iLife ’08 First Impressions

Yesterday, being a loyal Mac user, I rushed out and got iLife ’08. iLife ’08 was billed as a huge update. I was very excited. I got a chance to play with some of the apps, and here is my first impression.

iPhoto: Features Galore
iPhoto and iTunes have always been the two core apps for me on the Mac, since I use both loyally. iTunes is no longer billed as part of iLife, but iPhoto received a huge makeover for version 7, so I was especially excited for this application.

Lo and behold, iPhoto ’08 is worth the price of admission. This version includes some really neat features, some advanced photo editing I was pleased to use. The addition of “events” was a very welcome feature. iPhoto attempts to “autosplit” events when it first loads and the auto-split mostly sucks. So my advice is add your entire library into one “misc” event (which can take several seconds) and then pull out the ones you want elsewhere. Moving from one event to another is painful. You can join and split very easily, but moving a nonsequential photo into a previous event is still a multi-step process (split, split, “all”, merge).

The “skimming” feature is one of the coolest, most unique things I’ve seen in some time. It’s surprisingly easy to use, very impressive to onlookers, and actually pretty useful. iPhoto 08 is a great step forward and I am very happy with it thus far. Just one warning: it will warn you every time you move photos from one event to another. Leave the warning. After 2 hours of work, I accidentally remerged ALL photos into one event, and had to repeat the entire process. Yuck!

iWeb ’08: Incremental at Best
iWeb ’08 is a garbage upgrade. I really thought that based on Steve Jobs’ keynote we were going to see something special. Unfortunately, it’s mostly the same iWeb with a few weird features. Adding HTML snippets is great, but adding a Google Map or Google Adsense is too specialized and most people don’t put Adsense on their personal sites anyway (snicker!). The export to a “personal domain” took me to mac.com and told me that my .Mac trial had ended. I haven’t done too much research, but does this mean your domain must be hosted at mac.com? I don’t know why I can’t export to an FTP server. The other “features” added are nonsense. There are still major problems: no way to style the navigation, no CSS, no “apply style to all pages” and no “convert to web friendly fonts.” iWeb templates can be VERY image heavy, and that would be a nice touch.

Rounding it Out
I haven’t had a chance to play with iMovie or iDVD yet, but I’ll be visiting them shortly. Garageband Magic looks kinda cool; I only played with it for a few minutes, but it’s a nice front to an otherwise intimidating application.

Some Suggestions for iLife
I am very upset that the “web galleries” cannot be exported to a folder the way iWeb can. I just paid $79 for a photo manager, and one of its coolest features is unavailable without buying your “still a ripoff” .Mac plan for $99 annually. By the way, Google charges me $20 a year, and I use their web apps about 100 times as much as i would use .Mac.

We really need “iVideo.” I recognize that both iPhoto and iTunes can manage video clips, but I prefer to keep my videos away from my massive music collection and out of my photos.

iWeb needs a major overhaul to include some basic features. The ability to manipulate the navigation menu is critical, without it, it’s just for silly personal sites and not much more. While it’s very easy, the two year old and now free “SiteStudio” makes it easier to create websites even faster, writes with stylesheets, and can FTP to my personal site. Here’s my equasion: Adobe Pagemaker is to iWeb as Microsoft Word is to X. That’s what you’re missing – X, a simple tool for simple lightweight website creation.

Overall
If you’re using iPhoto heavily, I think iLife is worth it. It’s really great to get small-step upgrades to your other apps too, even if they are minor like iWeb’s. If you are only a casual iLife user, definitely wait until you get a new Mac. There is nothing so groundbreaking that it’s a must have, and the old apps are still perfectly capable of getting the job done properly. I suppose we’ll have to wait until Leopard and the inevitable round of ’08 .1 updates to see how well they can make this thing work, but for now, at only $79, it’s a solid upgrade well worth the comparably low price for people who use iLife with regularity.

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