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Delightfully easy to use. Tightly integrated. Creates beautiful content. Cons Closed ecosystem doesn't accept much content from other software. Generally, fewer features than top competing products. Bottom Line iLife is a triumph. It's the easiest way to turn your digital photos, movies, and mumblings into beautiful online and DVD content. Just don't expect geeky levels of flexibility or power. If you have a small child, faraway family members, and a Mac, it's a must-buy.
And if you've never dared make a movie before, the new iMovie is for you. It combines iPhoto, the best program out there for organizing and ordering prints of your photos; iMovie, a basic but almost unbelievably easy video editor; iWeb, a template-based Web design program; iDVD, which turns iPhotos and iMovies into slick, attractive DVDs; and GarageBand, which lets you record podcasts and assemble basic soundtracks from musical loops.
Tight integration makes the suite even better. Think of it as an end-to-end solution for complete Grandma satisfaction, or the ultimate production package for digital exhibitionists. Adobe Lightroom Classic Basic users will adore iLife and take to it immediately. More advanced or experienced users, ironically, will find a sharper learning curve, because the apps can be quite different from what they're used to.
The new iMovie, for example, doesn't work like any video editor you've ever seen before, and it lacks some features that are standard elsewhere. Mac, Apple's online service. All of the iLife applications have hard-coded links to. Mac, letting you publish to that service with one click; getting iPhotos or iWeb pages online to any other form of hosting is much more difficult.
Mac is a pretty decent deal, anyway; it comes with 10GB of online storage and online mail, calendar, and address-book syncing.
Fast, easy, powerful way to organize photos. Decent editing controls. Plenty of printing and sharing options. Automatic Web album feature requires. Mac subscription. Photo dating relies heavily on EXIF data. Bottom Line: The new version of iPhoto ditches the old idea of "film rolls" for "events," collections of photos themed by day or time.
Events are automatically generated by date, with some flexibility as to where to draw the lines; you can then merge or split events to make them more accurate. Think of them as the raw material for albums. Once you have, say, photos in your "Miami Trip" event, you can flick your mouse over the event's thumbnail to "skim" through the included pics, or expand the event to full screen to pick out the photos you want.
The date-focused events also take the place of a timeline. Skimming through and merging events was speedy, even in my 20,photo library. I ran into only one problem: Still, I'd recommend making sure the date is right in your camera if you're going to be upgrading to iLife ' The '08 version expands iPhoto's printing and sharing options, too.
New printed book options include a spiral-bound softcover, there are new greeting-card styles, and there's a one-touch button to publish to a slick AJAX-enabled gallery on your. Mac account or to autogenerate iWeb pages. On the Windows side, Sharpcast and Phanfare do similar tricks, and Sharpcast is free. But no other program brings together all the pieces of management, printing and sharing in something quite so fun and easy to use.
For Mac users, there's no better option than the new iPhoto. GarageBand '08 by Tim Gideon Pros: Multi-take recording. Visual EQ. Magic GarageBand helps set up projects. Special podcast templates. Not suitable for serious recording. Some instrument icons have vague names. Not for pros, this is software you will eventually graduate from—but it makes learning fun.
Apple's main goal for its products, be they iPods, laptops, or software, is "keep it simple. GarageBand '08 might be the most extreme implementation of this logic, but that doesn't make it the most successful. Is it possible for a program to be too easy to use? Can it be so simple as to make you feel you're playing with a toy rather than a tool? For all of the flashy new features, such as Magic GarageBand and Visual EQ, this app is one that you'll graduate from, rather than grow with.
Still, as a learning tool, GarageBand looks good. It really helps you to understand the basics of digital recording, what an EQ does, what soundwaves look like, and what specific instruments sound like.
For podcasters, novices, and people just looking to goof around, the app works fine. The graphics look amazing, of course. Apple rarely releases a stinker, and even more rarely an ugly stinker. Soundwaves look fantastic, as does the visual EQ. Even the hokey instrument icons and the faux wood paneling enclosing the windows add charm.
I found starting a session in GarageBand '08 to be a piece of cake. The opening window of the program offers four main options along with video tutorials: The latter two, both new, show that Apple knows who's most likely to use the product: Magic GarageBand is, frankly, kind of silly.
But if a feature can be silly and brilliant at the same time, Apple has nailed it. Once you choose the genre for a song you'd like to create—Roots Rock, anyone? Clicking on one reveals several options for changing it, and you can do this while a demo song is playing.
Wanna make that organ a baby grand? Presto, it's done—and the switch occurs seamlessly, with the new instrument playing virtually the same parts.
Once you've chosen the drum kit, guitar, and other elements you want, you can select Create Project, and you're immediately whisked to a project window featuring your chosen instruments. You can keep the hooks and melodies from the audition window or change them, swap out instruments again, or use a midi keyboard to control them and actually play something you compose with your own fingers. Users who can't get enough of the prerecorded instrumental bits will find a ton of extra material in Apple's Jam Pack series, which is organized into categories like World Music and Remix Tools.
The audition stage is merely a visual starting point. You can also—gasp! You'll need some sort of outboard audio interface that works with Macs or a USB microphone, though. Since this software is more for the hobbyist, I suggest the USB mic route, which is sort of an all-in-one option. Blue currently makes the Snowball, and a little bird told us to be on the lookout for new mics from other companies in the coming weeks.
One GarageBand peeve: The instrument icons often have vague names—a Wurlitzer piano is called simply Electric Piano—not the best way for novices and youngsters to learn what a Wurlitzer actually sounds like, versus, say, Billy Joel's electric piano. Apple has hinted that these less-than-specific descriptions stem from copyright issues. I chose to start a song from scratch, sans Magic GarageBand. I selected a drum kit and a beat I liked, then added in some organ and horns.
Looping parts to fill a song is easy—you just drag a section in the track window and stretch it. Applying the new Visual EQ feature was, perhaps, my favorite part of playing with the software. Using the mouse to drag the EQ curve up or down in various spots, I was able to adjust the boosts and cuts of various frequency ranges. Best of all, you can do this while the song is playing, giving you a true sense of how something will sound if you apply the new setting.
Song Notation, another new feature, is slightly less useful. It would be truly revolutionary if it actually notated parts that you record—your own acoustic guitar part, for instance, but, predictably, it can't do that.
It merely pulls up a notation file from a storehouse of instrumental parts. Highlighting one part in a given track and selecting Print under the File menu will produce a music sheet of the part—useful if you use prerecorded parts you want live musicians to play, but otherwise, it's more of a tool for folks learning to read music. I find the new features for multi-take recording and song arranging much more useful. The first lets you record the same section of a song—say, a chorus vocal part—several times and choose which you want to hear.
The ability to assign names, such as verse and chorus, to sections makes song arranging pretty easy. You can also drag entire sections and move them to different spots on the song's timeline without leaving one track behind—something even ProTools, a professional recording platform, can make difficult at times. Other advances include a feature for bit recording—definitely a good idea for anyone trying to make a professional-sounding product—and mastering tools.
I wasn't a huge fan of the mastering options, though, which were mainly effects, like Hip Hop Vinyl, thrown over the final stereo output of the song. Sure, the options boost the song's overall volume without distorting by using stereo compression—an effect different from file compression , but the results often sound as though you've applied cheesy filters.
I suggest adjusting individual tracks with the Visual EQ and then using minimal compression to increase the volume of the final mix.