12 Hours with iPhoto 2

by James Duncan Davidson

iPhoto 2 brings lots of little improvements to the program and of course the big much needed one: speed. At first I didn't think that it was much faster that its predecessor, but then after a little while (presumably to let it catch up on its caches) the speed ups were noticeable. On my G4/867 PowerBook (with Radeon 9000 graphics), scrolling through 1000 or so images was manageable with only a few hiccups. Much better than the previous achingly slow behavior. And window resizes happen in something approaching real time. It's still jerky, but at least it's not like before where you had to wait two or three or more seconds. The Cocoa programmer in me knows that they could make this lots better if they'd check to see if they were in a live resize before doing all the crunching to resize the image browser. Ah well, maybe next time.

The new One Touch Enhance feature is great. I've been telling people for a long time that digital pictures are not finished products when they come out of the camera. They need a bit of, in image processing parlance, levels and curves adjustment. In Photoshop, my first action is to always hit "Auto Levels" and see how it goes. Most of the time doing this results in something near what it should be. Only occasionally does it miss and go too far. The One Touch Enhance feature in iPhoto is performs exactly the same behavior. And most of the time, on most images, it does wonders. And for anybody who's not a photo editing expert, it's just the ticket. That said, I have two wishes for One Touch Enhance:

  • It shouldn't let you enhance a picture more than once. The way it's set up now, you can "enhance" a picture until it goes intensely posterized. It shouldn't let you do this. Most users will forget if they've enhanced a picture and hit the button again. Do this a few times and you've trashed an image instead of enhancing it.

  • There should be an optional slider of how much enhancement you want to do. In essence controlling how aggressive the auto-leveling is or isn't. This should be a property that's kept with the photo's meta information and which you can tweak later if you want.

The new way of dealing with keywords is a bit odd. It's much more extensible now as the separate panel allows a long vertical list instead of the constraint of it being in the main user interface. But I had to search a bit and eventually found out how to open the Keywords panel using the Menu. I'd have expected this to show up somewhere in the UI when I'm in Organize mode. There's a lot more that could be done with keywords in iPhoto. A lot.

Having the Album data in XML format is wonderful. I hate XML (as many longtime readers will know), but it's better than most of the alternatives. The album data in XML form will let other programs easily determine the structure of your iPhoto collection and do something meaningful with it. Comments are there as well as pointers to the thumbnails. The one piece of information that I'd like to see there that's not is the keyword data.

My other nits with iPhoto are:

  • Why can't I rotate an image in anything other than 90 degree increments? Everyone takes pictures that are skewed. iPhoto should have something really easy to help correct this.

  • When exporting pictures, such as the one I showed in my iCurve blog entry, why do jaggy artifacts come up? The picture in my blog entry came from Photoshop. Exported from iPhoto, there are jaggys along the edges of the straight diagonal lines. And where did the Export button in the toolbar go? This was another thing I had to hunt through the menus to find in order to export to a file.

  • Sharpening. They've fixed the problem of not having auto-levels. Now, they need to address the other major thing that you should do to images: Sharpen them for the device that you are going to output them onto. Prints need a different amount of sharpening than web images. Maybe the printing algorithms do some sharpening (I haven't dug in there yet), but I know that the web export ones don't. Yes, this would be a hard UI to manage, but surely its possible to do somewhat of a "One Touch Sharpen for Web" on images being uploaded to the web.

  • When running on a multi-desktop machine, I can only set the desktop picture of the main desktop, not the secondary one.

  • Why can't you use small icons in the toolbar? The ones there are huge. And I keep activating them when I think that I'm just clicking on the background to bring the window to the front.

Ok, you get the drift. iPhoto is tons better, but there's still more that they could do. Overall, it's a great effort for 2.0. iTunes got better from 1.0 to 2.0, but still wasn't a replacement for other MP3 players till it got to 3.0. As well, iMovie looks like it's now reaching the way totally kick-ass stage with 3.0 (though I haven't played with it any today). I'm hoping the same process happens with iPhoto on its path to 3.0. And until then, I'm going to get busy trying to find some ways of writing my own tools to help patch over the bumps that I see.

What do you think about the new iPhoto?


2003-02-01 04:12:38
Did they fix these?
I'm waiting a few hours to go to the store and just buy iLife -- I use iPhoto/Movie/Tunes so much that I figure Steve deserves his money (though the "no iDVD for external DVD-R's" still ticks me off), but here are the things I'm hoping for in iPhoto, either now or later...

* a built-in way to share your library among users. My wife and I don't need separate libraries, we want all the pics from the camera in one place. I had a bad experience with iPhoto Library Manager, so I just moved the library under /Users/Shared and put symlinks in our directories to it. Unfortunately, new pics are written with write permission only for the person who imported the pic, not their group, so I have to go back in with chmod and set things right. Bleh.

* Keywords don't share between users when you set things up like this.

* maintain references to pictures and albums that have been archived out of the main library. eg, keep the thumbnail, but if I bring up the picture, ask me to put in the CD I moved it to. That would make it easier to backup and remove pictures every few months while still keeping everything highly useable.

* captions for .mac homepages get cut off without prior warning. A limit is fine, but let me know when I hit it.


2003-02-01 09:00:40
I agree that iPhoto 2.0 is evolutionary, and not the home run that some folks were hoping for. I think this is an app that is going to take a similar path to iTunes, but maybe one version behind. iTunes reached maturity at version 3; I think it's going to take iPhoto till version 4 or so before it becomes the program that hardcore digi shooter really want. Personally, I think version 2 is a good step forward, and I like this application. Use it constantly. But I keep my libraries relatively small and use iPhoto Library Manager to switch between them. Many people just don't seem to like that system.
2003-02-01 09:19:40
Multiple iPhoto databases
I have been using a trick to allow me to easily archive my iPhoto Libraries to CD-R. In my ~/Pictures folder, I multiple iPhoto Library folders that I make sure don?t grow beyond 650MB. Depending on which pictures I want to access, I rename the target folder from ?iPhoto Library1? to ?iPhoto Library,? etc.

iPhoto 1.1 always looked into ?iPhoto Library? folder for its pictures, but this mechanism no longer seems to work for iPhoto 2.

Does anyone have a work around?

2003-02-01 09:35:04
I haven't had much time to explore iPhoto 2 yet, but I think they took a step backwords in Keyword management.

The previous way of assigning and searching for keywords was more intuitive and more elegant. Now it takes multiple clicks for each keyword to be assigned and or deleted. The Aqua interface for keyword assignment is gone. True, the number of keywords was limited in the previous versions, but the way they have implemented keyword assignment now is downright ugly, or perhaps downright Gates-ian.

2003-02-01 09:42:36
And one other thing...
Like a Cocoa application the toolbar elements should be repositionable, at least the editing elements.

In edit mode, the left/right navigation buttons and the enhance button are too are wide apart. If you are doing rapid browsing and enhancing of images the lateral mouse movement between the navigation and enhance buttons quickly becomes tedious.

The 'View' menu should include a 'Customize Toolbar' menu item which lets you position often used buttons next to each other.

2003-02-01 09:56:38
Be sure to run a permissions fix after install; I found a slew of iPhoto errors on my tower and iBook after install...

(Looking forward to your take on the new iMovie; I find it remarkably slow, and buggy. For instance, I can open a project from the previous version, and edit it, but it won't let me save it.)


2003-02-01 09:57:18
Efficiently printing pictures with titles
The good news:
- The 'print' settings now enable efficient printing of mutiple photos per page, so that you can use expensive photo paper efficiently.

The bad news:
- You can't put the titles beside these photos. Titles can only be printed through the 'book' function, which doesn't include any templates that allow mutiple photos per page (with titles, e.g. Classic), without having huge amounts of white space.

I want to be able to print out 4 photos per A4 page, with titles, with the photos as large as possible. I don't think this is all that unusual - or difficult to implement. Are there any ways of editing the book templates?

2003-02-01 12:07:07
BAD improvements, usability downgrade...
The new version of iPhoto is ONE step forward and THREE steps backwards compared to iPhoto 1.1.1

?CD burning feature and one click enhance is nice (Speed improvements are also nice ;-)

?Keyword handling and searching is clumsy (window is always annoying). On a widescreen it might be ok. The solution in iPhoto 1.1.1 was great.
Bring back the old Organize Button and itīs features, or an slider like in Mail or BackUp.

?Switching between: Titles, Keywords and Film Rolls is too much hided in the menu bar. Why?

?The things in organize (v. 2.0) where much better placed in an share tab (like in 1.1.1)

?where is the direkt ability to export to QT? Or create an Screensaver?!?
I am a .mac member but the export to .mac sliders is too much forcement on your service.
This feature is ok, but it would be nice if there was still the old Screen Saver option.
I know that there is export in the menubar, but in 1.1.1 it was so simple.

Workflow and usability in 1.1.1 was much better.
Import, Organize, Edit, Book and Share where much more logical (from my german language kind of view)

Please, bring back the old features + the new!


2003-02-01 12:14:00
additional features needed?
I wonder where the "cutoff" lies on additional features. Certainly rotation, whether 90 degrees or incremental, is a valuable feature of any graphics application.

But the spectre of Apple treading on the toes of Adobe, its most important third party vendor IMO, invariably raises its head. The sophisticated rotation effects in Photoshop, not to mention also found in the less expensive Elements, is one of the assets of these key Mac OS applications.

Apple has all but nailed the lid on the coffin of Premiere IMO with the new express version of Final Cut Pro. The Auto Levels feature of Photoshop noted by the author or very popular plug-in tools like Extensis' Intellihance Pro, now compete with the free iPhoto's "one touch" feature.

No, I have no connection with Adobe, Extensis or any third party vendor. I'm a user who wonders about the expensive and continued investment in applications I already own, how many browsers I need, etc. etc.

The browser in Photoshop works so I use iPhoto when ordering inexpensive prints, Graphic Converter or View It when other browsing needs are present (both shareware), Photo Mechanic for other special needs, and am now considering MacBibble for conversion of RAW photos.

I know all of these applications have their own usefulness or niche, but like anyone get a bit frustrated in choosing from all available tools to achieve my goals.

"You can never have enough good tools."

Well I do have a certain limited amount of money. There are most definitely limits on that, not to mention my time in reviewing the usefulness of various tools and learning their functionality.

The new iPhoto is a very welcome member of the iApplications family but its great new functionality (speed, one touch, etc.) clearly raises similar issues to those of Apple competing with Microsoft (which has its own twists), third party MP3 player/rippers, etc. etc.

Nice overview. Thanks! Now I have 10 free iPhotos I need to get selected and ordered. :) I've had excellent experience in ordering snapshots for family members and saving the expense and wear and tear on my photo quality printer. :)

2003-02-01 12:45:48
IPhoto 2
I just checked the application size for iPhoto. It is bigger than Photoshop Elements 2, but it does not seem to do very much. I don't get it. What is all the code for? And Apple used to ridicule MS for bloat.

The slide show is nice. Why isn't there some integration with burning a CD that anyone could read including a PC?

2003-02-01 14:10:43
iPhoto Thoughts
I'll still rely on iView MediaPro to keep tabs on my images. I may use iPhoto when the need arises...Book making, the .Mac thing...

iPhoto 2 still does not display thumbnails with the same quality or consistency as with iView. Many thumbnails, displayed properly with the latter, appear jagged and pixelated in iPhoto.

Also, the slide show function seems a bit flaky. There is no provision in the preferences for manual advance. I have been able to override the timing by using the arrow keys, but it has caused a few display glitches. As well, smaller images are being expanded to full screen size. I much prefer that they not be enlarged beyond actual pixel size. The slide show makers in both iView and GraphicConverter are much more effective.

Frankly, iPhoto just leaves me cold. I don't care for the manner in which photographs are displayed, in thumbnail or larger size. I understand it's aimed at more casual use, and the on-line hooks may prove useful, but it is not a program that I will be using much.

2003-02-01 14:50:36
Where's the speed?
I do not see any of the speed improvements that other people are talking about. On my 500 mhz powerbook g4 it runs much slower when zooming a picture in a new window in the range of 1% per 2 seconds - though I do have a 13mb tiff that zooms fine, but my 900k pictures are SLOW! Also, if I click the burn button it takes about 3 minutes for anything to happen - other than the spinning beach ball. And all of that is on an album with only 65 pictures.

But hey - other than that it's great!

2003-02-03 07:38:53
I was very disappointed by the new soundtrack "feature." I thought it would allow you to choose a whoel playlist for a long slideshow. Instead, I find that it is really just fancy single-file-selection interface. Very disappointing. I really get tired of hearing the same song 5 times during a long slideshow. Has anyone figured out a way to play multiple songs without splicing together multiple tracks into one MP3?
2003-02-03 22:12:25
Be sure to send Apple feedback
I too would like to see the ability to select multiple songs or playslists. For this, and other great requests, make sure to make your opinions known to Apple by using the iPhoto Feedback Page. The more people that say something, the better.