New code base and polished user interface; improved Facebook and Flickr integration; design templates for email; full-screen mode for maximum use of display; improved Books and Cards design tools.
Editing controls virtually untouched; no more Extended Photo Info screen; text and number-of-photo limitations for email attachments.
$69 (as part of iLife '11 suite)
iPhoto takes a co-starring role in the latest iLife update, along with iMovie and GarageBand. iPhoto ’11 doesn’t have the same kind of ground-breaking new features that iPhoto ’09 had, such as Faces, Places, and social networking connectivity. Not that iPhoto ’11’s changes are lightweight, but, overall, the new features can be categorised as added polish rather than as breakthroughs.
For example, iPhoto now uses Core Animation for better performance throughout the application. iPhoto ’11 is also gesture-aware, providing two-finger scrolling on a laptop and three-finger photo-to-photo browsing. Gestures also work on the Magic Mouse.
New full-screen mode
The new full-screen mode is a perfect example of iPhoto’s user interface fine-tuning. Now, your entire workspace can occupy every pixel on the display. Combined with other cosmetic modifications, such as the buttons, full-screen mode almost feels like you’re working on a big iPad instead of a traditional Mac.
Working in full-screen mode is fairly intuitive. Arrow keys move you from one thumbnail to the next. Double-clicking on an image enlarges it to dominate the display, with the other thumbnails lined up neatly at the bottom of the screen. Navigation remains at the top, and a handful of tools are parked at the bottom.
While browsing your thumbnails, you can easily change gears into a slideshow mode by clicking on the Play button at the bottom of the interface. There are some new slideshow themes too, including Origami, Reflections, Photo Mobile, Holiday Mobile, Vintage Prints and Places. Overall, the slideshow controls remain similar to before.
Subtle design and tool changes
More visual refinements occur throughout the application. The toolbar at the bottom of the iPhoto window has been streamlined, with sophisticated charcoal-grey icons. The Book, Card, Albums and Places views also received nice facelifts – not to mention the new Projects bookshelf, which is beautiful.
Other windows, such as Edit and Info have also changed in appearance. If you want to see image metadata, click on the Info button. The thumbnails slide to the left, allowing an information panel to appear on the right. Note that you no longer have the additional Extended Photo Info pane as before.
Image editing behaves much the same as it did in iPhoto ’09, but the interface has been redesigned to add appeal. Click the Edit button at the bottom of the iPhoto window to reveal a panel with three tabs: Quick Fixes, Effects and Adjust.
In the Effects tab are a few new goodies. Six icons appear at the top of the pane – Lighten, Darken, Contrast, Warmer, Cooler and Saturate – for your convenience. The buttons don’t replace any of the slider controls in the Adjust pane.
Apple has made a number of changes to iPhoto’s output options, and the most radical among them are the new designs for sharing pictures via email. Instead of sending images as traditional attachments, you must now choose from eight templates. When the recipient opens the email, they are greeted with your photos integrated into the selected design. Additionally, you can attach the images in a zipped archive.
Unfortunately, there are trade-offs with this new feature. The templates limit the number of photos you can attach to 10. There is also a limit to how much type you can include, depending on the template. And you get only two file-size options for attached photos: Optimised or Actual.
You can work around these changes, however. For example, if you want to send 15 photos, select their thumbnails in iPhoto ’11 and drag them to the Mail app on the Dock. A new email will appear with the images attached. You can then choose among four file sizes (Actual, Large, Medium and Small) and add as much type as you want. Or you can go the other way: Open the Mail app, click on the New Message button, and then click on the Photo Browser button. Drag the images you want from the browser to the email, and those images will be included in your message.
Speaking of email, if you use a different client to the Mail app, you can add it in the new Accounts tab in iPhoto ’11’s Preferences (iPhoto > Preferences > Accounts).
Better social media integration
iPhoto ’09 brought direct connectivity with Facebook and Flickr, but iPhoto ’11 makes it usable – now you can directly upload an iPhoto image to an existing album or create a new grouping altogether.
For Facebook, you can also update your profile picture directly from iPhoto, and even tag people. Since iPhoto is actually synced to the images you upload from the application to these online galleries, changes you make in iPhoto will be reflected in your online album.
MobileMe tools received a makeover similar to the one Facebook and Flickr tools got, so regardless of which site you’re managing, the iPhoto interface is essentially the same.
Good-looking books and cards
The new interface for designing books is flat-out beautiful. To start designing, select a group of photos and choose Book from the Create fly-out menu. The next screen lets you choose your theme, with gorgeous examples for each option. After selecting the type of book you want to design, click the Create button to get started.
iPhoto automatically flows the images into the theme you’ve chosen. Your key photo for the album becomes the cover; Face Detection is used for proper framing of people shots; and photos within a time frame are grouped together.
If you want to tweak pages, add text, or move things around, click on the Design button in the lower right corner to open the full design editor.
The card tool is much the same. Letterpress cards have been added to the themes, so your images can now be printed on high-quality paper with debossed designs.
Australian Macworld’s buying advice
iPhoto ’11’s polished user interface certainly improves the user experience overall. But before you buy, spend some time looking at the new features, such as the full-screen mode, the email tools and the user interface. If these don’t appeal to you, then the benefits of improved Facebook and Flickr integration, as well as the redesigned book and card tools, may not be enough to warrant an upgrade.
iPhoto ’11 requires an Intel Mac running Mac OS X 10.6.3 or later.