Monday, 3 January 2011

iPhoto Still Has Places to go to...

The marketing machine behind Apple would have you believe that iLife is a primary consideration for anyone contemplating moving to a Mac for the first time, especially from Windows. Whilst being an attractive bonus, iLife didn't really figure in my decision to make the move back in 2007. My decision was based on a total dissatisfaction with the laptops I was using at the time, especially with respect to the time it took between switching the machine on and actually being able to do something useful. I was working in Oslo back then, and was reliant on public wireless systems (as I am again here in Zurich), and the plethora of Windows and virus updates became to much of a burden. So the automatic updates got turned off while I was away and the laptop only got updated once or twice a month when I went home. Of course, in those circumstances my laptop was even more vulnerable to attack than ever, using public networks without auto-update, but I'm digressing... back to iLife.

Ever since buying the MBP back in the late summer of 2007,  with its complimentary copy of iLife, I have religiously upgraded iLife whenever the latest version is announced. I like having iPhoto as the default photo organiser,  especially on the MacBook Pro, although I generally use Photoshop Elements for most editing activities, and I also use Aperture on the iMac at home. I dabble with GarageBand, but again, usually only when I'm at home and have access to my M-Audio keyboard. I occasionally use iWeb for quick and dirty mock-ups for web sites and pages, and I'm still not big on home video so I only use iMovie on high-days and holidays. My two biggest productions to date have both been whale watching trips; one in the Arctic in mid-Winter in the Norwegian fjords and more recently off Cape Cod in the US. I can't remember ever using iDVD - in fact I'm not even sure what it does!

This year I  bought my copy of iLife 11 from the Apple Store on Bahnhofstrasse in the centre of Zurich on the same day it was released and, as I only live around the corner, within 15 minutes it was already installed on the MBP.  Having watched the Back-to-Mac keynote i had a pretty good idea of what to expect and I was looking forward to the new and improved iPhoto in particular. The full screen mode, improved sharing and extra facilities for calendar and card making looked especially appealing.

Overall, I do like the new iPhoto. I made my mum a calendar based on the photos I took in the US earlier this year, and it was incredibly easy - the hard part is choosing which photos to leave out. Similarly I made a few Christmas cards which were equally as easy. I'm looking forward to seeing the final product. I've used Apple printing before and it was very high quality. But when I tried to sort out the locations for my photos taken when my girlfriend came over to Switzerland a few weeks ago I started to get more than a bit frustrated.

The Places concept in iPhoto is great, especially if you have geo-tagging facilities built-in to your camera. But trying to add places manually after the event is a real pain. Nothing in this implementation is intuitive - in fact I'd say it's counterintuitive. The Manage My Places won't let you add new places. You can't add places on the main map either but  only look at photos already attached to existing places. When I did finally get photos associated with a location, I found it virtually impossible to correct errors. I can only assume that the guys who wrote the software, not to mention the testing folk, all had geo-tagging on their cameras (more likely they all used the iPhone to take their test shots).

Maybe this will be easier once I get home and get round to reading the help pages properly (another problem one has with limited internet access is that reading on-line help becomes a luxury one cannot afford), but this is not the Mac way!  I know that other folk have written about their similar experiences, so let's hope that Apple take notice and provide an update to make this useful feature a bit easier to use, or at least reconsider their approach in the next release - iLife 12? Or maybe by then, with the arrival of the Mac Store in early 2010, the suite will have been broken up as with iWork for the iPad and we'll be able to download an updated version of iPhoto 11. We shall see.

This entry was actually written in November 2010, but for some reason I never got round to publishing it. Better late than never, but although I'm back in the UK now, I've still not had time to look at the Places functionality in iPhoto 11 in anger. Something else on my list of things to do. Good job I've got the iPad to manage that list!

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