Posted Thursday, January 22, 2004

Not-So-Smart Albums in iPhoto 4
I've been loving the speed and new features of iPhoto 4, but I've run into a couple of limitations of the smart albums feature, which lets you tell iPhoto to build an album according to search criteria that you specify.

My complaints deal with the way iPhoto 4 handles dates.

You can't omit the year. I may be missing it, but I can't figure out how to easily create a smart album containing photos from a given date, but from any year. In other words, say I want to create a Smart Album of every photo I've taken on Christmas day, regardless of the year. The smart album dialog box doesn't let you say "Date starts with..." -- you must specify an entire year. So creating a "Christmas Day" smart album means adding multiple criteria -- one for each year whose photos you want to include in your album. That means a lot of extra work.

Two-digit years don't cut it. iPhoto appears to store date information using a two-digit number for the year -- for example, 1/22/04 instead of 1/22/2004.

Didn't we have a big brouhaha about this a few years ago? I thought so.

The problem with iPhoto's two-digit scheme arises when you add an old scanned image to iPhoto and change its date to reflect the year in which it was taken -- for example, "45" for a photo taken in 1945. Or "05" for a photo taken in 1905. I discussed this very use of iPhoto in one of my Digital Hub columns in Macworld.

Worse, iPhoto 4's smart albums feature doesn't appear to be able to find photos that have, for lack of a better term, "unusual" dates. I changed a photo's year to "45," but the smart album feature can't find it.

iPhoto 4 is a terrific upgrade, but it would be just that much more terrific if it handled dates just a bit better.