Apple's long-awaited and long rumoured photo management software. Announced by Steve Jobs at MacWorld San Francisco on January 7, 2002, this free application is designed to manage the importing, editing, organisation, sharing and printing of digital photos.
Joining iTunes, iMovie and iDVD in Apple's suite of Digital Hub apps, it will import photos from the camera, allow you to crop, retouch and rearrange them, and then offers various ways of organising and sharing them. Users can view photos as resizable thumbnails, and sort them into 'albums' that can then be published on the web using iTools or made into slide shows with music.
They've put in simple editing tools to do stuff like cropping and removing red eye from the photos. You can constrain the crop to a specific aspect ratio to make them easier to print or display on a DVD.
One of the new features that Apple are pushing hard is the photo printing service, which is available in the US and Canada only. Within iPhoto, you can open a dialog that lets you choose the photos you want, what size and finish you'd prefer, and choose from a drop-down of delivery addresses, and then order your photos to be printed on Kodak paper. They've integrated the 1-Click stuff they licenced from Amazon a while back to handle the billing for this, but within the app rather than on a web page.
As well as the individual print that you can order, they also offer a bound, hardback book of your photos. You design and arrange this within iPhoto, and submit your order to Apple using the same 1-Click system. I am guessing that this server integration is done using XML-RPC or SOAP, as Mac OS X 10.1 added this functionality to the OS.
The software is free to download, but is only available for Mac OS X, version 10.1.2. You'll need at least a G3 400, which rules out first generation iMacs and iBooks. It is compatible with most recent USB digital cameras and printers, without needing additional drivers.
By producing this software, Apple have stepped on the toes of Adobe, who produce the most popular image editing software at the moment. Most of these offer more editing functions than the cropping, red-eye reduction, converting to black and white etc. that iPhoto does. None of them, however, try and integrate with the camera and manage collections of photos in quite the way that iPhoto does. The app is nice and easy to use, with a similar interface to iTunes; Jobs referred to the 'albums' into which iPhoto allows you to organise your pictures, as similar to iTunes's playlists. The way that the thumbnails are dragged and dropped onto the albums is the same as iTunes too.
When you first import a set of photos from a camera, you assign them to a 'roll', like a roll of film, which helps when you need to search later for pictures taken at the same time. Overall, it has a nice feel, and is pleasant to use, if a little short on editing features, and with a pretty sluggish interface. I'd have liked to have seen a few ways of adjusting the levels and white point in a picture, maybe done similarly to the graphic equalizer in iTunes 2.
To try it out, I imported the pictures Kidas took of a load of noders. These were in the form they came off the camera. Within a minute or so, I rotated the ones that needed it, and taken some of the red-eye out of the one of me and (darsi). I also found you could use the red eye tool to give wertperch goth-style black lips. Nice! I then clicked on 'share' and 'homepage', labelled them and chose a cheesy style and it uploaded them to homepage.mac.com. Total time: less than 10 minutes, and I was writing this while I did it. Seems like a really great way of publishing things like this, and I'll certainly try it next time I go to a noder meet!
Steve Jobs's keynote at MacWorld, January 2002