Posted Monday, January 17, 2005

A Few of My Favorite iPhoto 5 Things, and a Call for Feedback

I'm back from the Macworld Expo, and my voice is returning to its normal state of hoarseness. It was a good show. Even though the news had leaked -- heck, gushed -- there was still a lot of buzz over Apple's announcements. Lines were long at the Apple Store in nearby Union Square, with people snapping up iPod shuffles (memo to Apple: embrace the Shift key!) as quickly as they could shuffle up to the cashiers.

As for me, I always get a kick out of meeting readers and viewers. The kind words are tremendously gratifying, and make the long hours and sore wrists worthwhile. Thank you.

I was also thoroughly buzzed to see people grabbing my exclusive iLife '05 "first look" booklet at the Peachpit Press booth. Peachpit Press printed 10,000 of those babies, and I suspect there weren't many left by the end of the week. (If you didn't get yours, see the post below to get a PDF.)

The booklet's 16 pages summarize what's new in iLife '05, and on Friday, we'll be launching iLifeTV, a series of short, once-a-week movies that show iLife '05 in action. Now, though, I want to share a few iPhoto 5 observations and also get your feedback on what you'd like to see in the next edition of the top-selling book on iLife.

iPhoto 5 is the Star
There are wonders to behold across the iLife '05 programs, but from my perspective, iPhoto 5 is the star of the show. It's simple: if you use a digital camera, you'll want this upgrade.

What's hot? Here's a short list.

You can create folders in the Source list to organize albums, slide shows, and books. Organization freaks, rejoice.

Slide shows and books are now separate entities, detached from the albums on which they're based. After you create a slide show or book, you can change the underlying album -- adding or removing photos, for instance -- without worrying about your change rippling through the slide show or book. This scheme also makes it easy to create several variations of an album or book.

Slide shows are spectacular. Check the Automatic Ken Burns effect box to get pans and zooms, or take the reins and set up Ken Burns moves yourself. Add effects to images without having to alter the master images in your library. Specify different durations for each slide -- and different transitions, if you want to be tacky. And create 16:9 widescreen slide shows that do justice to your Cinema Display.

You can also export your slide shows as QuickTime movies, and with more options than before. You can export in a few different sizes, including 720 by 480 (ready to import into iMovie HD). And if you used Ken Burns in your slide show, iPhoto renders those pans and zooms into your QuickTime movie. Dreamy.

As for editing, iPhoto 5 is still a long way from Photoshop Elements, but the new Adjust panel provides the tonal correction features most photos need: levels adjustments; exposure, saturation, and color controls; and sharpening (it's unsharp masking, by the way). The Straighten slider is sheer brilliance, straightening and cropping a photo in real time, as you drag the slider. Why hasn't anyone thought of this before? Is there something special in Cupertino's water?

(Why I'll still use Photoshop Elements or Photoshop CS for particularly problematic pictures: shadow and highlight recovery, the clone stamp tool, the healing brush tool, perspective correction. iPhoto 5 can't touch these features. But it's still quite happy to hand off your photos to a different image editor, should you choose. If I worked in marketing at Adobe, I'd be pushing Photoshop Elements as the ultimate iPhoto plug-in.)

And then there are iPhoto books. If you weren't a book publisher before, you'll become one now.

For starters, laying out a book is much easier than in earlier iPhoto versions. Deleting a photo from one page doesn't cause a nightmarish reflowing of photos in subsequent pages -- it simply leaves an empty drop zone, ready to accommodate a new photo. A new manual-layout mode lets you drag photos onto pages by hand from the new photo browser area at the top of the window.

The new book designs are spectacular, too -- richer and far more elegant than the bland designs from earlier iPhoto versions. The ability to print on facing pages to create true, two-page spreads is also magnificent. I can't wait to try splitting a panoramic photo into two photos, and then positioning them opposite each other on a spread.

What else is hot? The real-time search box. The calendar pane. The ability to store raw files and camera movies. (And contrary to what other reports have said, iPhoto isn't limited to just MPEG-4 movies. It can store any QuickTime-compatible format. I've even thrown a couple of QuickTime VR movies into my library, just for fun.)

Over to You, Chet
There's so much more to talk about in iPhoto 5, but I want to turn things over to you now -- specifically, to those of you who you have bought previous editions of my book/DVD. What would you like to see in the next edition? What kinds of video tutorials do you want on the DVD? Where did I miss the boat in the last edition? What did I get wrong? How can I make The Macintosh iLife '05 a must-buy update?

I've been working with iLife '05 for a while now, and revisions are well underway. But there's still time for you to influence the next edition. Tell me what you want.