New GarageBand, iMovie and iPhoto offer improved editing and sharing options.
Any business or other organization of size
will over time build up a substantial library of media depicting and supporting
its activities. Sometimes that media is just a historical record of activities
and events. These used to be kept in dusty file cabinets in a corner of a
marketing or PR department, but today they are more likely to take digital
form. The nice thing about digital archives is that they are easy to catalog,
distribute and use, with the right tools.
A simple solution for some outfits may be
iLife '11, the latest version of the Apple creative tools for nonprofessional
use. Despite the consumer-oriented focus of the iLife suite, it's suitable for
all but the most demanding business uses. The suite's primary components
include GarageBand for audio editing, iMovie for video editing, and iPhoto for
managing collections of still images and videos.
GarageBand '11 provides a basic set of
audio editing features, along with a polished collection of music creation
tools. New in this release are Flex Time, which allows the user to change
individual notes in a track by clicking on the audio wave-form, and Groove Matching,
which allows one to select a given track and match that track's rhythm to the
other tracks of a project.
GarageBand '11 also includes new guitar
amplifiers and stomp-box effects, 22 new basic lessons for guitar and piano,
and a "How Did I Play?" feature that monitors one's progress through a lesson.
I found it relatively easy to use GarageBand's editing tools to add a bit of
conga drumming as an introduction to a ringtone, and to adjust other properties
of the music.
For simple video editing, iMovie '11
presents users with a fairly intuitive interface that allows users to work with
a project as a single entity, as well as individual media files. A new People
Finder feature scans videos to mark sections containing faces to find suitable
clips for movies or trailers, while new themes that add the feel of
professional news or sports presentations are included as well. On the subject
of trailers, this release of iMovie offers 15 genres of trailer themes,
complete with graphics and titles, and an appropriate soundtrack. It took me
just a few minutes to stitch together some movie clips that I had shot earlier
this year, and add openings, transitions and background music to the project.
Image file management is the province of
iPhoto '11, which adds new sharing features, including one-click posting to
Facebook, and improved tools for creating professional-looking cards and books
from one's photo library. Full-screen views of the library now include options
for viewing by recognized faces, tagged places or date-sorted events, and new
slideshow themes allow users to show off their photos with even more style than
One important issue turned up in the middle
of my evaluation of iPhoto '11. When it is installed as an upgrade, the data
that defines the existing photo library must undergo a format conversion; users
should download the iPhoto 9.0.1 update from Apple before trying to use a "very
large" library with iPhoto '11, to avoid what the company calls an "extremely
rare" chance of data loss.
What Apple means by "very large" isn't
clear; I can only infer that this means a library with hundreds of thousands of
photos. In comparison, my largest library holds a relatively modest 25,570
images, and the upgrade took less than eight minutes; extremely large libraries
can take an hour or more, according to the installation dialogs.
Apple includes as part of iLife '11 what
appear to be the final (or near-final) versions of its tools for putting one's
finished projects into distributable form: iDVD 7.1 for disc-based video, and
iWeb 3.0.4 for managing Web-based content. Owners of iLife '09 will recognize
iWeb 3.0.4 as the current release of that suite's iteration of iWeb, while the
iDVD included with iLife '11 is a minor update to the iLife '09 version of
Apple bundles iLife with Mac hardware at no
additional cost; for upgrades or fresh installs, single-user licenses are
available at $49, and five-user Family Packs, which are restricted to a single
household, are available at $79. Strangely, Apple does not offer a
download-only option; all sales involve physical media, even when one orders
the software online. The Mac App Store, scheduled to debut in November, is
expected to rectify this shortcoming in Apple's fulfillment methods.
P. J. Connolly began writing for IT publications in 1997 and has a lengthy track record in both news and reviews. Since then, he's built two test labs from scratch and earned a reputation as the nicest skeptic you'll ever meet. Before taking up journalism, P. J. was an IT manager and consultant in San Francisco with a knack for networking the Apple Macintosh, and his love for technology is exceeded only by his contempt for the flavor of the month. Speaking of which, you can follow P. J. on Twitter at pjc415, or drop him an email at email@example.com.