If there’s a word to describe Apple’s updated iLife ‘06 suite of applications it’s “integration.” All five of the apps in iLife offer unprecedented integration with each other.
iLife’s ability to share files makes the suite greater than the sum of its parts. What’s missing in iLife? Surprise!! It’s… iTunes.
iWeb shows up as the new kid on the block, while iTunes disappears from view. Apple still offers iTunes as a free download for Mac and Windows, but no longer includes iTunes as part of the iLife suite promotional materials (click here for details).
However, a check of the iLife ‘06 installation DVD shows a number of installer packages, including QuickTime 7.0.4, and iTunes for iLife (no version number), so Apple isn’t leaving iTunes out, it’s just keeping it separate while including it.
That makes sense, right?
Since I’m such an early adopter, I ordered iLife right away from the Apple Store online (knowing that the local stores probably wouldn’t be stocked, or, if they were, they’d be swamped with buyers). The iLife package came via FedEx about Noon Thursday.
Over the next few days I’ll provide a more detailed review of each of the iLife applications (with the exception of iTunes).
Now we know why iTunes went from version 4.9 to 5.0.x to 6.0 in a span of weeks back in mid 2005. iLife ‘06 corresponds with 2006, as do all the applications except GarageBand, updated to version 3.0.
Packaging is different for this iLife version. Smaller. Inside what looks like a package of CDs is the DVD, some promotional and licensing material, and a promotion disk for iWork ‘06.
I also ordered iWork ‘06 and the latest Garageband Jam Pack (World Music). A report on iWork will come by Monday.
In a word, iLife ‘06 is sweet. Very sweet. Gone are any vestiges of the brushed aluminum look, now out of favor at Apple. It’s replaced by the new platinum plastic look found in Mail.
Get used to it. Looks like platinum plastic will be around awhile. What’s next? Safari? iCal? AddressBook? iSync? I have no doubt they’ll be upgraded to plastic by Leopard.
iLife goes beyond any suite of applications you’ll find on Windows, and they all work together to produce stunning results. The following will be a brief look at each application.
Detailed reviews will follow over the next few days as Ron and I immerse ourselves in the delicious taste of applications meant for each other (Ron and I both have a background in multimedia so look forward to Garageband, iPhoto, and iDVD updates).
When launched, iPhoto will ask to upgrade your photo library, then redo your thumbnail cache. If you have a lot of photos and an older Mac, it may take awhile. Ron and I both have over 8,000 photos, so, well, it took awhile.
The first thing to notice in iPhoto are the new tools at the bottom. Photocasting is now a component of the .Mac service.
Additional tools let you create calendars from your photos, add one-click effects, send photos and albums to iWeb (new web page application in iLife).
My favorite is full screen editing. More tools, more effects, and the now familiar translucent black floating tool boxes are everywhere you want to be.
Speed is notable. My aging PowerBook wasn’t too quick scrolling through 8,000 photos. Now it is. Image tagging keywords is easier. Apple highlights Plug and Play but I couldn’t see anything different from previous versions.
Oh, there are more custom printing options than before.
iMovie HD 6.0
Apple continues to improve iMovie and the latest version is loaded with extras, making the $79 price tag of iLife seem paltry (don’t forget; it’s becoming an annual tax).
Top on my list of favorite items is the iMovie Theme sets.
These are similar to the themes found in iDVD, complete with drop zones for photos or movies. They add a touch of class to simple movie productions.
Titling and effects are now real-time (if your Mac has enough horsepower), and you can open multiple movie projects (as much as you have RAM to handle).
The Magic iMovie component makes it easy to throw together a movie using parts (similar feature exists in iDVD 6.0).
The user interface is different in iMovie. Adding new features means changing the GUI a bit; at first disconcerting as what I wanted wasn’t where I expected it to be.
Ron and I both agree that the best new feature is being able to move the soundtrack (previously just the tracks from the original video, and another music track) into Garageband for sweetening, adding more tracks, doing a voice over, then bringing it back into the movie project.
iDVD, Garageband, and iWeb next. Click Here for Page 2…
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The platinum plastic interface goes to iDVD, too, as does a window that’s now flexible and can be enlarged (previous versions were static).
Apple added widescreen HD to iDVD, more themes, and more tools. Tops on my list is Magic iDVD which means you can create a full on DVD, widescreen if you’ve got the video, in just a single click.
Magic iDVD adds the buttons, scene selection menus, even slideshow menus, automagically.
Drop zones in themes are retained, though more themes are added. A pull down menu lets you select from current or previous versions.
The map view is improved and so are the DVD user tools. Tops on the list of new and fun tools is the iLife “Media Browser” which lets you pull content from iTunes, music or podcasts created in Garageband, songs from CDs, and so on.
It’s now possible, via the “Media Browser” to use Garageband’s library of loops as a soundtrack, or, create your own soundtrack in Garageband, and import into iDVD.
Once you start playing around in any of the applications of iLife you get a feel for the tools in other iLife apps.
Steve Jobs’ presentation of Garageband at the keynote did not do justice to the new integration capability built in to iLife.
Prior to ‘06, Garageband was nearly a stand alone application. Yes, your could export audio tracks to iTunes, or import them into Logic Express, but that was about it.
Garageband 3.0 is better integrated, more mature, and more satisfying that previous versions. There’s a Podcast image artwork track, or a video track (one or the other, not both at the same time).
Also new are sound effects and jingles, one-click publishing to iWeb, and that handy iMovie audio track music scoring.
However, the big deals are the Podcast Radio Engineer and iChat recording. Podcasting cannot get much easier. Ron and I both have professional recording equipment (Ron is loaded; AKG mics, Mackie mixer with Firewire, etc) and found previous versions of Garageband limiting.
No more. Though not as fine tuned as Logic Pro or Express or SoundTrack, Garageband is highly capable; recording voice audio, cleaning up ambient noise, even “ducking” background music so the voice (male or female) comes through the music appropriately.
Also cool is the ability to record multiple tracks of an iChat audio (not video) conference. Line up two or three friends for an audio or video conference, and Garageband will record the audio in multiple tracks.
It’s the perfect audio tool for creating Podcasts when the voices are scattered all over the country.
The newest application in the iLife suite is one of the most remarkable tools I’ve seen in years of doing web and multi media work.
If you’ve seen or tried Rapidweaver, or Karelia’s new Sandbvox and thought they were nice improvements over HTML point and click applications such as Dreamweaver, you’re in for a surprise.
iWeb lets you build web pages, web sites, with true drag and drop (similar to Rapidweaver and Sandvox). Pages area created in a click, and Apple provides many themes, but not just for the sites.
Themes are also pre-built for the pages within a site; About Me, Photos, Blogs, Movies, and so on. Design elements are drag and drop using the Inspector found in iWork. Again, familiarity with tools helps get you productive quickly.
I see a whole cottage industry coming with more Templates for iWeb. You can never have enough.
The iLife Media Browser is available in iWeb, too, so there’s instant access to music from iTunes, photos from iPhoto, and movies from iMovie, and so on.
One of the nicest features, besides one-click to a .Mac account or to a local folder on your Mac (then synchronize an FTP session to your server), is drag and drop.
Coding XHTML and CSS is a task not for the faint of heart. Steve’s keynote slide said it all. Easy web pages were ugly, beautiful web pages were difficult. No more.
The templates provided by Apple are beautiful.
Creating a web site or web page is truly point and click, then click to publish. The elements on the page move around just like in iWork’s Pages.
It’s all drag and drop. iWeb takes care of creating the complex HTML coding when you save and publish.
Drag a photo onto a page and resize. What you see on iWeb’s screen is what you’ll see in Safari. It’s that good.
I was impressed with Rapidweaver. Very impressed with Sandvox. More impressed with iWeb than I expected to be. I checked the output XHTML code with the W3C validator and it checked OK. Not so with the CSS file, though, the single error was on an odd font which I would not normally use on a web page.
In summary, I’m impressed and pleased. There are more reasons to buy a Mac than ever. iLife is just one big reason made up of many big reasons. For $79? It’s a steal. But it’s also an annual tax.
There’s no upgrade route except to buy a new Mac. Next year there’ll be more features, for sure. And another $79. This year, it’s worth it.