iPhoto more impressive than iMac?

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David Sims

David Sims
Jan. 15, 2002 12:19 PM
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The redesigned iMac stole headlines last week -- not to mention the cover of Time magazine. But I was even more impressed with some of the applications that are helping to sell Apple's hardware, especially the newest announced at Macworld last week, iPhoto.

Apple knows that applications sell machines -- indeed, it's the reason I migrated away from that platform in the mid-1990s. In covering the development of the Web, I needed to be on the platform where Internet apps were being developed, and that was Windows 95.

Apple's suite of Web-enabled applications are making a valiant battle to reclaim the field with offerings like iTunes, iMovie, and now iPhoto.

iPhoto answers a growing need among consumers who've been buying digital cameras over the past year: How do you handle all those images once you dump them onto your computer's hard drive?

Most folks probably have, as I do, folders and folders of raw digital images with unmemorable names like AUT9091.jpg. How do you organize these photos? How do you share them, online and as prints, with your family and friends?

Several online services like webphotos.com have addressed this problem by offering sites that let you publish photos online and order prints.

iPhoto goes a bit further. It's a free download from Apple -- again, only for folks with a Macintosh running OS X -- and then installs it as an application on your machine. It makes it easy to upload all the photos in your camera, and it categorizes each upload as one "roll," so to speak, with the date and time.

It keeps all these rolls together in one window, where you can scroll up and down and see thumbnail images of all the pictures you've shot over time. Thumbnail too large or small? Slide a ruler to change their sizes.

iPhoto offers some very basic photo-editing tasks, such as cropping, resizing, rotating, making black-and-white. But for anything more, such as color correction or effects, you'll need to link iPhoto's Edit button to another application, such Adobe Photoshop (when it ports to OS X).

Next you'll want to share them. iPhoto offers several options. You can save the photos into an electronic album, complete with captions. Then you can save the album as a digital file in Adobe's .PDF format, which means you can send it to all your friends on Windows applications so they can open it and see it.

Or you can save them as a slide show in the format of a Quicktime movie and pass that around. iPhoto even makes it easy to add a musical track, with some of the canned tunes the application supplies or with any MP3 song on your computer.

Better still, if you're like me and want to show photos on your Web page, it makes it easy to do that. You can choose from a visual selection of templates to create a Web site with drag and drop ease, then generate the code for the page, including small thumbnail images to go on the page, and the larger images people will get when they click on the small ones. Then it uploads them to your home page.

You can print the photos out on your own printer, of course, but Apple has also struck a deal with Kodak. You can pick a few shots and choose sizes, then it tallies the price and will mail them to you -- or to anyone else (like Grandma) whose address you've stored there. It even tells you if it thinks you're trying to order too large a print of a poor-quality image.

Finally, to really impress, you can order a hard-bound book of a series of shots. I saw one of these down at Macworld -- they're printed on good quality glossy paper and have a nice cover. A 10-page book costs $30, so it's not something you're going to want to do every day. But it's a nice idea to commemorate a special occasion. As the Apple rep who showed it to me said, "For big events, I'm going to be the star."

Since Apple holds only about 4 percent of the personal computer market share, and most of you reading this are, like me, not working on a Macintosh, why am I bothering you about an application we can't use? Just because Apple appears to have done it right, and it's an application I hope others will learn from, and maybe even emulate.

David Sims was the editorial director of the O'Reilly Network.