If you’ve just started using your Mac, you’re probably letting iPhoto do all your image handling because it starts up when you plug in your camera, just as happens with Windows’ importing tools. But take a minute to get familiar with Image Capture, one of Mac OS X’s hidden gems that provides a powerful tool for getting images from still and video cameras, scanners, iPod touch and iPhones, memory cards and more.
Next time you plug in your camera, quit iPhoto after it launches, then start Image Capture; you’ll find it in your Applications folder. You’ll see connected devices down the left-hand column, and – depending on the device selected – either a list of the photos and movies on the device, or an interface for scanning documents.
With photos, Image Capture gives you lots of details that you won’t get in iPhoto, the option of a thumbnail-only mode, and a slider to adjust the size of the thumbnails. You can choose into which folder you want to import pictures; whether or not to delete photos after you’ve imported them; and what application Mac OS X should open when you connect your device.
This last option is a corker, and new to Mac OS X 10.6. All these settings are remembered for each camera. So you can have your snapshot camera open iPhoto, your DSLR open Aperture, your digital video camera open iMovie, and your iPhone open Image Capture. Image Capture also remembers other settings, such as the destination folder, for each camera.
Image Capture allows a connected device to be shared with other Macs on a network. If you tick the Share iPhone box, for example, your iPhone photos will be available in the Shared submenu on other Macs running Image Capture.
One more option merits a mention: AutoImporter. Open Finder, then drill down to Macintosh HD > System > Library > Image Capture > Support > Application. AutoImporter has no user interface, but if you open Preferences you’re given the option to choose a target folder and create a custom-named subfolder.
Drag any of the four variables into the text field, or type your own text. Exit AutoImporter and your settings are saved; whenever you connect that device, Image Capture will automatically dump all its pictures into your new folder.
Image Capture offers two extremely useful Easter eggs: drill into the Macintosh HD > System > Library > Image Capture > Automatic Tasks folder and you’ll find applications called Build Web Page and MakePDF.
Drop a bunch of pictures on to Build Web Page, and it will build a basic image gallery with clickable thumbnails. Drop the images onto MakePDF, and you’ll get a multipage PDF file with all your pictures.
You can use these apps in Automator scripts to speed the creation of web galleries, or select them as the ‘Import To’ destination within Image Capture to automatically build your galleries or PDFs straight off the camera.
Image Capture’s other main use is to control any scanners you may have connected to your system (pictured below).
Image Capture can scan multiple pages to a single PDF, auto-detect multiple items, and apply scanner-specific settings like Dust Removal and Backlight Correction. You probably won’t need your manufacturer’s own scanner software anymore.
This article originally appeared in the July issue of Australian Macworld magazine.