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iLife Review Feature: iPhoto ’11

In the first of our iLife '11 Reviews this week, we take a closer look at iPhoto '11...

Few could have predicted the iPad’s stunning impact. Not only has it turned tablet and netbook markets on their heads, but its influence is now being felt in software – and that includes Apple’s flagship image editing and organisation tool.
While this new version of iPhoto ’11 doesn’t offer a bucketload of new features, it looks very different.
Take its outstanding new feature: Full Screen mode. No longer confined to Edit mode, Full Screen is everywhere. Albums are now arranged in iPad-like stacks when you view your projects – books, cards and so on – in Full Screen mode they are arranged on a bookshelf background strongly reminiscent of the iOS iBookstore. In fact, Full Screen works so well throughout that the only disappointment is that you can’t set it up as your default view.
iPhoto’s entire interface benefits from a touch of iOS glitter. Its once-cluttered toolbar, which housed image manipulation tools and icons for sharing content, is much simplified. Exporting options now cohabit in a single toolbar menu, while others have been hived off to an iPad-like pop-up pane which appears when you right-click an image in the browser.
Gone too are the Adjustment and Effects palettes in Edit mode, which now sit in a tabbed pane along with red-eye, crop and other quick fixes. It comes at the cost of some screen space, but means that tools are always easily accessible in Full Screen mode. We prefer it that way.
Click on the Info button in the toolbar and the same right-hand pane switches to a mine of information about the selected image, album or event. With a single image opened, the pane displays its settings, size and format, as well as a small map showing any geodata information. The Info pane also makes the Faces face-recognition function more accessible, listing all the subjects it recognises in a particular photograph, and you can add unrecognised faces directly here too. In short, the pane holds a lot more information than iPhoto ’09’s abbreviated Info pane, although less than appeared in that program’s Extended Photo Info palette.
But interface changes aren’t the only development. There have been big improvements to the way iPhoto integrates with other social media. Facebook integration is vastly improved and now truly bidirectional, so not only can you upload iPhoto images to your Facebook account, but you can also see any comments friends have added to them within iPhoto and view images you’ve already uploaded to Facebook from other sources. And if you tag a subject in a photo with Faces, the tags also show up in Facebook.
Flickr integration is miles better too: in iPhoto ’09 your only export options were the size of the photo to upload and specifying who could see it. Now you can send to a chosen Flickr set (or to your Photostream) and upload video too – something iPhoto ’09 choked on.

The whole process of creating cards and books is far more polished. A swish new carousel display shows a realistic preview of your projects comparing different sizes, print options, with personalised cover and pages previews. And – at long last – you can compare costs in same window.

When it comes to creating books, iPhoto ’11 produces better results. An event’s ‘key image’ is automatically placed on the cover, and it’s smarter about organising related images using the Autoflow function. Another welcome touch is the ability to apply effects and borders to particular images on the page and see thumbnail previews of all pages at once as you do it.
iPhoto ’11 also introduces a Letterpress option which can put your images on traditionally printed cards. We haven’t tested the quality of the cards themselves but they look impressive, if – at more than £2 a pop – not cheap. The only disappointment here is that at the time of writing you can’t create calendars. Apple is promising an update to add them back very soon.
Elsewhere there are other useful touches. The Slideshow feature is boosted by a bundle of fresh animated themes – including the largely self- explanatory Holiday Mobile, Reflections and Origami. And in a welcome change, given that so many iPhoto libraries now include video content, you can now play video – and even do basic iOS-like trimming – inside iPhoto.
It’s not all good news though. Sending photos by email is a disaster area. Intentions are good: you can now email directly from the program rather than exporting to an email application of your choice. When you select the Email option from the Share toolbar menu, an email window offers a choice of eight background templates for the image. But there’s no plain background option and there are only two choices of compression, neither of which indicates how big the final message size will be. The only way to guarantee sensibly sized images is to drag the photo from the browser window into Mail
and adjust its size there.
While it’s disappointing that there are few improvements to the editing functionality given the gap since iPhoto ’09, the changes in iPhoto ’11 are almost universally welcome. And coupled with iLife’s drop in price, we can categorically recommend it.