iPhoto ’08, Great New Features

On Tuesday, Apple announced and released the latest and greatest version of their iLife suite. On the surface, iLife ’08 looks like an update worthy of purchasing. I have been using iLife ’05 since January 2005, and have generally been very happy with it.

The one application my family and I use most is iPhoto. Like most families with kids and pets, we take a ton of digital photos. Without a great program like iPhoto, it would be incredibly difficult to manage our photo library. iPhoto ’05 has some great features, and we’ve used them to their full potential. iPhoto ’06 added Photocasting which almost got me to upgrade, but .Mac had such little storage that it didn’t make a whole lot of sense for me to share my photos using Photocasting. Instead I turned to services like Flickr to share photos.

Apple’s announcements on Tuesday may have changed things a bit for us. In addition to the iLife update, .Mac got a long needed increase in storage space and monthly bandwidth allowance. This opens the door to using iPhoto and .Mac to share photos and movies with the world. Following are the new features I find most interesting.

.Mac Web Gallery

With .Mac Web Galleries, Apple actually replaces the Photocasting feature they added to iPhoto ’06. .Mac Web Galleries provides the ability to share photos with your friends and family (or the entire world) with a few clicks of the mouse. As the name indicates, a .Mac account is required to really make these web galleries work. Unfortunately, Apple did not make it possible to use an outside web host. The web pages created by iPhoto and .Mac are incredible. They offer all of the best features that Web 2.0 has to offer. Check out the sample gallery that Apple created. To me, the .Mac Web Galleries alone are worth the price of the upgrade to iLife ’08.

New calendars

My wife and I have a little tradition going of giving calendars of our kids to our parents and grandparents every Christmas. We’ve always used Ofoto (or Kodak Photo Gallery as they call it now although I think they should have stuck with Ofoto) to make our calendars, but we may have to switch to iPhoto this holiday season because of all of the cool features. The templates look great, and I really like the feature that makes it possible to put photos on specific dates. It would be pretty sweet to put pictures of everyone on their birthdays.

Home Printing

Okay, so home printing doesn’t sound all that cool or ground breaking, but it is something new to iPhoto ’08. iPhoto provides themes with borders and mattes that make instant frame-ready prints. Text can also be added to the prints. For all of us that have photo printers sitting around the house, we can have instant gratification by printing photos ready for framing directly from iPhoto.

Events

Events are a new way to organize photos in iPhoto ’08. The program automatically assumes that photos from a particular day were most likely taken at the same event. Basically, Events provides another layer of organization beyond albums. For me, time will tell if the new Events feature justifies all of the time Steve Jobs spent talking about it at the event on Tuesday.

iPhoto ’08 is yet another reason for Windows users to make the switch to Mac to manage their digital lives. Trust me, there is nothing this good for Windows. Period.