iLife ’08 – Review

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Of all the things I can do with my Mac, the iLife suite is one of the things that I love the most. Mainly because the applications are simple to use, and are a perfect way to introduce new users to the world of OS X. The iLife suite has always been a top notch product, especially for the $79 price of admission, so the real questions, I suppose, are should existing users upgrade to it, and how easy is it for new users to jump into…

For existing users, it’s all going to depend on what programs from iLife you use regularly (and we’ll get into that in more detail in a minute). New users are going to find a suite of 5 very easy to use applications that make creating professional quality content extremely easy to do.

iPhoto ’08

iphoto_logo.jpgiPhoto ’08 has received a pretty substantial upgrade over the ’06 version of the software, primarily with the addition of Events. Events are a very clean way to help organize your photos into more manageable groups. Basically, iPhoto takes the information from your photos and groups them together by the day the photos were taken. Once they are grouped together, you can “skim” through an event by moving your mouse across the event, giving you a quick glimpse at every photo in that event.

Usually this will put the “event” that you were at (i.e. – wedding, birthday party, etc.) all together in one collection of photos. If the automatic sorting doesn’t quite do the job (say the event lasted more than 1 day, or only part of the day’s photos were from a specific event), it is very easy for you to either add photos to an event (by simply dragging them into the event), or separating them (by selecting the first picture you want separated and simply clicking “split”).

There are also some fantastic new printing options that give you the power of a portraits studio right on your Mac. You can print mats, multi-picture layouts, and more with just a few clicks. Honestly, this feature has motivated me to get a high quality photo printer, and I’m done paying for high priced photo prints.

There are also some enhanced tools for making your images look as good as possible. They are very easy to use, and very powerful. You might find yourself having fun just playing around to see what kind of effects you can achieve.

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If you’re a .Mac subscriber, there is another major component that you’ll want to know about – .Mac Web Gallery. This is a very useful feature that not only enhances iPhoto, but really helps justify the $99 a year price tag for the .Mac service.

The Web Gallery is simple to use. You select an event, then click “Web Gallery”. You’re then given options to make the gallery private and to event select user names and passwords to allow only those you wish to see the pictures access. Once you have uploaded the gallery, you can click a link in iPhoto to view the gallery in almost the exact same way you view your photos in iPhoto, even with event skimming.

If you want, your family and friends can download the photos at full size, and can even add to the gallery themselves by uploading photos, or even emailing them directly to the gallery’s unique email address.

These galleries are also viewable on your iPhone, and you can send photos taken with the iPhone directly to your Web Gallery with a click of a button.

iPhoto ’08 is a great program with some really significant improvements that should please both existing users and new users alike. For me, the iPhoto upgrade is worth the $79 price tag by itself.

iPhoto Rating: 5 out of 5

iMovie ’08

imovie08.jpgThe biggest change to the iLife suite this year is iMovie ’08 which is a COMPLETELY different application than its predecessor (a fact that has caused some controversy online). iMovie HD, the previous iMovie application, is much similar to a non-linear editing suite like the pro products Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere. It is much more simplified than those programs, but still features a similar layout and feel.

iMovie ’08 is a completely different beast. iMovie ’08 is designed for you to quickly assemble a movie from all of your personal video footage. It is very much an iPhoto for movies. While testing the application I was able to create a 5 minute movie using clips from 2 different video sources in a matter of minutes. From start to finish my entire project took less than 20 minutes to complete.

It features one-click YouTube uploading, and even syncs with .Mac Web Gallery allowing you to upload and share family videos (privately or publicly) in higher than DVD quality.

If you are familiar with previous versions of iMovie, or non-linear editing systems in general, you are either going to hate iMovie ’08 or you’re going to have to learn the simplified way that movies are created with this application. I find it to be exceptionally easy to use, and to take the pain out of making a home movie for those of us who don’t want to be mini-Spielbergs. I don’t want to make an epic masterpiece, I just want to put the footage together in a pleasing way, quickly. That’s what iMovie ’08 does, and it does it well.

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There is one place where iMovie ’08 fails in my book, though, and that’s with audio. The way you add audio, and the sound effects editing seem overly complicated compared to the rest of the application, and really don’t give you the freedom that they could, while still remaining simple.

Some existing users are furious that Apple has changed iMovie on them, making the plugins and things they have purchased for iMovieHD useless, since they do not work with the completely new iMovie ’08 application. Fear not, dear reader, if you want a more “professional” styled applicaton, iMovie HD has not been retired. In fact, if you purchase iLife ’08, Apple has made iMovie HD a free download, giving you a sixth application absolutely free.

So in iLife ’08 you have a choice. Superfast video editing and management with iMovie ’08, or slightly more complicated, and slightly more powerful editing with iMovie HD.

iMovie ’08 Rating: 4 out of 5

GarageBand ’08

garageband.jpgThe latest version of Garageband has some visual enhancements as well as the addition of multi-track recording, Arrangements, a Visual equalizer and more. The most “fun” addition to the application is “Magic Garageband” which allows you to audition different instruments into the genre you’re playing. Letting you create a virtual band to play with before opening a project fully.

I got the impression that the previous version of Garageband really focuses on podcasting, but this new version very much puts the focus back on music. Not to say that the podcasting features don’t work. I actually produce my daily podcast with Garageband, but as far as “focus” goes, Garageband is definitely for those of you with a song in your hearts.

Gargeband is, by far, the most complicated of the iLife applications, but is incredibly powerful if you consider the price. You will be hard pressed to find a music or podcasting application that is capable of doing this much for the price.

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Gargeband does have some flaws, though. It isn’t very good at handling long recording sessions. For example, if you’re podcasting, it really gets laggy after about an hours worth of recording time. I also wish there were more voice enhancing effects for possible audio drama production, and other fun things like that. Plus, I wish there were more effects for adjusting audio like noise reduction and normalization (if they’re in there I can’t seem to find them)

Still, those minor flaws aren’t that much to speak of. A musician might be able to give you a better idea of the nuts and bolts of Garageband (and I welcome them to in the comments below), but I find Garageband easy to use, and well thought out. It has the steepest learning curve and is the most “pro” of all the iLife applications, so keep in mind if you’re not familiar with this type of audio editing, you’re going to have to learn it…but it’s worth it when you do.

Garageband ’08 Rating: 4 out of 5

iDVD ’08

screenshot_071.jpgThere isn’t much to say about iDVD ’08. It is the least updated of all the iLife applications, with only the addition of a few new templates and higher quality video being the key updates. Personally, I don’t see any increase in the image quality on the DVDs I’ve produced with it. The new themes are as impressive as ever, but iDVD feels almost tacked on this year. Like Apple doesn’t really care about it.

Jobs even spoke of the application in a dismissive tone when unveiling the products, saying that “some people still want to make DVDs”. Apple has always been a forward thinking company, but I think they might be thinking of dropping the DVD a little sooner than they should be.

iDVD ’08 Rating: 3 out of 5

iWeb ’08

screenshot_082.jpgiWeb is another great tool for users who are just starting out on the web, or those that simply want a quick, professional way of publishing a website or blog. The program is incredibly easy to use, allowing you to create a site from the included templates in a snap.

If you’re looking for a more advanced way to build a website, this is not the application for you. It’s simple, easy to use, and very hard to get “advanced” with.

One thing that I think is worth mentioning in this review is that, despite popular belief, you don’t HAVE to use .Mac to publish your iWeb site to the web. You can use .Mac – but you can also choose the “Publish to Folder” option that will save all the necessary files for your site in a folder on your Mac, that you can then upload to a server of your choice.

The new web widget additions are useful and well implemented, even if I don’t want to view Adsense ads on every personal site on the web.

Another minor complaint is that the templates seem to be heavily focused on building sites for photographers. That’s great for photographers, but I’d like to see a few more general themes in the future. I also wouldn’t mind seeing some theme packs from Apple, much like their Garageband Jam Packs.

iWeb ’08 Rating: 4 out of 5

So, that’s each application reviewed individually. Overall, I think iLife ’08 is well worth the cost to both new and existing users. Obviously if iMovie HD is your primary iLife application, you might not need to update, but if you’re an iPhoto, Garageband, or iWeb exisiting user, I think you’ll find some very worthwhile stuff in the ’08 suite.

New users will love these applications. They are easy to use, and really show you what you can do with a Mac.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Comments

  1. Finally, for once, I find a good review of iLife ’08 !

    No whining, that change from the “I don’t find the timeline” and friends !

    Thanks !

    Michel

  2. Thanks for the great review, Michael. I really enjoy using iPhoto, especially with the events addition and the books, calendars, and cards are second to none. iMovie is not as bad as people are making it out to be. If they want something more, go purchase FCP, or download the iMovie HD app free from the Apple site. People are failing to mention that the web widgets option in iWeb allows you to add HTML to your site, not just adsense snippets, which was a major drawback to iWeb ’06. Garageband is just plain fun! And I agree about iDVD being on the “out.” They’ll probably focus on iMovie more in the future and add an option to burn to DVDs. One thing I wish they did was make themed labels, box covers and inserts for DVDs–what’s up with that?

  3. Excellent review! I only really use iMovie, and I’m not too tempted by ’08 so I probably won’t be upgrading anytime soon. iPhoto is also pretty handy, but I don’t know if the improvements would really make a big difference to me…

    Maybe I’ll update the lot when I upgrade to Leopard.

  4. Hey, for those who are looking for an easy way to host the site at your ownn domain name, check out Transmit, an easy FTP program. It’s drag and drop, and has been super smooth and easy to use (just give it a couple folders at a time if your connection is laggy).

  5. HI,
    Can anybody tell whether I photo 08 makes good slides shows or photo story with transition effect and music on it??

    Do they give printed manual of their software with mac G5 box. or any other way one can get for ref.
    Thanks
    Ketan

  6. Hello there.

    RE imovie – I definately want imovie HD. I’ve looked for the download on the apple store site (UK) but can only find updates. Does anyone know where it is?

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