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iLife '06 and iWork '06 Released

While most of the attention at Macworld was focused on the new Intel-powered iMac and MacBook Pro laptop, Apple's software releases were fairly extensive. In addition to the universal binary support built into Mac OS X 10.4.4, the company introduced iLife '06 and iWork '06. Both suites are available now for $80 each, or as $100 5-license family packs; new Macs come with iLife '06 for free and a 30-day trial version of iWork '06.


iLife '06 features new versions of iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, and GarageBand (iTunes is updated on its own schedule), and now includes a new iWeb application for easily creating and posting Web pages on Apple's .Mac service. iWeb uses Apple-designed templates and an easy-to-use interface for adding photos, movies, blog posts, and podcasts - easily grabbed from the rest of the iLife programs, of course.

iPhoto 6 now supports 250,000 photos, ten times the previous limit of 25,000 photos, and - according to Steve Jobs - "scrolls like butter" (at least on a new iMac, we'll see how it performs on older hardware). The new version brings a new full-screen editing interface and new tools to help people choose among photos, edit them more rapidly, and print them not only in the usual books (which boast improved print quality), but also in new greeting cards, postcards, and calendars. Instead of making users apply filters individually to see if it enhances a photo, iPhoto now optionally displays a photo in a series of thumbnails that show each of the different filters pre-applied, so the user can just click the desired thumbnail to apply that effect to the edited version of the photo. In what is meant to be a killer feature, iPhoto also now includes "photocasting," which uses .Mac to share albums between iPhoto users (shared albums appear in the Source pane).


GarageBand 3's signature new feature is a simple three-track task for creating podcasts in GarageBand: Talk into one track while enjoying new speech-enhancing audio processing (such as reducing background noise and improving the quality of male or female voices), drag your own music - or one of 200 royalty-free clips or 100 jingles - into another track (GarageBand automatically "ducks" or fades the volume so the music doesn't overwhelm the voice), and add graphics to a new "podcast artwork" track so that they sync with appropriate points in the other two tracks. Click a button and the podcast file is ready to go. GarageBand also now supports remote interview recording from iChat, as well as a video track for bringing movies in from iMovie to create video podcasts or soundtracks.


(Jobs demoed GarageBand's new podcasting features by producing his own podcast: "Hi I'm Steve and welcome to my podcast: Super Secret Apple Rumors, featuring the hottest rumors at our favorite company..." He then "revealed" a new 8-pound, 10-inch iPod and mentioned other iPod related products, supporting his commentary with hilarious graphics, one riffing off the current iPod ads of a silhouetted man carrying a huge iPod under his arm and another of an iPod-enabled toaster.)

iMovie HD 6 adds animated themes, similar to those we've become familiar with in iDVD. You can add movie clips and photos to moving templates (for example, a travel movie could include a scene resembling a collection of media overlaid onto a map). Also new are real-time effects and titles, the capability to have multiple projects open at the same time (finally), an Export to iPod feature, and the capability to create video podcasts. iMovie HD 6 adds new audio effects, such as a pitch changer and a noise reducer, and a 10-slider equalizer for more precise sound adjustments. Apple also noted in a separate briefing that iMovie's photo handling, which includes the Ken Burns Effect, is now improved over the previous version, which we're eager to test.


iDVD 6 now offers Magic iDVD, which extends last year's One-Step DVD feature by letting you choose a theme; select movies, photos, and music from the Media pane; and push a button: iDVD creates the project and burns a DVD disc. Apple has also enhanced editing a project in the Map view by enabling you to rearrange menu pages by dragging them in the project structure. It also boasts improved slideshows, increasing the previous limit of 99 photos to as many as 9801 photos per slideshow. Perhaps the best news, however, is long-overdue support for burning DVDs using third-party burners instead of requiring a SuperDrive-equipped Mac.


iWork '06 didn't receive the level of changes that we expected, but a few improvements stand out. Keynote 3 and Pages 2 gain new 3D charts, advanced image editing using what appears to be the same Adjust panel found in iPhoto, new themes and templates, the capability to add image reflections below objects (Apple's design element du jour), and free-form shapes with image masking. Tables can also now perform calculations, and you can incorporate reviewers' comments.

As for the individual applications, Pages 2 adds auto-correction, a page thumbnails view for easier document navigation, and a mail merge feature that works with Apple's Address Book application. Keynote 3 improves the build functions by enabling you to intersperse images and bullet points within a sequence, and adds a Light Table view for reviewing and organizing slides. When you're practicing your presentation, you can use the Rehearsal View (which shows the current and next slides, time elapsed, and other information) without having to connect a second display; also, new QuickTime controls provide interactivity with movies, and a password lock can be enabled for letting a presentation run in kiosk mode.


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