Apple iLife ’08

Media suite

Steve Jobs announced
iLife ’08 this year in August, along with iWork, and the Mac faithful waited with bated breath to hear just what that meant.

The core components of the iLife software package are, iPhoto for looking after your photo collection, iMovie for editing movie clips into finished movies, iDVD for creating DVDs that will play in most DVD players, iWeb for website and blog creation/maintenance, and GarageBand for making your own music. GarageBand uses loops to let you build up high quality, royalty-free soundtracks you can add your own voice or instrumentation to. It also serves as a polished podcast producer.

The most obvious improvement suite-wide in iLife ‘08 is better online service, allowing YouTube support and movie streaming from iMovie, and automated photo gallery creation from iPhoto.

iPhoto’s main feature when it debuted was a file/catalogue interface that served as the primary interface for locating and organising your images. This meant the images could be hard to find on your system by any other means, but once you accepted the paradigm you also got tools that let you enhance and correct images, print calendars and more. With the iLife ’08 version, you can upload groups of photos organised into ‘Events’ onto Apple’s subscriber DotMac web service. The galleries auto-update over broadband if you change the images and you can set up privileges so others can download the pictures, or even add their own images to your galleries.

iWeb is a stand-out website creator. Although qualified support for uploading to non-DotMac service providers has been added, it really benefits from a DotMac account, which makes it ridiculously easy to upload blogs, image galleries and podcasts that can link straight into iTunes. If you have a DotMac account, iWeb is brilliant from the user standpoint – though coders shudder when they inspect the digits behind the face of iWeb sites – with the results having that lovely Apple look and feel, using well-designed templates and easily swappable themes.

GarageBand is probably the most head-turning application in the ’08 package. Its new Magic GarageBand feature let’s you put a band together on stage by choosing instruments and then the musical genre for it to play in. Hit the go button and your new band will launch into a tune of its own making. Press the Create Project button and you’ll have the full editing power of the program at your fingertips to tweak your new tune.

It’s very much the Apple way to create a clean and clear interface over hidden depths, and never more so than with GarageBand. The new version has added Arrangements in which you select a section, call it (for example) ‘chorus’, drag it whole to wherever you want, or replicate it in its entirety, while GarageBand does all the work of making it fit seamlessly.

But there’s way more – a 24-bit option for higher quality, a built-in tuner, pitch changing that doesn’t affect the sound, tempo and incremental tempo changing, multi-takes, improved notation with printing, effects-fading and more. It’s top-class and will launch many a career.

The biggest shock, however, is the new iMovie. It has been completely rewritten, losing many of the editing features – especially audio editing features – of the ’06 version, and it’s now available from Apple as a standalone download. This massive change has not been universally popular but if you persevere with the new Events-based interface you’ll find it’s considerably quicker to create a very high quality movie from go to whoa.

iDVD is the least changed, with some snappy new themes and an Edit Drop Zone button allowing more control over the final user interface. (This and the web-sharing features of iMovie and iPhoto has helped fuel speculation Apple may drop optical drives in future models.)

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Mark Webster

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