they’re all there, feel free to delete the original library from your internal hard drive, knowing that this library is now safely backed up. Finally, hold down the Option key, relaunch iPhoto, and choose your Keepers library. It will become the default.

I can't seem to launch iMovie ’11 without it stalling.

A good general rule of thumb is that if any application that requires QuickTime (this includes not only iMovie but also Final Cut Pro and iTunes) acts up, take a long look at the /Library/QuickTime folder. Within it you will find a load of component files—plug-ins that enhance QuickTime in wondrous ways. Such plug-ins include DivX, Flip4Mac, and Perian. If one of these component files is out-of-date or incompatible, it can wreak this kind of havoc.

If you’re confronted by one of these problems, quit the victimized application and move any third-party components from within this folder (shift them to the Desktop for now). Restart the affected application. If it works correctly, you know one of the components is the problem. To begin troubleshooting, visit the host Website of each component and download a fresh version. If an uninstaller is included, run it to clear out the bits and pieces you haven’t found. Quit the former troublesome application and install one component. Run the application and see how it performs. If well, run the next installer. If poorly, that component is a trouble-maker and you should live without it or find an alternative.

I loved editing with iMovie HD's timeline. Can edit video that way in iMovie ’11?

Within the Project pane is a Single Row View button. Click it and you have something that better resembles a timeline, complete with views of both audio and video snippets. To give yourself a little more elbow room choose Window > Swap Events and Projects (or click the toolbar button that does the same thing). This moves the Project pane to the bottom of the iMovie window, which affords you more room than you have when that pane is at the top of the window.

iMovie timeline
You can replicate iMovie HD's timeline in iMovie '11 by selecting Single Row View.

How can I keep iMovie from applying the Ken Burns effect to every still picture I import?

Regrettably, you won’t find an Enough Ben Burns Already option in iMovie’s preferences. However, you can turn Ken off on a project-by-project basis. To do that, create a new iMovie project and then immediately choose File > Project Properties. In the resulting sheet locate the Initial Photo Placement pop-up menu, choose Fit in Frame, and click the OK button. From this point forward—within this project only—any still images you import into your movie will be displayed completely, and without movement (though there will almost assuredly be black bars on the sides or above and below them). Note that you’ll have to choose this Fit in Frame option every time you start a new project, otherwise the project defaults to the Ken Burns effect.

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