back to article Apple iPhoto gets in your face

iLife has arrived. Again. And there are questions to be answered. Is this five-app pack of ease-of-use worth $79? Are the hyper-hyped new capabilities of its two marquee apps, iPhoto '09 and iMovie '09, all they've been cracked up to be? Is the new Learn to Play feature in GarageBand '09 useful for anyone other than a musical …


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  1. Barry Rueger
    Paris Hilton


    When I switched from PC to Mac there was nothing that I missed more than Google's Picasa. iPhoto paled in terns of ease of use and versatility, and was literally the first thing that I installed when I switched back to PC this year.

    This year Google finally made Picasa available for Mac too. Well worth getting.

  2. Wot DaPho
    Thumb Down

    Sarky comments as usual

    "These ongoing upgrades have given this latest version the distinct feel of an app that has accreted rather than matured. The look, feel, and function of new features are more mature - or, at least, different - than those of older features."

    Wow, an app with legacy code in? Imagine that. Newsflash to Rik: only the Web 2.0 crowd throw everything out with each iteration.

    No big surprise that you need Intel hardware to run some features - Apple is a hardware company last time I looked.

    Seems like you can't just do a straight review without inserting stupid comments.

  3. Stewart Midwinter


    one bad thing about iPhoto '09. It takes your entire collection of photos, which you used to be able to find in the file system, and hides them all inside a single file called 'iPhoto Library'. You have now lost the ability to work with the files individually.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    re: bad

    In iLife 08 there appears to be an "action" (or something) associated with the library folder in finder which runs iphoto whenever you click on the folder in finder. You may just need to look at changing this. From the commandline you can change directory into the iphoto library folder and see the files. It might be the same in 09. Or not!

    I don't have a mac in front of me (or even own one) but I did have a play with one recently. It might be worth investigating...

  5. Ty
    Jobs Halo

    Barry Rueger messed up.

    Umm wakey wakey Barry.

    If you were that anal about Picassa then why didn't you just run Parallels and Windows on your Mac and run it there?

    Switched back to PC? lol

    Some people.

  6. Mick F
    Thumb Down

    more lock-in

    Parts of these programs only work on Intel chipsets, they starting the push to force older Mac users to spend on newer machines. Spent a few hours playing with faces and i'm already bored with that. Nothing worth the upgrade money.

  7. Geoff Johnson

    Rubber Doorstop.

    I have several of those and are they useful?

    Well that depends too.

  8. Les

    UK translation required...

    Tell me, is el Reg still a UK-based site? Is that an illusion? Have you been secretly taken over by people from over the pond?

    Or is there some less sinister reason for running a product review which mentions US pricing in those "dollar" things rather than the "pound" things Apple accept here? Whether the software is "worth $79" is not a relevant question to most UK readers, who will have to consider if it's worth £69.

    Deducting VAT at 15% (important to do that, as US prices exclude sales taxes, and we need to make a fair comparison) takes it to £60, which at the current exchange rate seems to be about £86. Though this is subject to fluctuation. And once Apple realise they're not overcharging us by their usual margin, it'll probably go up....

  9. passionate indifference

    Re: Sarky comments as usual

    Couldn't help bridling at this one.

    Wot DaPho, the point the reviewer was making was that the UI itself seems inconsistent in the app - some of the UI looks rather dated, whilst the newer features use more modern lines.

    You must have given up hope by this point, as the next line makes it a bit more obvious

    "For example, Faces and Places, the stars of iPhoto '09 (more on them in a minute), have a distinctly more modern look-and-feel than do older features such as keyword tagging."

  10. TeeCee Gold badge
    Thumb Down


    Yes, because if you particularly want Windows apps, buying an overpriced Mac and then paying extra for Parallels and a Win license is just *such* a sensible way to go about it.

    It's just possible that Mr Rueger hasn't got more money than sense, you know.

    Pay waaaay over the odds for your Wintel machine just to have it in a shiny box? lol

    Some people.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Sorry Rik,

    You seem to have confused a few virtues of the iLife suite with sins:

    iWeb- "iWeb is serviceable if you're terrified by a href"- I don't want to have to learn that HTML shit- it's hard and a waste of my time. I want to create a webpage showing off my holiday pics, so I don't have to mail 30mb zips to all my family. iWeb is good enough.

    iDVD- "iDVD is about as complex as that aforementioned rubber doorstop."- Good. I want to master a DVD and give it a slick menu. Should I learn whatever language DVD menus are written in so I can individually antialias each full stop on the photo gallery captions and movie clips I took on holiday? Nope, iDVD is good enough.

    iPhoto-"an increasingly competent photo organizer, but no substitute for true photo-editing software." Awww, shit? It's not as fully featured as photoshop? I can't alpha-blend my layers nor magic lasso a voxel? 'Cos that's what my million holiday pics require, y'know, not just a brief crop, a one-click enhance and a little bit of airbrushing to cover up a spot on that otherwise lovely picture of the missus and me on the beach. iPhoto is good enough.

    I think that World+Dog is pretty clear that iLife is an introductory product, with intro level features. Pointing out that iMovie (which lets your average user do things that they'd need serious software, hardware and plenty o'learning to do on a Windows machine) is no Final Cut Pro is akin to pointing out to people that iTunes doesn't balance your chequebook, cure cancer* and eradicate world hunger. Did anyone seriously expect it to? If they did, I'd suggest the problem is with them rather than the product.

    A side by side of Picasa and iPhoto, pointing out the relative strengths of (possibly) the most popular free and paid for photo management package may have been a better way forward, IMO.


  12. Dom M

    @stewart midwinter

    iLife 08 buried everything in a folder too since before that it was commonplace on Mac 'help' boards to find someone had gone in and played around with the photo structure and mucked up their iPhoto library entirely. When Apple put in the media browser to allow people to select photos more easily to attach to emails etc, then the file structure wasn't needed quite so much.

    People who know what they're doing and do still want to see it can right click on the iPhoto Library icon, choose 'Show Package Contents' and get taken straight into the file structure - no messing in the Terminal required.

  13. Tom Hawkins

    The iPhoto library file... a 'package'. To open it, secondary-click it (ctrl-click, right-click, two-finger-tap, whatever) and choose Show Package Contents. You can also see an individual photo's file by secondary-clicking it and choosing Show File within iPhoto.

    This is for iPhoto '08 anyway, I haven't played with '09 yet.

  14. Matt

    not so bad


    The change to a single file (actually a package) happened with iPhoto '08. Just right-click and Show Package Contents to see the files. You can also create aliases to those files or folders within the package.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Switching back to Windows happens a lot. Mac's really are no better, TCO is way higher and there are no upgrade paths other than buying a complete unit.

    The OS has some nice features but in other areas is years behind (like no USB hotswap), when the hardware fails (and it does) is very expensive to repair.

    I won't be buying another Mac, have no reason to say with Apple.

  16. Anonymous Coward


    @Mick F:

    > Parts of these programs only work on Intel chipsets,

    Er no... just ONE part of ONE program. The Garageband "Learn to Play" feature is only for Intel-based Macs. Everything else works fine on PowerPC.

    Try reading the system requirements before posting such drivel.

    @Stuart Midwinter

    >one bad thing about iPhoto '09. It takes your entire collection of photos, which you used to be able to find in the file system, and hides them all inside a single file called 'iPhoto Library'.

    Er, it did this in iPhoto '08 too, and is VERY easily resolved. Just right-click on the iPhoto Library file and choose "Show Package Contents". BOOM! All you photos as before. so no lost ability.

  17. Chris

    Re: Bad


    To look at the files and directories inside the iPhoto library, right-click on it and select "show package contents". Job done.

    I have to say, I've had a quite a bit of fun with iPhoto '09 and Faces seems very useful. They could do with some work on the workflow/usability though. There are a few omissions and usability mistakes.

    1. Impossible to get a list of all pictures that iPhoto thinks has a face, but which you haven't identified yet... I'd like to easily go through and clean these up, but there isn't a way to find them.

    2. Button labels /workflow. If you double-click on a Face, to show all the picture containing that face, you are presented with 'confirmed' pictures and 'the person might also be in...' pictures.

    There is a 'Confirm name' button at the bottom.

    I immediately tried to select the pictures to be confirmed and click the confirm button, but it doesn't work that way. You have to click the button first, which switches you to 'confirm mode'. This lets you confirm/reject names.

  18. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: UK translation required...

    Many of our articles come from the US office, in the US. Don't make me ODFO your ass/arse.

  19. Ascylto
    Jobs Halo

    Upgrade? I don't think so!

    Sadly, Apple don't offer an 'upgrade' path or price. iLife is a purchasable package which comes 'free' with new Macs but if you want to 'upgrade' from '08 you have to pay the full price for '09. It's a bit like their naughty Quicktime Pro ... every time they introduce a ne version, it breaks your old one and you have to shell out more pounds for what is a very minor 'upgrade' for Pro.

    Still, they have to maintain that 24 billion cash dollars amount in the banks!

  20. Maliciously Crafted Packet


    is pretty cool, free and available on a Mac. Judging buy the review I don't think its on par with this version of iPhoto. But still for free... can't complain.

    iPhoto integrates pretty well with Picasa web albums too.

    Download the Picasa upload thingamajig from Google

    Select your pics in iPhoto

    File -->Export

    Select Picasa

    Bobs your uncle, your pics are now on Picasa.

    Even works with iPhoto 6 which is getting on a bit.

  21. Bad Beaver

    Re: bad

    As iPhoto has the habit of creating *X* versions of your pics whenever you manipulate them, you could just as well drag a copy to the Finder when you want to work on something individually. That will also assure that you are getting the picture you were actually looking at in the first place. What you can also do is simply drag the picture from iPhoto to another application, say to GraphicConverter and dabble away. If you do not specify a new directory, the changes will be reflected in iPhoto after restarting it, though likely only at full-size due to the multiple-variant method until there is a database refresh. Not as elegant as it could be in any way. Nevertheless, it's far from not being able to work with files individually. In my view, the main point of database viewers like iPhoto (and also iTunes) is to spare you the agonizing manual crawl through the thickets of directories to find "that file" in the first place. On the other hand, I would greatly prefer if there *was* a halfway logical directory structure in place somewhere (as with iTunes) as that would be much easier to recover just in case.

  22. Martin

    @Sarah Bee - ODFO?

    Google tells me nothing....please define....

  23. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: @Sarah Bee - ODFO?

    I refer you to the 'Playmobil founder dies' comments.

  24. Bad Beaver
    Thumb Down

    RE: higher TCO AC

    Here come the clowns... what's next, "there's no software for Mac"?

    @ Stewart Midwinter: *facepalm* ... and of course you can just "show package contents" as the guys are pointing out. I hope I got my point across that I see little need to do that in the first place.

  25. Les
    Dead Vulture

    @Sarah Bee

    Having looked at the Playmobil article, I'd have to say the ODFO should be directed at the editorial policy of not being arsed to translate articles from your US office. It wouldn't be all that difficult to insert UK prices in brackets, would it?

  26. Charles Fraser-Hopewell
    Jobs Halo


    There are several ways to directly access your photos in the library.

    As mentioned before, ctrl/right clicking the iPhoto Library in finder will give you the option to "Show Package Contents", now you can access the originals and edited folders to your hearts content. A word of warning though, don't start renaming or moving or your screw things up (this is why Apple hid the folder structure in the library, at users request if I recall) just as it would in any other "pro" app like Aperture or Lightroom.

    You can right click on an image in iPhoto and choose "Show File" - a finder window will now open showing that image's location.

    Or, select a photo and choose File>Export from the menu bar. In the resulting dialogue change the "Kind" drop-down to "Original". This will export a copy of the original to a location specified by you, which you can then edit in Photshop/GIMP/etc to your hearts content, without the danger of borking your library.

  27. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: @Sarah Bee

    Tsk, that's not how you ODFO.

    The office here says it's meaningless to do conversions because of the mental exchange rate, differing sales taxes, etc. So there y'go.

  28. Law
    Paris Hilton

    uh oh

    Been using iPhoto 7/08 for a while now, I don't really hoard and watch over my files as much as I used to when I managed them in a strict directory structure in Windows - I was dead against anything messing with files, in fear I would get locked in or something.

    When I got my mac I wasn't going to use iLife really, but I decided to play with iPhoto a bit, and let it manage a copy of all my photos for a bit, liked it and decided to use it as the main storage app for my photos, mostly because I thought I could always export the entire library to a file structure at any point I decided to move to something else and end up back at square one, my photos in a file structure similar to the events... am I wrong?

    I also thought the combination of iphoto and time machine would make sure that even if iphoto died or corrupted the package or whatever, my photos would be preserved in some form or other on my external backup... am I wrong again?

    I'm actually asking here... not being sarcastic...

  29. Matt
    Thumb Up

    @Sarah Bee - ODFO


  30. Les

    Conversions? Who mentioned conversions?

    What the office here has to do is look up the actual UK retail price. No maths required, and no dependency on fluctuating exchange rates, which would indeed be pointless. Especially as UK prices bear little relation to US ones in many cases.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re Uh oh

    iPhoto just honks your photos into a package file. Within the package are the originals and the subsequently modified ones. You can point iPhoto at a restored iphoto library and you'll get what you need.

    If you decide that you just want your old pix back, you can just do a file export from iphoto using the menu commands.

  32. Shakje

    @Wot DaPho

    Generally most things have legacy code in them, the trick is keeping the interface in one place so that when you do need to add to it, you're using the same controls/theme as everything else, and hiding what's legacy and what's not from the user. This is just sloppy :)

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    I found picasso a total arse to work with on the PC. Mind you i gave up with it pretty quick, it didnt work how i wanted. dont know what its like now.

    Never had an issue with iPhoto. It pretty much works how I want, I have more issues with getting iTunes to order things the way I want trhen I ever do with iPhoto.

    Never really had an issue with Apples pricing, yes it is kinda odd, but no odder then anybody elses, its all designed to prise money from my fingers.

    I might upgrade.

  34. RichyS
    Paris Hilton

    @Ascylto: Upgrade???

    Ascylto, think a little bit about what you said. Thought about it? .... There you go.

    So, if (as you say) every Mac comes with iLife, then people will only _ever_ be upgrading to a newer version of iLife. Therfore the £69 _is_ the upgrade price. There is no standalone price.

    Obviously this does not include Hackintosh, or other dubious means of having OS X.

    Paris, 'cos she speaks before thinking too.

  35. Lyndon Hills
    Thumb Up

    re: Playmobil ODFO

    My vote for comment of the year, so far.

  36. RichyS
    Jobs Halo

    Directory Structure

    Why on earth would anyone want to access the directory structure of iPhoto? This is 2009, it's all about meta-data baby.

    Old skool directory based filing is sooo last Century. When (if) MS finally put out WinFS, and Apple replcaes HFS with ZFS (Snow Leopard, maybe), then we'll have proper query based filing systems.

    Having to know where you've previously stored -- in a single place -- a file in order to find it, rather than being able to slice and dice it multiple ways (e.g. faces, events, place, date, etc.) is anachronystic. Plus, in the case of iPhoto, it means the app can store the original file, and subsequent changes to it; all the while hiding this from the user (so as not to alter the wrong file by accident).

    As others have stated, if you really want to access the photo file in iPhoto, there are plenty of ways of accessing the actual file. And, if you tell iPhoto what your external editor is (Photoshop in my case), you can even right-click the photo and ask to edit it in the external editor. No need to do any copy to dekstop and re-import round trips. It all just works.

    Now, if only iWork/Office/whatever could work in the same way, I'd be happy!

  37. Ivan Headache

    @ Eh?

    Spot on!

    I've often wondered what the point of 'Rik's reviews' is. Now I've realised it's to drive up hits on the comments pages (in order to charge more for advertising).

    Rik, before you start making sarky comments about what software '<i>can't</i> do, just pause a moment and think about what it is <i>designed</i> to do, and the market it is aimed at. Then write your review.

    On the Face-recognition feature, there is an interesing user comment over at macintouch. The user reports that iphoto correctly identified faces on photos on the fridge door that featured in a photo.

  38. Dan Silver badge


    You can tell iPhoto '08 to not copy photos into your iPhoto library if you're importing them from HD, in the program's preferences.

    So you can arrange all your photos however you want (probably grouped in folders), import them into iPhoto without eating up more HD space with another copy of the photo (except for changes to photos and thumbnails which it does generate inside the iPhoto Library package), and work with those same photos in other applications.

    This is in addition to going to the file inside the iPhoto Library package as other posts have mentioned.

  39. tramspap

    @Les and @Sarah Bee

    Rather than ODFOing, I've just thrown together a little greasemonkey script, that will replace any Dollar values it finds in the body of a register page with the appropriate GBP equivalent, it also deducts the 15% VAT from the final GBP figure.

    So in my browser, your comment Les now reads:

    "Whether the software is "worth £46.38" is not a relevant question to most UK readers, who will have to consider if it's worth £69."

    I suppose you could use it on other sites too if you change the settings.

  40. Martin
    Thumb Up



  41. Anonymous Coward

    No USB Hotswap?

    WTF are you talking abut?

    You can swap mice and keyboards while OSX is running with no problem - try doing that to a Windows box.

    Apple seem to do two ranges - introductory and full blown expert - with little ground in between.

    iLife is introductory - if you like it then start saving up for the real stuff. If you want pretend software that makes you feel like an expert when you aren't - go back to WIndows.

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