Stop Eye Strain in Excel 2008
You can make text bigger in Excel by zooming to a larger percentage with the Zoom control in the toolbar, or by selecting the cells containing too-small text, choosing Format > Cells (Command-1), and then setting options in the Font pane. You can also increase the default font size for new sheets by modifying the Size field (next to the Standard Font field) in the General pane of Excel's preferences.
Series: All About iPhoto
Got pics? Adam Engst offers tips, tricks, and practical advice for using Apple's digital photo app
Article 1 of 12 in series
Along with the completely redesigned iMac and inflated iBook, the other big news from Steve Jobs's keynote today was iPhoto, a highly welcome, if painfully obvious addition to Apple's suite of free applications that by themselves go a long way toward differentiating Macs from garden variety PCsShow full article
Along with the completely redesigned iMac and inflated iBook, the other big news from Steve Jobs's keynote today was iPhoto, a highly welcome, if painfully obvious addition to Apple's suite of free applications that by themselves go a long way toward differentiating Macs from garden variety PCs. And this year, iPhoto will also provide incentive for current Mac users to switch to Mac OS X - it's designed solely for Apple's now-default operating system.
How painfully obvious was iPhoto? We even guessed at iPhoto's name a year ago when it became clear that Apple needed a consumer-level application for managing all the images captured from digital cameras. After all, if Apple intends the Mac to be a digital hub, it needs to do more with digital photos than it has in the past. And as much as the image cataloging programs offer extensive feature sets, they're all aimed at graphics professionals rather than normal users.
iPhoto, on the other hand, is clearly designed for the average digital camera owner (and considering that six million digital cameras were sold in the U.S. in 2001, that's a nice market). It provides a three-pane interface reminiscent of iTunes, with the left-hand pane holding user-generated photo albums instead of playlists, along with controls for some common functions (adding photo albums, running a slide show, getting/setting information on an image or album, and rotating images). The large right-hand pane shows either a single image or scalable thumbnails of multiple images. The third pane, which takes up the entire bottom of the iPhoto window, changes to offer additional feedback or commands, depending on the current mode.
Importing and Organizing -- You bring photos into iPhoto either by connecting a supported digital camera or card reader (Apple has a list of supported cameras, card readers, and printers on its Web site), or by importing images already on your hard disk. Importing, even from hard disk, isn't fast, but it's a one-time operation. iPhoto imposes a somewhat odd Finder filing scheme on you, creating a huge date-based hierarchy of folders in your home directory's Pictures folder. So, for instance, I have a 2001 folder that contains numbered folders for the months in which I took photos. And inside each of those are numbered folders for each day. Within those folders are the individual files, sequentially numbered. Various other files provide the metadata iPhoto uses to track albums, keywords, and titles. One advantage (or potential gotcha, depending on your images) is that all of iPhoto's images are automatically available to Mac OS X's Slide Show screensaver module.
Once you've brought your images into iPhoto, you can organize them in a number of ways - click the Organize button to enter that mode. You can make albums and add photos to them, or use the controls at the bottom of the window for assigning keywords. You can change the default keywords or define your own, up to 16, but doing so requires entering keyword editing mode by choosing Edit Keywords from the Edit menu - an ungainly interface that you won't have to endure often. You can also name images: to see how, select one and click the "info" button in the left pane to reveal information about the image, including date, image size, file size, and user-defined comments. I don't recommend naming images generally, since it's a lot of work that I've found inherently unhelpful in the end (if you're like most people, most of your images are likely to have somewhat similar subjects, making coherent names difficult). Two checkboxes let you decide if you want to display titles or keywords next to the thumbnails, and a third adds dividers to your thumbnail view based on "film roll," a method of organizing the pictures into groups based on when they were imported into iPhoto.
It's a little hard to say when you'll want to use albums in favor of keywords or vice versa, since once you've assigned keywords to images, you can click the keyword controls to display just the images matching those keywords. You can produce exactly the same results using either keywords or albums - what I'd recommend (and keep in mind that as of this writing I have minutes of experience with this program) is that you restrict albums to unique labels that you're likely to want to use only once, whereas keywords should be the kind of thing you could apply to nearly any photo. Plus, albums are necessary for making books - more on that later.
Editing Images -- One problem most photo cataloging programs have is that the only editing they let you do on images is rotation. That's probably the primary activity you want to do and iPhoto offers a rotate button that works in any view, along with a bigger button when you're in Edit mode - click either button to rotate an image counter-clockwise; Option-click it to rotate clockwise.
But iPhoto doesn't stop there, providing three additional functions that should handle most image editing needs. You can crop images, and it provides a way of constraining your cropping to specific image sizes. You can also select an area and click a button to reduce red-eye - a common problem that can result in some truly demonic pictures. Finally, a Black & White button does exactly what you'd expect, an effect that works especially well with images of people. In Edit mode, the slider that sets thumbnail size in Organize mode instead zooms in or out of the image. And finally, Previous and Next buttons make it easy to move between images without having to switch back to Organize mode. Throughout the process, iPhoto uses ColorSync to maintain accurate color values.
If iPhoto's image editing capabilities aren't sufficient, you can also set a helper application to kick in when you double-click an image. That might be useful if you find yourself wanting to do color correction or adjust contrast or brightness on your photos regularly. Personally, I'm not bothered by iPhoto's lack of those controls - I usually end up botching the job when I try do such things.
Sharing Images -- Where iPhoto really shines, however, is in its functions for sharing and presenting your photo collection. Perhaps the most innovative feature iPhoto offers is the capability to create a picture book of your images. You can choose a number of themes, much as you can in iDVD, and within each them, you can customize how many images print on each page and the text that accompanies them. You can't print books yourself, unfortunately; instead you must upload it to a service that prints the images on high-quality paper and wraps it all up in a classy linen hardcover binding. Books cost $30 for up to 10 pages, and $3 per page after that, plus tax and delivery the following week. As a friend moaned after the keynote, the cost will add up fast by the time you create copies for all the grandparents several times each year (but it may also prove to be an easy and popular holiday gift).
Clicking into Share mode presents you with a number of choices: Print, Slide Show, Order Prints, Order Book, HomePage, and Export. Print offers four styles, Contact Sheet (where you select the number of images to print across and iPhoto does the scaling for you), Full Page, Greeting Card (which prints either single-fold or double-fold cards with the image on one panel), and Standard Prints (which offers 4x6, 5x7, and 8x10 sizes). Slide Show runs a standard slide show with configurable delays and background music. Order Prints connects to a service run by Kodak for printing selected images on photo paper at a variety of sizes (and prices) for shipping to any address you choose. Order Book does much the same thing, but since you've arranged the book on your computer, it's just a matter of how many copies and where to send it. Clicking HomePage offers you the choice of different themes, after which your images are uploaded to your iDisk and displayed via your Mac.com picture page. (These last three options are described from memory - we didn't have an Internet connection available while writing.) Finally, Export lets you export images as individual files, as custom Web pages for uploading to your own Web server, or as a QuickTime movie slide show you can send to friends or family. Unfortunately, exporting as a Web page isn't particularly good - iPhoto provides you with one or more thumbnail pages, and clicking a thumbnail expands the image, but it doesn't even provide navigation to move on to the next expanded image without going back to the thumbnails. I'm still waiting for someone to come up with a program that generates a framed Web page approach that offers easy navigation for thumbnails and expanded images at the same time.
Close Shutter -- Perhaps my main criticism of iPhoto right now is that it doesn't acknowledge the fact that many families are likely to have multiple computers and may wish to share a single photo library. It may be possible to work some magic with aliases, but we weren't able to figure out any way to fool a copy of iPhoto on one computer into using the photo library on another computer. iTunes isn't great at this either, but at least you can point iTunes at a Music folder that exists on another Mac and have it load the music over the network. (Unfortunately, iTunes won't automatically mount a volume when you try to play an MP3 track shared like this).
Although we've been able to play with iPhoto for only a short time, it's clear that it's going to be a huge win for Apple. Aside from the fact that it provides a reason to choose a Mac over a PC (though, to be fair, Windows XP offers some of these sort of features as well), and Mac OS X over Mac OS 9, iPhoto provides a perfect example of how a free application could actually improve Apple's bottom line through revenues related to print and book orders. Steve Jobs claimed that Apple had sold one million DVD-R blank disks in the last year (and Apple has just reduced the price to $5 per disk) - I have to believe that there are a lot more people who will want to order prints or picture books than wanted to burn DVDs in 2001. I know I'll be giving it a try, something I've never managed to do with any of the other digital photo printing services.
Article 2 of 12 in series
Apple last week released the long-awaited iPhoto 1.1.1, the first update to the company's popular photo management and sharing software (see "iPhoto Joins the iFold" in TidBITS-611)Show full article
Apple last week released the long-awaited iPhoto 1.1.1, the first update to the company's popular photo management and sharing software (see "iPhoto Joins the iFold" in TidBITS-611). A 1.1 release appeared briefly the previous week but was pulled almost immediately, likely for quality control reasons.
Diving into iPhoto 1.1.1 shows that Apple has made numerous extremely welcome changes, though most are relatively minor tweaks, not radical new approaches. The changes apply primarily to importing photos into iPhoto, editing them, finding them, and sharing them in new ways.
Downloading and Installing -- For some reason, a number of people seem to be getting interrupted downloads of the 25.2 MB iPhoto disk image - if you have trouble mounting the disk image after downloading, check to make sure you got it all.
iPhoto 1.1.1 does modify the format of your iPhoto Library such that you cannot switch back to iPhoto 1.0 after you've updated. Depending on the size of your library the conversion may take a while, but it needs to be done only once. I strongly recommend that you make a backup of your entire iPhoto Library folder before installing and launching iPhoto 1.1.1 for the first time.
I experienced no trouble installing over iPhoto 1.0, but some people have reported problems. If you're concerned, or if your initial installation doesn't work, use Sherlock to search for "iphoto" and delete iPhoto 1.0, its preferences file, and the cache folder before installing. That search won't find the BookService, HomePageService, and PrintsService files that live in /System/Library/Services, but you can't delete those without changing their privileges anyway (those files are necessary for the Order Book, Order Prints, and HomePage buttons in the share pane).
Easier Immigration -- An immediate criticism of iPhoto 1.0 was that when you imported your existing photo collection, any work you'd put into naming photos in the Finder and organizing them into folders was lost when iPhoto renamed the files and reorganized them into its chronological hierarchy. No longer: iPhoto 1.1.1 retains your file names and instead of creating a single film roll for the entire import, creates a new film roll for each folder, naming the film roll for the folder. (That in itself is a welcome change from 1.0, where film rolls were merely numbered and dated - you can also rename film rolls and change their dates manually.)
iPhoto is less concerned about the location of its iPhoto Library folder as well. That folder can now live anywhere - in a shared folder on a Mac or on a server - as long as you put an alias called "iPhoto Library" to it in your Pictures folder. This should let multiple users share iPhoto Library folders much more easily than in the past. It also simplifies working with multiple iPhoto Library folders (which you might want to do to keep collections of photos separate from one another), but that activity is still made easier by a free tool like iPhoto Library Manager or iPhoto Librarian (both of which seem to work with iPhoto 1.1.1, despite not having been updated for it specifically).
People were also frustrated that you could create albums only within iPhoto. Now, if you drag one or more images, or a folder of images, into an empty spot in iPhoto's album pane, iPhoto imports the images into your photo library and creates a new album for you with the imported images. Unfortunately, if you have enough albums to cause iPhoto to show a scroll bar in the album pane, there's no empty space left as a drag destination. If you instead drag images into an existing album, iPhoto imports them and adds them to that album. Speaking of albums, you can now rearrange them in the album pane by dragging them to the desired location.
iPhoto now retains EXIF information associated with each image by the camera, and it can also display that information. It's unclear if this will play a role in improving the quality of ordered prints.
Finally, for those people with Kodak Photo CDs, if you insert the CD into your Mac, switch to iPhoto, switch to import mode, and then click the Import button in the import pane, iPhoto will import the images directly from the Photo CD without you having to find and import them manually.
iPhoto Gets Brighter -- Apple intentionally kept iPhoto 1.0's editing capabilities minimal because image editing is one of those tasks that's difficult for people who aren't fluent with graphics programs. Plus, you could always set iPhoto to open images for editing in another application, such as Caffeinesoft's brilliant PixelNhance. I had high hopes that Apple would license PixelNhance's code and add it to the next version of iPhoto. That hasn't happened yet, since the only addition to iPhoto 1.1.1 are simple sliders for adjusting the brightness and contrast of images. They work, but PixelNhance's approach of letting you drag a divider bar across your image to see how a change affects the image in an interactive before/after preview remains better than anything I've seen. PixelNhance's interface is so effective that I recommend every iPhoto user - heck, everyone with a digital camera who's not a Photoshop wizard - download the free PixelNhance and use it for editing photos.
The only other visible change to iPhoto's editing tools is the removal of the redundant Rotate button in the edit pane. Since there's a Rotate button always available underneath the album pane, removing the extra one in the edit pane makes good sense. Speaking of rotating, although holding down Option still reverses the direction of the rotation, you can now change the default direction in iPhoto's preferences. Interestingly, in a statistically insignificant survey controlled for camera type (the extremely cute Canon PowerShot S100), both Jeff Carlson and I rotate the camera clockwise for portrait shots, whereas our wives both rotate the camera counter-clockwise. I'll bet there's some grant money for someone to investigate that gender-related phenomenon.
Editing photos in a separate window in iPhoto 1.0 was possible but annoying, since it always opened the window with the editing toolbar closed. iPhoto 1.1.1 fixes that minor stupidity - the editing toolbar is now open by default. Finally, Apple seems to have improved the results from using iPhoto's red-eye reduction tool.
Text in a Graphic World -- As much as it makes sense to browse photos graphically, textual descriptions are also important. iPhoto 1.0 let you add titles, comments, and keywords, but the process was tedious. Now, since iPhoto retains filenames on import (even the numeric ones that cameras automatically create), you can use a hierarchical menu in the Edit menu to set the title to Empty, Roll Info, File Name, or Date/Time. You can of course still type your own titles, but beware, since if you type a title, then set the title to any of the previously mentioned settings, your title disappears for good. Editing titles still requires you work in the info pane - you can't edit the title itself underneath the photo.
Also new is an option in iPhoto's preferences to replace the keyword buttons of the organize pane with a large text field for entering comments. It's exactly the same comments field as was available in the info pane by clicking the Info button, but now it's short and wide as opposed to being tall and thin. Unfortunately, both areas remain terrible text-editing environments. No scroll bars appear when the text doesn't fit vertically, you can't necessarily use the mouse or arrow keys to scroll through all your text in the info pane, and the new comments field in the organize pane doesn't wrap long lines of text (you have to drag the cursor or arrow to the right to see more).
The saving grace of the new comments field is that you can flip the Assign/Search toggle to Search and enter text you want to find in photo titles, file names, keywords, or comments. iPhoto responds by restricting the visible photos to only those that match your search criteria. It's useful, but it's too bad Apple chose such an awkward interface - if you normally leave the organize pane showing the keyword buttons, performing a text search requires a trip to the preferences. The feature feels tacked on - hopefully Apple will revisit this interface in iPhoto's next major update.
Share and Share Alike -- iPhoto's share pane receives three new and utterly self-explanatory buttons: Mail, Desktop, and Screen Saver.
No more do you have to fuss to use your images with Mac OS X's Slide Show screen saver. Just click the Screen Saver button in iPhoto, select an album, and click OK.
Setting the Desktop picture is even easier; select a photo and click the Desktop button. Unfortunately for those of us with two monitors, iPhoto can set the Desktop picture only on the main monitor.
Sending an email message with selected photos is also easy. Select some photos and click the Mail button to cause iPhoto to create a new message using Apple's Mail program containing the selected images, along with their titles and comments. It also resizes the photos if you desire, which is a good idea most of the time to reduce the size of the message.
The obvious problem with the Mail button is that it works only with Apple's anemic Mail program, and not with your default email program. However, thanks to some clever sleuthing and coding by Simon Jacquier, with a little encouragement from me, there's an alternative: iPhoto Mail Patcher. The trick is that iPhoto, despite falling into the embarrassing category of high-profile Apple programs that don't support AppleScript, has a script inside it that communicates with Mail. Simon wrote some new AppleScript scripts that work with Eudora, Mailsmith, PowerMail, and QuickMail Pro, and then created an installer that replaces both the script and the Mail icon appropriately. If you're an AppleScript guru and have ideas for improving the scripts or adding support for other email programs, send me the AppleScript snippets and I'll forward them on to Simon.
Finally, for those who hate wasting expensive inkjet paper, iPhoto 1.1.1 lets you put two photos on a page when printing at either 4" x 6" or 5" x 7". Plus, there's a checkbox in the Contact Sheet style to save paper - it reduces the margins and space between images.
Left Wanting More? iPhoto 1.1.1 is a good, solid upgrade, and I recommend that anyone using iPhoto upgrade. Many of the changes are minor usability tweaks that add up to a much improved user experience, and the new features add much needed capabilities.
That said, some changes, such as the search capabilities, the connection with Mail in favor of the default email program, and the new brightness and contrast controls, simply aren't impressive. Other features, such as AppleScript support and basic color correction controls, remain external to iPhoto. And perhaps most concerning, iPhoto 1.1.1's performance doesn't seem to have improved much, if at all.
The question, then, is what iPhoto's developers have up their sleeves for iPhoto 2.0. Despite the many enhancements and fixes in 1.1.1, there's still lots of room for Apple to improve iPhoto, even while keeping the program easy to use for those of us who never otherwise work with images.
Article 3 of 12 in series
iPhoto Book Now Available -- My latest book, iPhoto 1.1 for Mac OS X: Visual QuickStart Guide, is now available in the traditional dead tree format from fine booksellers everywhere at a cover price of $20Show full article
iPhoto Book Now Available -- My latest book, iPhoto 1.1 for Mac OS X: Visual QuickStart Guide, is now available in the traditional dead tree format from fine booksellers everywhere at a cover price of $20. Back in April, Peachpit and I published an electronic edition in PDF (see "New Book Documents iPhoto Features and Quirks" in TidBITS-626 for a complete account), making it available to those who pre-ordered the book through Amazon; those people should be receiving their copies any day now. The experiment of publishing an electronic preprint was a huge success from every perspective; while I don't have the actual sales numbers yet, the book rose as high as number 8 on Amazon's best-seller list. Although it has settled back down, no author will complain about being up in the listings with the likes of Harry Potter, if only for a short time. I'm still working with Peachpit on how best to release an electronic edition of the current version of the book. Anyway, I encourage you to visit your local bookstore and check out a copy; if you don't have a local bookstore you like, you can order it for $14 through Amazon using the link below, which gives me an additional percentage of the selling price. [ACE]
Article 4 of 12 in series
Apple's iPhoto is simple and easy to use for importing, organizing, editing, and sharing photos, right? Not so fast. iPhoto is extremely simple, but that very simplicity sometimes makes it harder to useShow full article
Apple's iPhoto is simple and easy to use for importing, organizing, editing, and sharing photos, right? Not so fast. iPhoto is extremely simple, but that very simplicity sometimes makes it harder to use. During and since writing my latest book, iPhoto 1.1 for Mac OS X: Visual QuickStart Guide, I've come up with a few techniques for working around iPhoto's limitations. If you've found iPhoto clumsy, these techniques will simplify working with your images.
Keeping Photos Outside iPhoto -- Many people have expressed concern about the safety of the way iPhoto takes over organization of your photos, storing them in a chronological hierarchy inside your Pictures folder. In the worst possible case, where iPhoto stops working entirely, you could find and extract all your original photos for use in a different application, but it would be tedious. Luckily, there are several ways to maintain a separate photo archive; remember that doing so doubles the amount of disk space your photos occupy.
After you've imported pictures into iPhoto, click the Last Import album and drag all the pictures to a folder in the Finder to make identical copies. Alternatively, after clicking the Last Import album, click the Share button, and click Export. Leave the Format pop-up menu set to Original, and make sure the Size options are set to Full-size images. Then click Export and choose the export location.
In your Applications folder is a utility called Image Capture that was the primary way to download photos from your camera to your Mac before iPhoto. However, you can import photos into iPhoto normally and use Image Capture to save them to a separate location on your hard disk (launch Image Capture, connect your camera, select an appropriate destination using the Download To menu, and click the Download All button). Be sure not to delete images from the camera until you've performed both actions.
Instead of connecting your camera to your Mac via USB, use a memory card reader and copy the pictures to another location manually before importing into iPhoto.
Once you have all your originals outside of iPhoto, consider copying them to CD-R to save space on your hard disk. Obviously, if you're ever forced to revert to these copies due to iPhoto problems, you'll lose any changes you made within iPhoto, but that's preferable to losing the photos themselves or extracting the originals from iPhoto's folder hierarchy.
First Pass Culling and Editing -- One of the wonders of digital photography is that there's little downside to taking a lot of pictures. In fact, the main downside, aside from using up memory card space and battery power while shooting, is the extra effort needed to cull the lousy shots from the gems. iPhoto doesn't make this process easy on the surface, but I've come up with a technique that works well.
Before you get started, open iPhoto's Preferences window and set the "Double-clicking photos opens them in" setting to Edit View.
Import your pictures as you normally would, and then, making sure you're in the Photo Library and not in an album, double-click the first picture so you see the image at full size in edit mode. There are only two actions you'll likely want to perform on this first pass through your new pictures - deleting and rotating. You could perform additional editing at the same time, but I find it's best to skim through all your photos quickly first, deleting the terrible ones and rotating those that need it. Other edits can wait for later.
Decide if you want to keep the first photo. Let's assume it's a terrible picture. Press the Delete key (something you probably didn't realize you could do in edit mode). iPhoto prompts to make sure you want to delete the picture permanently; press Return to agree.
iPhoto automatically displays the next photo. Let's assume it's good, but needs rotating. Click the Rotate button under the Info pane or use the appropriate keyboard shortcut to rotate it. (In iPhoto's Preferences you can set the default rotation direction to apply when you click the Rotate button or type Command-R; Option-clicking the Rotate button or typing Command-Shift-R rotates in the opposite direction.)
Since you want to keep this picture, after rotating it, either click the Next button or press the right arrow key. If you want to go back to compare two pictures, click the Previous button or press the left arrow key. (To compare two images side-by-side in their own windows, Option-double-click anywhere on the image to open the first one, move its window out of the day, navigate to the other one, and Option-double-click it as well.)
Now go through the rest of your photos, deleting the bad ones and rotating those that need it. Be careful once you get going - it's easy to hit Delete and Return quickly without thinking.
Two points. First, although it seems like you could do this in organize mode with large thumbnails, it doesn't work as well because iPhoto loses the selection after you delete a picture, forcing you to click the next displayed picture to be able to delete or rotate it. Second, if you want a nice shortcut for switching from edit mode back to organize mode, just double-click anywhere on the image.
Working with Keyword Search Results -- Many people have been confused about the utility of iPhoto's checkmark keyword (which you can't modify). I've found it's good for temporary marking of photos. For instance, when I was showing my grandparents a recent set of photos, I simply marked the ones they wanted as prints with the checkmark keyword. That made it easy to find them later when I had time to do the necessary cropping and uploading.
Once I was done, though, I was faced with a niggling problem. How could I remove the checkmark keywords from those pictures? I could of course scroll through the entire set and manually remove the keyword, but that would have taken quite some time, since the photos were scattered among numerous film rolls. And although I could search for all the photos with the checkmark keyword, as soon I switched the Assign/Search toggle back to Assign, iPhoto displayed my entire Photo Library again. If you run into a similar situation, try this technique.
First, in iPhoto's Preferences, make sure the "Assign/Search uses" setting is set to Keywords. Then click the Organize button to switch to organize mode, turn off the Film Rolls checkbox and turn on Keywords. Move the Assign/Search toggle to Search, and click the checkmark keyword to display just the checked photos. Now select all with Command-A and drag them to the album pane to create a new album. (If you had left Film Rolls showing, Command-A would have selected all the photos in each film roll, rather than just the checkmarked photos - that's a bug.) If you don't have any blank space left in the album pane, create an album manually and drag the checked photos into it.
Now, click the new album to switch to it. Since it contains only the checked photos, there's no problem switching the Assign/Search toggle back to Assign, selecting all the photos, and clicking the checkmark keyword box to remove it from all the photos. Obviously, the album isn't useful any more, so delete it by selecting it and pressing the Delete key.
This technique works well any time you want to add or remove keywords from a set of photos that you've found by searching for keywords. The trick is that you can create and delete albums easily while working with photos - don't assume they're permanent.
Using Photos in Multiple Ways -- Using albums as temporary holding spots for photos works well in another situation where iPhoto falls down. Assume you want to use a set of images in multiple ways, ordering prints, creating a book, and uploading to the Web. The problem arises with aspect ratios - Apple's book layouts assume a 4x3 aspect ratio (the native aspect ratio of almost all digital cameras), whereas you'll want to crop the photos for prints, since standard print sizes are never 4x3.
The half-baked solution is to crop your photos for the sizes of prints you want to order. Those aspect ratios (4x6, 5x7, 8x10, and so on) won't work perfectly with Apple's book themes, but if you use the Story Book theme, it won't be a major problem. And of course, aspect ratio isn't important on the Web. But if you do want to do things "right," follow these steps.
First, in iPhoto's Preferences, make sure the "Assign/Search uses" setting is set to Comments, and perform any edits like red-eye reduction that you want to apply universally. Select your desired images and add them to a new album. Switch to that album, select all the photos with Command-A, and then duplicate them with Command-D. Now you have two copies of each image in your album, and the only difference between the copies is that one has the word "copy" appended to its title. Unfortunately, iPhoto doesn't arrange the copies regularly, so the easiest way to select just the copies is to switch the Assign/Search toggle to Search and type "copy" in the big Comments field. That displays just the copies; select all, add them to another new album, and then return to the previous album and delete the copies.
You now have two albums containing separate copies of the same pictures. I'd recommend naming the albums appropriately - "Vacation 2002 Prints" and "Vacation 2002 Book" - so you can keep them straight while you're editing. Then go through the album from which you want to order prints and crop each image as desired. If you're ordering multiple sizes, drag the photos around so all the 4x6 images are together, all the 5x7 images are together, and so on to make it easier to remember the sizes for each image in the Order Prints window.
When you're done with the prints, you can turn your attention to the other album, where you've stored versions of the photos for use in a book. Those you'll want to crop using the 4x3 aspect ratio.
This technique works equally well for creating multiple copies of the same photos for printing at different sizes or for making one set black-and-white. One tip, though, if you want to delete these albums after you've ordered your prints or books, you might want to note in each photo's title or comments the aspect ratio you've used. That way, if you want to use that photo again in the future, you'll know exactly how it was cropped.
Other Techniques -- I'm sure people have bumped up against other limitations in iPhoto, and if you either have a technique to share or would like one for working around your particular irritations with iPhoto, send a note to the TidBITS Talk thread I've started, and I'll see what I can think up. Hopefully the iPhoto engineers at Apple have been using the program heavily and will be building in features to work around some of these problems in iPhoto 2.0.
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Article 5 of 12 in series
For me, the commitment of writing a book goes beyond the initial effort because I end up being linked with the book's topic for what feels like the rest of timeShow full article
For me, the commitment of writing a book goes beyond the initial effort because I end up being linked with the book's topic for what feels like the rest of time. When that happened with the Internet and Eudora, I wasn't bothered, since the Internet and Eudora are parts of my everyday life.
I was unsure of how the relationship would work out with iPhoto after writing iPhoto 1.1 for Mac OS X: Visual QuickStart Guide, since as much as I liked and used iPhoto 1.0 and then 1.1, I don't take enough photos to need to use the program on a daily basis. But the real problem with committing wholeheartedly to iPhoto was that the program had some glaring holes with sharp edges, and I couldn't really argue with the people who complained about its performance, its haphazard interface, or the way many features seemed to stop short of what users wanted.
So although I didn't know iPhoto 2 would be announced Macworld Expo, I wasn't surprised because iPhoto 1.1 so clearly needed a significant upgrade. Is iPhoto 2 the upgrade I and so many others were hoping for? With last week's release, we can look at the program in enough detail to decide whether the new version breaks new ground or is merely a welcome update.
Importing -- I haven't seen any changes to the way iPhoto imports pictures, which is unfortunate, because it means iPhoto still can't import a selection of photos from your camera or memory card - it's all or nothing. Since importing is slow, sometimes you want to import just a few photos without waiting for or dealing with all the other photos on the card, and importing sets of photos helps make film rolls more topical. You can still use Image Capture to simulate this feature, or if you have a memory card reader, you can import a selection of photos by dragging them into iPhoto from the Finder.
The solution is clear. Import mode makes little sense now, since the main display pane shows the current album even when you're importing. Instead, iPhoto should display thumbnails for the photos on the camera or memory card in the display pane, and the Import button should be replaced by two buttons: Import Selected Photos and Import All.
Also unchanged is the way iPhoto declares itself the caretaker of all your digital photos, filing them away chronologically in the iPhoto Library folder in your Pictures folder. This approach has been controversial, since it forces people with long-standing filing systems to give their photos over to iPhoto or duplicate everything. Many people asked for iPhoto to work like iTunes, which can manage your MP3 files wherever they may be located by relying on a reference to the file instead of the file itself. To be fair, iPhoto is in a slightly different situation, since you don't generally edit MP3 files, whereas iPhoto must track original and changed versions of photos. For better or worse, iPhoto 2 sticks with the existing approach, but at least the concern about iPhoto's collection of photos becoming inaccessible is significantly reduced by iPhoto 2's new capability to archive photos to CD or DVD.
Organizing -- iPhoto's organize mode received both major and minor improvements in iPhoto 2. Most notable is the new Keywords window, which replaces the tremendously awkward controls for assigning and searching for keywords in iPhoto's earlier versions. It also lifts the restriction on the number of keywords you can create.
The Keywords window provides a list of keywords; a pop-up menu with commands for creating, renaming, and deleting keywords; Assign and Remove buttons; Show All and Search buttons; and a text field for searching for text in titles and comments. Although the Keywords window is a huge improvement over the previous interface, it's still weird, with the Assign and Remove buttons using a different style from the Show All and Search buttons. And the items in the keyword list have two selection states - highlighted with the selection color if you've clicked them and highlighted with gray if they are assigned to the currently selected photo.
Along with useful new functionality, such as being able search for a set of photos using keywords and then apply a new keyword to the found set, Apple also built in some welcome tricks. Double-clicking a keyword searches for that keyword; Option-double-clicking assigns it to the selected photos. When you search for a keyword, iPhoto also finds photos with that keyword in their title or comments, and if you perform a text search for a word that's also a keyword, iPhoto finds keyworded photos too.
By moving the keywords interface and the checkboxes for titles, keywords, and film rolls out of the tool area in organize mode, Apple was able to eliminate the need for a separate share mode entirely. This is a big win, since share mode made little sense given that the display pane continued to show whatever album or book was active. The share tools now appear in organize mode, making them more easily accessible and removing complexity from the program. A new View menu lets you toggle the display of titles, keywords, and film rolls, and lets you arrange your photos in different ways, with "by Title" being a new addition.
Editing -- Despite having the excellence of Caffeine Software's free PixelNhance staring them in the face, Apple chose a different route with two new editing features, Enhance and Retouch.
Most film photo processors manipulate pictures slightly when printing because they've learned that most customers prefer good-looking photos to accurate reproductions of the original. So they may bump up the brightness or increase the saturation of colors in an attempt to produce a more pleasing photo. That's exactly what iPhoto's Enhance button tries to do, but just as with the photo processors, it sometimes screws up. From what I can tell, it adjusts brightness and contrast, sometimes for just parts of the photo, and it can improve colors, such as by warming up skin tones or changing blue-tinted snow to white. It may be doing more, but Apple hasn't said exactly what. In my testing, it improved about half of the photos, made no appreciable difference for a few, made most of the rest slightly worse, and royally screwed up several (so be prepared to take advantage of iPhoto's multiple Undos). In short, it's always worth trying Enhance, since it can help some photos, but don't assume that what it does will be better than the original or what you can do with iPhoto's still-awkward brightness and contrast controls or PixelNhance's color correction tools.
I've recently discovered a feature that's in both iPhoto 1.1.1 and 2.0 that simplifies comparing the results of the Enhance button with the original. Press the Control key after clicking Enhance (or making any editing change), and iPhoto flashes back to the way the photo looked before the change. Let up on the Control key and you're seeing the edited version again. It's a fabulously quick way to see before and after images.
Where Enhance works on the entire photo, you use the Retouch brush on very small parts of the image. Speaking as someone with a ton of kid photos, it's easier to clean a photo using Retouch than it is to hassle your child to wipe that bit of jelly off his face. Retouch blends the colors around the area you're fixing well, but can't handle large areas. When I tried to erase a piece of paper in a shirt pocket with Retouch, it ended up looking like a large dust bunny instead.
I've also learned two other useful editing tricks that still exist in iPhoto 2. When you're working with a constrain rectangle in Edit mode, press the Option key to switch it from portrait to landscape, which is easier than switching the selection in the Constrain pop-up menu. And if you want to switch to None in the Constrain menu briefly, press the Command key while you're dragging.
Sharing -- When it comes to sharing photos, Apple has given us a number of welcome enhancements, although many leave me wanting more.
If you like printing photos on your own printer, you may appreciate the two new styles: N-Up and Sampler. N-Up lets you fill a page with 2, 4, 6, 9, or 16 images, either of the same photo or of a set of selected photos, and is quite similar to the Contact Sheet style. The Sampler style comes with two templates. The first displays a single large photo and two smaller ones on a single page, and the second arranges five smaller pictures around a single large photo. The effect is not unlike printing pages from iPhoto's book layouts, but it's nowhere near as flexible as Econ Technologies $20 Portraits & Prints, particularly with their $10 Portraits & Prints Template Maker.
iPhoto's Slideshow feature has been enhanced by integrating it with iTunes. When you want to pick a song to play with a slideshow, you now have access from within iPhoto to all your iTunes music, complete with a search function. Each photo album can even have its own song attached. Annoyingly, iPhoto's slideshow doesn't even notice a second monitor. But far worse is the painfully obvious fact that a slideshow can still have only a single song associated with it, and that song will repeat as necessary if the slideshow lasts longer than the song. iPhoto should let users pick multiple songs or select iTunes playlists - that would be real integration with iTunes. If you're looking for other sounds for slideshows, check out the $50 SmartSound Movie Maestro, which helps you build professional soundtracks for movies and slideshows (but read the help for instructions on use with iPhoto).
The embarrassing limitation in iPhoto 1.1.1 of being able to send photos via email only with Apple's Mail has now been lifted, and iPhoto 2 uses the same technique as Simon Jacquier's free iPhoto Mailer Patcher: a custom AppleScript script and icon for each of the supported programs (America Online, Eudora, Mail, and Microsoft Entourage). Simon has updated iPhoto Mailer Patcher, letting you use iPhoto 2 with Emailer, Mailsmith, Outlook Express, PowerMail, and QuickMail Pro. You must still pick your preferred email client from iPhoto's Preferences window rather than it picking up your default email client from the Internet preference pane.
Ordering prints and books, and uploading to .Mac HomePage albums hasn't changed significantly, but new among the share tools is a .Mac Slides button that uploads the selected photos to your iDisk so others can view them as a screensaver using their Screen Effects preference pane in Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar (choose .Mac, click Configure, and enter the .Mac member name - use "adamengst" to see pictures of Tristan). iPhoto does shrink the size of the uploaded photos to reduce download time and iDisk space usage, but they still look decent in the screensaver.
The Desktop button does double duty in iPhoto 2, replacing the Screensaver button in iPhoto 1.1.1. If you select a single photo and click Desktop, iPhoto makes it the Desktop picture on your main monitor. If you select multiple photos, clicking Desktop sets those photos to be a screensaver slideshow and rotates through them as your Desktop picture. There's a problem, though. If you want a set of photos to be your screensaver, reset the Desktop picture to use a single photo or risk having your Dock crash and relaunch itself on a periodic basis. A future version of Mac OS X will fix the bug.
iPhoto's integration with the rest of the iLife suite is most obvious with the iDVD button, which takes your selected photos and sends them to iDVD for simple creation of a DVD-based slideshow for viewing with any DVD player. I haven't had a chance to test this yet, but it's a great idea for a simple way to share a lot of photos via a big screen.
Missing from the share tool buttons in iPhoto 2.0 is an Export button, but its functionality remains accessible if you select the desired photos and choose Export from the File menu. Little, if anything, has changed in the Export tools. Since third-party export plug-ins such as Simeon Leifer's useful BetterHTMLExport plug-in or El Gato's Toast plug-in caused problems during the iPhoto 1.0 to 1.1.1 update, I recommend removing them before updating to 2. A new version of BetterHTMLExport is now available (as $20 shareware, not freeware), and I suspect an update to the Toast plug-in will be forthcoming, since it's still useful in iPhoto 2.
You might wonder why the Toast plug-in retains its utility in iPhoto 2 when there's a Burn button for archiving selected photos and albums to either CD or DVD. Although iPhoto 2's new capability to archive to CD or DVD is wonderful, especially for backing up your photos (it even shows you how much space the selected photos will take on the destination), it creates an iPhoto Library folder on the disc and retains iPhoto's chronological organization within that folder. iPhoto 2 can display the contents of those discs in its album pane (complete with a hierarchical view of albums you had selected when you burned the disc), but you wouldn't want to send the disc to a friend without iPhoto. It's great for friends with iPhoto, though, since they can just pop the discs in, view the contents in iPhoto, and copy files into their Photo Library albums for editing or rearranging into books.
Archiving may be the most important new feature in iPhoto 2 because it reduces any worry that iPhoto will go south, forcing you to extract your precious photos from iPhoto's hierarchical folder structure manually. I've kept a set of photos outside iPhoto for safety until now, but this feature made me sufficiently comfortable to commit all future photos just to iPhoto. It also makes me sorry that my iBook has only a CD-ROM drive, since I'd probably back up irreplaceable vacation photos while traveling if it had a CD-RW drive.
Archiving, particularly to CD-RW media, can also replace the clumsy workaround for merging the work you do in iPhoto on your laptop while traveling with your main iPhoto Library back home. Instead of exporting sets of photos, transferring those to the desktop Mac, and importing again, you can now burn a CD of your vacation snapshots and copy them back to your main iPhoto Library, retaining all titles and keywords. A better future approach would rely on Apple's iSync.
Still clumsy, though, is sharing a single iPhoto Library between two users on the same machine or between two Macs over a network (don't even think about doing it without at least 100Base-T Ethernet between the two computers). Brian Webster's free iPhoto Library Manager still works with iPhoto 2 and remains the best way to manage multiple libraries and to share libraries. When sharing on the same machine, make sure to store your iPhoto Library folder in your Shared folder, set the permissions in the Get Info window for Others to Read/Write, and apply those settings to enclosed folders if you want to allow editing of images. Again, I'd like to see Apple use iSync as a way to keep two users' collection of the same photos in sync, perhaps with a special keyword that identified which photos should be synchronized.
Miscellaneous -- iPhoto 2 boasts performance improvements, but there's room for more. When you're looking at a single photo in the main window (in either organize or edit mode), iPhoto pre-loads photos on either side of the current one so moving to the next photo doesn't have to draw a rough preview first, then refine it a second or two later. Or at least that's the theory. After a while in iPhoto, this feature often seemed to stop working, although quitting and relaunching always restored it. Other actions, such as resizing the iPhoto window, changing the thumbnail size for thousands of photos, or scrolling through a large Photo Library, still aren't smooth, even on my dual 1 GHz Power Mac G4 (though they weren't notably worse on my 500 MHz PowerPC G3-based iBook). The spinning pizza of death showed up more frequently than I would have liked, but in defiance of its nickname, it has usually gone away on its own.
That's not to imply iPhoto 2 has been a paragon of stability (not that 1.1.1 was either). It has crashed seven times on me so far, mostly in relation to importing, which is why I always recommend avoiding the "Erase camera contents after transfer" checkbox. Upgrading to iPhoto 2 changes the format of your iPhoto Library, so it's a good idea to make a backup of both the iPhoto 1.1.1 disk image and your iPhoto Library in case you feel the need to revert.
Some people will find the addition of AppleScript support particularly welcome, though I haven't been able to confirm how complete it is. It looks, for instance, as though you can read the date of a photo via a script, but you can't change it, something you can do to a single photo (but not multiple photos) in iPhoto's interface. Since digital cameras sometimes lose track of the correct date, a script that set dates for multiple images would be helpful.
One final comment. iPhoto 2 offers contextual menus of the standard commands when you Control-click or right-click on photos in organize or edit mode. The commands are available elsewhere, but the menu can provide faster access. For instance, you can Control-click a photo and choose "Edit in external editor" more quickly than you can toggle iPhoto's preferences.
Overall -- iPhoto 2 is a must-have upgrade if you're already an iPhoto user. It's better than 1.1.1 in every way, and some of the new features, like archiving and unlimited keywords, make it much easier to give your photo collection over to iPhoto. As a free download it's particularly worthwhile, and even as part of the $50 iLife suite, it's a good value if you also need the other components (iTunes 3, iMovie 3, and iDVD 2) or lack a high speed Internet connection to ease the 32 MB download.
But at the same time, there's much in iPhoto 2 that disappoints. Why can't slideshows use an iTunes playlist instead of just a single song? Why can't you download only a subset of photos from your camera into iPhoto? Why hasn't Apple provided a clean way to share an iPhoto Library with other users of your Mac? Why can't you edit photo titles underneath the photo, rather than in the information pane? I'm happy to accept limitations that are out of iPhoto's scope, such as Photoshop-like editing tools, but these lapses are so blatant that it's hard to imagine why they're still missing a year after iPhoto first appeared. Don't get me wrong, I like iPhoto 2 a lot, and I'm already deep into updating my iPhoto Visual QuickStart Guide to cover it. It's just frustrating to see a program with so many hints of greatness dragged down by what look like sloppy omissions.
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Article 6 of 12 in series
After releasing chapters of iPhoto 2 for Mac OS X: Visual QuickStart Guide to those who pre-ordered the book, and then the entire book as a single PDF file for early adopters, it seems almost anticlimactic now that the paper version of the book is readily available from traditional bookstoresShow full article
After releasing chapters of iPhoto 2 for Mac OS X: Visual QuickStart Guide to those who pre-ordered the book, and then the entire book as a single PDF file for early adopters, it seems almost anticlimactic now that the paper version of the book is readily available from traditional bookstores. But available it is, and even after all my years of publishing books, there was a thrill when I saw my first copy. Published by Peachpit Press, the book costs $14 at Amazon, where it's currently 30 percent off.
What's New -- Updating the book to account for the changes in iPhoto 2 took almost as long as writing the first edition. That's in part because adding information in the middle of a highly designed Visual QuickStart Guide page isn't trivial - I often found myself rejiggering an entire page to make room for new tips or more screenshots - and also because there were a surprising number of changes in iPhoto 2 that required new step-by-step instructions. Nonetheless, I'm confident that I've covered pretty much everything there is to cover in iPhoto 2, and for anything else, readers can post questions on my iPhoto FAQ page.
The result of this effort is a book that's about 50 pages longer than the previous edition and contains over 100 new tips (let's face it, tips are the best part of any computer book!). I also added to the extensive troubleshooting chapter, addressed concerns like backing up your photos, and included instructions for integrating iPhoto with iDVD 3 and iMovie 3. Also new is an appendix that offers detailed advice on how to choose the best digital camera for your needs and provides numerous tips for taking better photos in a variety of situations.
Free Electronic Versions -- To keep the cost of the iPhoto 2 VQS down, we stuck with printing the images in grayscale, but everyone who buys the book can download a free PDF version of the book that includes every photo in full color. Plus, thanks to Adobe InDesign's extremely welcome PDF capabilities, there's a bookmark to each page, which makes jumping to a specific location easy. InDesign also made every entry in the Table of Contents into a link that takes you to the appropriate page. Finally, you can click any chapter reference within the text to jump to the referenced location, and all URLs and email addresses are also clickable.
Instructions for getting the PDF are in the book itself, of course, but for those who order and don't want to wait for the book to arrive, you can still send your receipt to <email@example.com> and I'll give you the download information.
Lastly, you may remember that I also made the iPhoto 1.1 Visual QuickStart Guide available in PDF to people who bought that book. Needless to say, since that book covers only iPhoto 1.1, it's pretty much obsolete, so I'm now giving the PDF version away for free to anyone who wants it. It could be useful for those who have avoided updating to iPhoto 2, and it's a great preview of the current version of the book. I've uploaded a new version without a password on the StuffIt archive; to find out the current download location, send email to <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Article 7 of 12 in series
Let's not beat around the bush. iPhoto 4 is better than iPhoto 2 in almost every way, and its performance is so much improved that if you currently use iPhoto 2, you should immediately ante up $50 for iLife '04 or, if you've been hankering for one anyway, a new MacShow full article
Let's not beat around the bush. iPhoto 4 is better than iPhoto 2 in almost every way, and its performance is so much improved that if you currently use iPhoto 2, you should immediately ante up $50 for iLife '04 or, if you've been hankering for one anyway, a new Mac. On the other hand, if you rely on other programs to import, organize, and edit your photos, iPhoto 4 doesn't offer enough new to warrant the cost of iLife '04 on its own.
What's New and Improved? The iPhoto engineers deserve credit for speeding up iPhoto to such a great extent that it's impossible to quantify the performance improvements. Scrolling through a large iPhoto library no longer produces the spinning pizza of death, switching between modes happens nearly instantly, resizing the window fluidly is actually possible, and basically everything else works at a totally acceptable speed. The only actions I've found poky are occasional slowdowns between drawing a pixelated image and the final smooth one (mostly with very large photos) and occasional odd delays when Control-clicking albums to edit them.
Rendezvous-based photo sharing is probably iPhoto 4's sexiest feature, since many people wish to share photos with other people on their local network (but not the Internet), and it indeed works well for enabling someone to view and copy your photos. However, photo sharing is read-only; the other person cannot edit your photos, change titles or keywords, or use your images to build a book. For those activities, the photo must be copied locally first.
Perhaps my favorite new feature in iPhoto is photo ratings - a 1 to 5 star rating system that mimics the one in iTunes. Although I can't imagine someone expending the effort of distinguishing between a really lousy picture (that was somehow good enough to avoid being deleted) with 1 star and a somewhat lousy picture with 2 star, the higher star ratings simplify separating out your favorite images from the many plebeian pictures that have mostly documentary value.
iPhoto 4's addition of smart albums makes photo ratings useful. A smart album, like a smart playlist in iTunes (sensing a trend here?) populates itself automatically with photos that match the criteria you set. So, you could easily create a smart album that selects your favorite photos (4 or 5 stars), or even your favorite vacation photos (4 or 5 stars for photos taken during specific date ranges or in specific film rolls). iPhoto 4 includes some built-in smart albums that collect photos taken in each of the last four years, over the last few months, and the last few imports.
Smart albums can construct themselves according to a number of criteria, but as much as they're cool and useful, they suffer from one major problem - the need for manually created metadata. When you import a CD, iTunes automatically looks up the CD's title, artist, track names, and more from the Gracenote CDDB; any smart playlists you create use that information, along with metadata that iTunes generates automatically, like play count and last played dates. The only metadata you must assign manually is rating, although you can edit a track's ID3 tags if you desire. In iPhoto, by contrast, you must enter manually almost all the metadata you'll use with a smart album, and people are notoriously bad about adding metadata.
Part of the reason I'm bullish about ratings is that they're easier to apply than other types of metadata, thanks to omnipresent keyboard shortcuts (Command-1 through Command-5). These and other keyboard shortcuts work even when you're viewing a slideshow in iPhoto 4, so you can rotate, delete, and rate photos while watching, and you can do it all from the keyboard if you don't want to display the new slideshow controls. (Ironically, iTunes lacks these keyboard shortcuts, and I find myself using utilities to rate songs from the keyboard because of that.) Speaking of slideshows, iPhoto 4 can finally use an entire iTunes playlist instead of repeating just a single song (a painfully obvious failing that persisted into iPhoto 2), and they also provide a choice of Keynote-inspired transitions between slides.
People pining for a selective import in iPhoto (like Apple's Image Capture utility provides) will still be disappointed, but in iPhoto 4 selective import would be welcome primarily for quick imports of only a few select images from a large memory card. In earlier versions, many people (myself included) avoided iPhoto's all-or-nothing import to ensure that each film roll contained only related images. iPhoto 4 lets you create new film rolls from selected photos, and you can also drag photos from one film roll to another. It's a great feature, since film rolls are in many ways iPhoto's best organizational feature.
Along with these major features, iPhoto offers a number of smaller, but no less welcome, changes. You can now edit the titles, comments, or dates of a set of photos simultaneously, which makes fixing improperly dated photos a breeze and definitely makes adding metadata easier. A new Sepia button gives photos that old-time look. A new Collage book theme looks attractive, and Apple can now deliver books and prints to addresses in Japan and according to the iLife product manager, in several European countries starting 18-Mar-04. .Mac members now have the choice of a number of new HomePage themes (though I'd like to see some more elegant designs), and even better, iPhoto can now replace a HomePage album, so you need not login to .Mac to make changes (although iPhoto re-uploads the entire set of photos rather than just the changed photos or titles).
What's Still Missing? All that sounds great, so what's my beef with iPhoto 4? As soon as I saw the very first version of iPhoto, I was impressed, because Apple clearly understood what a consumer-level photo management program needed to do. But as much as iPhoto covered the necessary ground on paper, the application itself continues to suffer from glaring holes that have been painfully obvious from day one. I'm undoubtedly more familiar with iPhoto than just about anyone, since I've actually tested every function in every version of the program while writing my iPhoto Visual QuickStart Guide books, but the complaints I'm about to list aren't just my pet peeves, they're also the concerns I've heard from hundreds of iPhoto users in email and at talks I've given.
(As an aside, for amusing evidence that even Apple understands the importance of at least some these features, iPhoto's Help until today contained a document called "What's new in iPhoto 3" (it currently retains that title, but the content has been updated for iPhoto 4). There was no external release of iPhoto 3, of course, so this document must have been a wish list or been left over from a version left for the future. You can read the original text in TidBITS Talk.)
For many people, iPhoto 2's abysmal performance with thousands of photos required the creation of multiple iPhoto Library folders. Other people rely on multiple libraries to separate unrelated photos (work and personal pictures, for instance). iPhoto 2 provided only the most half-hearted capabilities for creating and switching among iPhoto Library folders. It was saved by a hidden Mac OS X shortcut: if you Command-Option-drag a file to any application on the Dock, that application will attempt to open the file, even if it's not that application's file. In iPhoto 2, if you Command-Option-dragged an iPhoto Library folder to iPhoto's icon, iPhoto would switch to that folder. Unfortunately, since the iPhoto team wasn't aware of this shortcut, they managed to break it in iPhoto 4. Now the best way to switch among iPhoto Library folders is via Brian Webster's free iPhoto Library Manager utility. Unfortunately, there's no easy way to merge iPhoto libraries; the best approach is probably to burn photos to a CD or DVD and import them (thus retaining keywords, which doesn't happen when copying photos via photo sharing) again from disc.
iPhoto Library Manager also provides a clumsy workaround for another glaring iPhoto 4 omission: the capability to share an iPhoto Library among multiple users of the same Mac. This points out a limitation in the concept of iPhoto 4's Rendezvous photo sharing as well. The problem is that for couples, photos are usually a shared resource to which either person can add titles, keywords, comments, or ratings. But iPhoto 4 doesn't make it easy for two people to work on the same set of photos from multiple accounts or multiple Macs. There are workarounds that involve external or network volumes (explained with detailed steps in "Take Control of Sharing Files in Panther") or changing permissions constantly (which is what iPhoto Library Manager does), but this should be built in to iPhoto. Apple is responsible for breaking everything apart for multiple users in Mac OS X; it's their responsibility to make sharing data between those users easy.
Perhaps the most troubling omission in iPhoto 4 is that it still provides no method of exporting metadata you create, which is yet another reason many people don't bother putting the effort in. Think about it - more so than any other data you create, you want your photos to last forever. They'll be even more important to you in 50 years than they are now, and you should be able to pass them along to your children or to institutional archives when you die. Ignoring the silly question of whether Apple will update iPhoto for the rest of time, the near term answer to this problem is an export capability that lets users retain any metadata they've applied.
Where should this metadata live? There's a specification called EXIF (Exchangeable Image File) that many digital cameras use to store metadata in the JPEG files they create. Perhaps there are technical concerns surrounding the use of EXIF data, but on the face of things, Apple could use it for storing titles, ratings, and more.
Smart albums are useful, but for many people who have become accustomed to hierarchical filing systems such as used by the Finder, iPhoto's lack of hierarchical albums is bedeviling. Sure, you can concoct a smart album to hold all your vacation photos, but you can't have a Vacation Photos album that contains sub-albums for each vacation. iPhoto has done a good job of mimicking iTunes; perhaps it should look at the Finder next.
There's one final omission made all the more egregious by comparison with the Finder. Perhaps the primary point of a graphical interface is direct manipulation of objects, yet iPhoto still refuses to allow direct naming of photos or film rolls, as you do with files and folders in the Finder or with songs in iTunes. Instead, you must select the item in question and then enter the name in the info pane. You can apply ratings directly, through a hierarchical contextual menu, but adding keywords and changing dates must also be done at arm's length from the actual target of the action.
Development Sloppiness -- Apple fixed a number of bugs in iPhoto 2 that I ran across while writing about it, but they've managed to introduce an entirely new crop that you may find irritating. If you set the option to place most recent photos at top, creating or modifying film rolls reverses that setting until you open and close iPhoto's Preferences window. Control-clicking a photo in a separate image-editing window displays a contextual menu of editing commands, of which Sepia is always disabled. (Ironically, in iPhoto 2, Enhance was always disabled in that menu, though it works now.) If you duplicate a photo that you've edited in any way other than rotating (and sometimes even rotating), duplicates made of that photo do not get "copy" appended to their titles, making identification of the duplicates hard. You can delete photos from the Last Months and Last Rolls albums just as you would from the Photo Library, except for dragging to the Trash album, which works only from the Photo Library. And lastly, if you select any album, iPhoto shows you the amount of disk space the album takes up... except for the one album whose physical size on disk matters most: the Trash. (Work around this by selecting all the photos in the Trash album; the info pane then shows you the amount of disk space used by the selection.)
These aren't subtle bugs - I've found them merely by monkeying through iPhoto's interface while updating my iPhoto book, and I can't believe any of them would be hard to fix. Perhaps we'll see a 4.0.1 release that will fix these bugs, though I'm not holding my breath, since there was no 2.0.1 to fix the similarly obvious bugs in iPhoto 2. Looking forward to the next major release of iPhoto, I'm more than happy to do this with a feature-complete beta release so I can report the bugs directly to Apple for fixing rather than telling the world about them in the release version and attempting to come up with workarounds for my book.
In the end, I'm left frustrated by iPhoto because it constantly displays glimpses of greatness that are then promptly undercut by obviously missing features and boneheaded bugs. I expect better from Apple, and as I've done with the last two major releases of iPhoto, I'll hold out hope that a full year of development time will allow the iPhoto team to make great strides for iPhoto 5.
Article 8 of 12 in series
iPhoto 4.0.1 Fixes Bugs -- Apple has released iPhoto 4.0.1, an important bug fix update to the company's photo management program. Although Apple's release notes are, as usual, short on specifics, iPhoto 4.0.1 features improved performance, better thumbnail rendering, and numerous bug fixes that Apple claims improve stabilityShow full article
iPhoto 4.0.1 Fixes Bugs -- Apple has released iPhoto 4.0.1, an important bug fix update to the company's photo management program. Although Apple's release notes are, as usual, short on specifics, iPhoto 4.0.1 features improved performance, better thumbnail rendering, and numerous bug fixes that Apple claims improve stability. I've been able to confirm that the Trash album now reports its size, the Sepia command in the image editing window's contextual menu is no longer disabled, Originals folders are now burned to disc properly, and modifying film rolls no longer changes your overall sort order. Other bugs remain, such as the one that forgets to add "copy" to the name of edited photos you duplicate. The only new feature I found while checking the final draft of my iPhoto 4 Visual QuickStart Guide is that slideshows now play on the monitor containing the iPhoto window, assuming you have multiple monitors.
The improved thumbnail rendering requires that iPhoto upgrade your thumbnails; it's a slow process that took an hour for my 6,100 photos. Short of that, iPhoto 4.0.1 has been more stable in my testing, although some users on Apple's discussion boards have reported problems with launching the application and with losing transitions in slideshows. The problems appear to be related to permissions within the iPhoto application bundle; the usual troubleshooting steps may help (repair permissions using Disk Utility, delete the com.apple.iphoto.plist file from your ~/Library/Preferences folder, reinstall iPhoto, and run DiskWarrior to fix directory problems). If those fail, try the user-posted fix at the first URL below. iPhoto 4.0.1 is a 4 MB download via Software Update; it's also available for independent download. [ACE]
Article 9 of 12 in series
by Jeff Carlson
iPhoto 4.0.3 Released -- Early last week, Apple released iPhoto 4.0.2, which seemed like an extremely minor update unless you were ordering iPhoto books in EuropeShow full article
iPhoto 4.0.3 Released -- Early last week, Apple released iPhoto 4.0.2, which seemed like an extremely minor update unless you were ordering iPhoto books in Europe. It also addressed issues with using multiple text rules in Smart Albums, and provided notification when new versions are available (presumably for people who don't already use Software Update). However, Apple pulled the update mid-week without notice, then posted an iPhoto 4.0.3 updater on Thursday that claims the same new features. Note that the new version needs to update your iPhoto catalog, so it's a good idea to backup your existing photos before applying the update. The update is available as a 7.1 MB download via Software Update, or as a 5.9 MB stand-alone download. [JLC]
Article 10 of 12 in series
I'll admit it. I was rather disappointed with iPhoto 4, the previous version of Apple's consumer-level photo management program (see "iPhoto 4: The Potential Remains" in TidBITS-718)Show full article
I'll admit it. I was rather disappointed with iPhoto 4, the previous version of Apple's consumer-level photo management program (see "iPhoto 4: The Potential Remains" in TidBITS-718). It wasn't that it lacked high-end features; it was that it was the latest in a series of mediocre implementations of what was, and still is, a brilliant idea. Apple was the first to understand that most people want a soup-to-nuts photo management program that handles everything from importing and organizing through editing and output. And iPhoto remains pretty much the only such program on the Mac, although several similar programs have appeared on the Windows side.
Keep in mind, I have a bit more interest in iPhoto than most people, having written a Visual QuickStart Guide about each incarnation of the program so far. And in fact, my iPhoto 5 for Mac OS X: Visual QuickStart Guide should be on bookstore shelves now; alternatively, you can buy the PDF version for $14, which is roughly equivalent to the price at discount book retailers.
So, based on spending several months writing about iPhoto 5, would I recommend an upgrade? iPhoto has gone from free (iPhoto 1 and iPhoto 2) to part of the $50 iLife '04 package (iPhoto 4), and now it's available only as part of the $80 iLife '05 package or with the purchase of a new Mac. As a free program, iPhoto deserved some slack, but I had trouble recommending iPhoto 4 to anyone who wasn't already committed to iPhoto. With iPhoto 5, numerous improvements make the program significantly more powerful than its predecessors, but notable omissions - many held over from the very first version of iPhoto - remain. Overall, yes, I do recommend upgrading if you already use iPhoto - iPhoto 5 is without a doubt an improvement over iPhoto 4, but that doesn't mean I'm happy with every aspect of the program. Let's look at each of the major parts of the program so you can determine what's good and what's not.
Importing & Managing Photos -- Relatively little changed with how you import photos into iPhoto, although Apple modified the interface slightly, displaying your camera or media card reader in the Source pane with your other collections of photos. When you're importing, a preview appears for each photo as it comes in; as with iPhoto 4, you can work in other parts of the program while you're importing.
Much hyped by Apple is iPhoto 5's new capability (actually provided by Mac OS X) to import camera movies and RAW files (from at least some cameras, though mine don't do RAW at all); neither feature has rocked my world. Many people have been confused by the way iPhoto handles RAW files; apparently it immediately stores the RAW file in an appropriate Originals folder and generates a JPEG copy for you to work on. This is consistent with RAW being a "digital negative" format; it's not something you ever work with directly. You can get the RAW file out of iPhoto by exporting in the original format; Revert to Original creates a new JPEG copy of the RAW original.
Movies are much easier to explain, and more disappointing. Yes, iPhoto imports them, and yes, you can add them to albums, assign them ratings and keywords, and... that's it. You can't even play the movies within iPhoto; double-clicking one opens it in QuickTime Player. I'd like to see iPhoto gain at least the capability to play the movies without opening another application.
A real disappointment is that iPhoto still, four years later, lacks the basic feature of Apple's own Image Capture application: selective import of only a few pictures from a full camera. Sure, iPhoto can avoid duplicates, but that's still a lot slower than being able to select a few thumbnails and click Import. Having cameras appear in the Source pane provides the perfect interface too; when you selected it in the Source pane, all the available thumbnails could appear in the main window just as they do with any other source.
Also frustrating is the fact that although iPhoto allows you to use multiple iPhoto Library folders, the interface for switching between them remains primitive at best. When launching iPhoto, if you hold down the Option key, it prompts you to create or pick a new library. In the end, my advice remains the same: if you want to keep entirely different sets of photos in separate iPhoto Library folders, use Brian Webster's free iPhoto Library Manager. Note that there's no reason to do this for performance reasons; it's purely for organizational situations where you don't want to mix work and personal photos, for instance.
Organizing Photos -- iPhoto 5 brings some important new features to photo organization. Most notable is the concept of these things called "folders" - perhaps you've heard of them. Folders, much like the real-world folders everyone uses to store pieces of paper, let you collect sets of albums, slideshows, and books. You can think of it as a "hierarchical filing system," and it's extremely useful; kudos to Apple for adding it to iPhoto 5 only 20-some years after introducing the concept in the Finder. Pardon my sarcasm, but the inability of previous versions to allow any sort of hierarchical filing was one of the top complaints I heard. Anyway, hierarchical filing is now possible, and it's a good thing.
The Source pane used to hold only albums, but iPhoto 5 now also shows other collections there: folders, slideshows, and books. In the past, slideshow settings and book layouts were properties of an album, which made it difficult to create and work variants over multiple sessions. Although you can rearrange the various items in the Source pane, they always maintain the same basic sort order: folders, smart albums, albums, books, and slideshows. The same is true when they're in folders.
Apple completely revamped how keywords work, so now you define them in a pane in iPhoto's Preferences window, and you assign them and search with them in a new Keywords pane below the Source pane. I'm reserving judgment on the keywords interface; iPhoto's previous lousy approaches trained me never to bother with keywords. One interesting note: iPhoto 5.0.2 fixes the searching such that when you select two keywords, iPhoto shows only those photos that contain both keywords (narrowing the search), rather than photos that contain either keyword (expanding the search) as was true before 5.0.2.
Another new element under the Source pane is the Calendar pane, which is an awfully nice way to display just photos from selected time periods. The periods can be either contiguous or non-contiguous; I very much like being able to limit the visible photos to those within certain date ranges.
A new Search field lets you search for text in titles, filenames, comments, and keywords; it's a well-done ad hoc search along the lines of the similar feature in iTunes. I haven't used it much since I don't put much effort into adding metadata to my photos, but it works both well and quickly. (As an aside, the reason I don't spend effort on metadata is that iPhoto still provides no built-in way to export photos and metadata. I believe it's possible, since the Flickr export plug-in does it, but until I can be sure that my time won't be wasted in the event I ever want to switch to another program, I won't assign keywords or title photos.)
All these features are welcome, but if you'll permit some additional astonishment, why the heck can't we change photo and film roll titles (along with dates, keywords, and ratings) directly, as has been possible in the Finder since 1984? If you want to rename a photo or film roll, you'd probably think to click the name and wait a moment, as you do in the Finder, and then type the new name. But no, renaming requires selecting the item and then changing its name in the Info pane. iPhoto has been broken in this fashion since day 1; it's embarrassing.
Editing Photos -- Perhaps the marquee feature of iPhoto 5 is its Adjust panel, which provides a number of ways you can adjust the color, exposure, and sharpness of a photo. Speaking as someone who never understood levels histograms before learning them to explain in my book, I've become extremely fond of the control that the Adjust panel gives me over my photos. The Enhance button, unchanged from iPhoto 4, doesn't do as good a job as I can do with the Adjust panel - I've radically improved photos that would have been lousy otherwise. Of course, the downside is that now I spend more time fixing photos than I did before. Ideally, you could click the Enhance button and see its effect on the sliders in the Adjust panel so it could become a starting point for improving photos.
Understanding that the Adjust panel is a very good thing, a few criticisms are in order. Its Brightness and Contrast sliders are essentially useless; you should always use the Exposure and Sharpness sliders instead for better results - that is, unless you're using a PowerPC G3-based Mac, in which case Brightness and Contrast are your only adjustment options. Although the Adjust panel is an interesting new interface element - a translucent floating window that lets you see your image underneath - I find the sliders themselves clumsy and hard to adjust, thanks in large part to their tiny size (and I have decent eyes and coordination!). You can click the icons on either end to move by single-increment steps, but it would be nice to have keyboard control as well.
Apart from Adjust panel, most of the changes to iPhoto's editing capabilities are steps backwards. The red-eye reduction interface changed for the worse; now you're supposed to select the tool and then click in the middle of the eye you want to fix. But eyes are often very small, making them tricky targets, and since the red-eye reduction doesn't do anything if you miss an appropriately colored area, you never know if you've clicked in the right spot and it hasn't worked, or if you clicked in the wrong spot. Plus, if you're fixing red-eye in a group shot, it can take a while to click each person's eyes. Luckily, the old interface has been added back in iPhoto 5.0.2; just select an area roughly around the eyes and click the Red-Eye button.
You can no longer Command-drag a photo while zoomed in to move around; Command-clicking now sets a white point, moving the Temperature and Tint sliders in the Adjust panel if you have it open. The idea is that you're supposed to click on something white in the picture, but I've found it nearly impossible to find something the right shade in any given photo.
But the most annoying problem is that Apple changed the way edits are applied to the photo. In previous versions, you could use Undo multiple times, working your way back through edits, even if you'd gone on to edit another photo, switched modes, or whatever. Once you start editing a photo, iPhoto 5 queues up all your edits (which does have the useful effect of eliminating any worry about making adjustments in a particular order) and then applies them when you move to another photo or switch modes. Undo works only as long as you're editing that photo; as soon as your changes are saved, you can only revert all the way back to the original.
Thus, experimentation becomes a bit tricky, since although Undo will step back through individual changes as long as you're editing that image, the Control key before/after view shortcut sees only the full set of changes, not just the last one you've made. It's also easy to make an accidental edit and save it without meaning to; there's no indication that you've made a change that will be saved. And worst, it means that saving changes has become painfully slow. Every time I see that Saving Changes dialog, my blood pressure rises.
Showing Off Your Photos -- Once you've imported, organized, and edited your photos, it's time to show them off to others. iPhoto 5 is a mixed bag in this regard; slideshow and book creation is totally new and far better; printing, exporting Web pages, and everything else is almost entirely unchanged from iPhoto 4.
With iPhoto 5, Apple introduced what I call "saved slideshows," or slideshows which stick around in the Source pane and with which you can work repeatedly. The old approach, a "basic slideshow," is still present, and it's what you use when you just want to use a slideshow to cull bad photos from the last import, for instance. But saved slideshows are really where it's at, since you can adjust the timing, transitions, and even the Ken Burns Effect (pan and zoom within a still image) for each individual photo. You can also export a saved slideshow to a QuickTime movie. One warning, though: the automatic Ken Burns Effect works differently on each playing of a saved slideshow, so if you want predictable results, make sure to set the Ken Burns Effect manually for each slide. iPhoto 5.0.2 provides a useful slideshow fix - fitting the length of the slideshow to selected music now works. You still must select either a single song or a playlist from iTunes; you can't select multiple arbitrary songs.
Also totally revamped, and generally for the better, is book creation. No longer do you have to work left-to-right or risk utter confusion; now you can drag photos from an unplaced photos list into specific slots on a page. Dragging photos into blank spots adds them (if allowed by that design) and dragging photos onto other photos swaps them. My main criticism of the new book interface is that the Autoflow layout option causes far more work than it saves if you have any opinion at all about how you want your book to look. Stick with manual layout and you'll be fine. iPhoto 5.0.2 changes the layout interface a bit from 5.0; no longer are you prompted to choose between manual and automatic layout each time you start; instead iPhoto informs you about the Autoflow button. Also, in the first release, choosing an option from the Page Type pop-up menu would pull photos down from the unplaced photo list; now you must drag photos in manually at all times. But most welcome in iPhoto 5.0.2 is a fix for a bug that caused constant crashes in my main iPhoto library when building books. Thanks, Apple!
Perhaps my favorite fact about both slideshows and books in iPhoto 5 is that you can essentially crop images for a particular use, rather than cropping the original in a permanent way. With slideshows, it's a matter of using the normal zoom slider; with books, you double-click the photo and zoom in. In either case, once you've zoomed, you can drag the image around in the frame to center it as desired. The different interfaces can be a touch confusing; if you double-click a photo in a saved slideshow, you edit it, but to edit a photo in a book, you must double-click it once to switch into zoom mode, and then double-click it again to edit it. Control-clicking a photo in a book provides an Edit Photo option, but no such similar option is available if you Control-click a photo in a saved slideshow.
One notable aspect of sharing photos that has unfortunately remained unchanged is that burning a disc of photos still creates an iPhoto Library folder on the destination disc, making the photos easily accessible to iPhoto users and rather inaccessible to everyone else. You can export photos to a ready-to-burn disc in the Finder, but it's clumsier than is necessary; iPhoto could simply ask you whether you wanted an iPhoto Library folder on the destination or a series of folders corresponding with albums.
Also unchanged is iPhoto's lack of support for sharing photos between multiple users of the same Mac, or sharing photos over a network such that multiple people can organize and edit the same photos. Both limitations can be worked around, thanks in part to iPhoto Library Manager, but such hacks shouldn't be necessary.
A Closing Snapshot -- It may sound as though I'm unhappy with iPhoto 5, but that's not the case. What I'm unhappy about is the seemingly obvious problems suffered by previous versions that have once again gone unresolved. In fact, I like the new saved slideshows a lot, and I like the new book interface (though the new themes aren't terribly impressive), and I adore what the Adjust panel enables me to do. The new keywords interface is definitely improved, and the Calendar pane and Search field are extremely welcome.
But I'm once again left pining for the next version of iPhoto which could, at least in theory, provide basics like selective import, a non-iPhoto-specific option for burning discs, better sharing of photos on the same Mac or with networked Macs, an option for exporting metadata, and direct modification of photo and film roll titles. I understand that it's never as much fun to fix broken old features as it is to create new ones, but after four releases some of these omissions are becoming painful.
I have no intention of switching away from iPhoto, in large part because I don't consider any collection of programs as clean and easy to use as iPhoto is for everyday photo handling tasks, and there's no direct competition at all. In fact, what iPhoto really needs, though I'd be incredibly surprised to see it, is a serious competitor. Ideally, such a program could use the same database and photo store, but by its mere existence could significantly improve the overall state of photo management for the rest of us.
Article 11 of 12 in series
I recently upgraded to Tiger using the Erase and Install method that Joe Kissell recommends in Take Control of Upgrading to Tiger; I wanted the cleanest start with the new operating systemShow full article
I recently upgraded to Tiger using the Erase and Install method that Joe Kissell recommends in Take Control of Upgrading to Tiger; I wanted the cleanest start with the new operating system. Most things went fine, except for launching iPhoto 5.0.2 afterwards; it always hung with the spinning pizza of death. I eventually solved the problem, but to give you an idea how I troubleshoot - along with the eventual solution - here's what I tried:
I rebuilt the iPhoto Library by holding down Command-Option at launch. Unfortunately, that didn't help. The goal here was to see if some sort of repairable corruption in my iPhoto Library folder was causing the problem.
I switched to another iPhoto Library by holding down Option at launch and choosing a different iPhoto Library folder. This didn't help, but eliminated the possibility of the problem being in my main iPhoto Library folder.
I created a new, empty iPhoto Library folder (again started by holding down Option at launch). The goal here was to see if there could be some problem related to an iPhoto Library folder that had been used in Panther.
I moved the com.apple.iphoto.plist file from the Preferences folder to the Desktop to see if corruption in that file might be the culprit.
I opened iPhoto's Info window, and in the Plug-ins section, I deleted all third-party plug-ins that I'd installed. Most were turned off anyway, but I wanted to make sure none of them could be the cause of the freezes.
With those five attempts under my belt, I figured the problem was most likely related to the iPhoto application itself (since I'd eliminated everything else I could think of). So I trashed the iPhoto application and reinstalled it from the iLife '05 DVD. On the next launch, I told iPhoto to create yet another empty iPhoto Library, and for the first time since installing Tiger, it continued to run. I then updated it to 5.0.2 using iPhoto's Check for Update feature and Software Update, and after that, I was able to load all my iPhoto Library folders.
Since the disk had just been reformatted, I didn't suspect any sort of directory corruption, but if reinstalling hadn't worked, I would have used Disk Utility to repair permissions and then, if that didn't work, to repair the disk itself.
Although I was annoyed at having to work through iPhoto's freezes, I knew that I had two current backups of my entire hard disk, so I wasn't particularly concerned about losing any data.
Article 12 of 12 in series
by Jeff Carlson
iPhoto 5.0.3 Fixes Bugs -- Apple last week released iPhoto 5.0.3, fixing a few issues in the photo management program. Two improvements involve books: layouts no longer change when moving an image, and a problem that caused some book orders to be cancelled has been fixedShow full article
iPhoto 5.0.3 Fixes Bugs -- Apple last week released iPhoto 5.0.3, fixing a few issues in the photo management program. Two improvements involve books: layouts no longer change when moving an image, and a problem that caused some book orders to be cancelled has been fixed. Smart albums also now appear correctly in other iLife programs. And lastly, with Mac OS X 10.4.2 installed, editing an image no longer shifts its colors, a bug that had caused significant consternation. The iPhoto 5.0.3 Update is available from Software Update as a 41 MB download, or as a stand-alone 39.2 MB download. [JLC]