Issue: 7.3 (March/April 2009)
Author: Dave Mancuso
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IN BRIEF Product iPhoto '09 Manufacturer Apple, Inc. Price $79.00 single license or $99.00 five user Family Pack (prices are for the full iLife suite) Contact Info http://www.apple.com/ilife/iphoto/ Pros Assisted face tagging, location tagging, Flickr/Facebook uploading Cons Location feature lacks ability to display quantity of pictures in a location Rating (1.0-5.0): 4.5
I've heard of the "2.0" experience in software development a number of times. This is the belief that the second version of a program gains more sales simply because users feel that it's reached maturity. Informal statistics among developers seem to bear this out, and I think it's time to add another concept to developer perceptions. This is the "tipping point" experience. It was expressed by Andy Ihnatko on a recent podcast. This is the point in a product's revision cycle where an application changes from a "nice to have" to a "must have" program in a user's mind. Either the features, interface, or workflow have become a compelling solution for a user's needs. Apple's iLife '09 suite, and iPhoto '09 in particular, have reached that point.
I've "used" iPhoto for a long time. However, that use has been limited to generic storage of photos. I've taken my camera pictures and dutifully dumped them into iPhoto, always intending to name and organize my photos when I had extra time. I've run the occasional slide show for family and friends, but never much more. When iPhoto added events, I no longer even bothered to make albums of photos since the program basically did it for me. iPhoto served as a generic storehouse for photos, filtering them by import dates and file dates.
iPhoto '09 adds two key features to this mix. The first is a double feature: the ability to upload Flickr and Facebook photos straight from your iPhoto library. Some programs do this already, but this is much like old programs that downloaded podcasts before iTunes added their Podcast Directory. Apple makes photo uploading an easy part of a the iPhoto application that you already use. Once you set up your Flickr and/or Facebook account information, publishing a photo to either service is a Share menu command and an OK click away. iPhoto shares picture information with the services, although I've gone onto both services and added captions and other additional information.Suddenly my Flickr and Facebook photo collections can become more than ghost towns of undeveloped possibilities. In fact, the first few test photos I posted garnered requests for more.
The second compelling iPhoto '09 feature is facial recognition. The application will recognize faces in your pictures on command. It will let you tag a face with a name. Then, iPhoto will search through your library and tag that face in every photo it can find. The program provides a new "Faces" collection to show you all photos with faces you (or iPhoto) has identified. You open each face in your Faces directory to display window with all photos tagged with that person. If the program is unsure of a face in a picture (but suspects who it is), it will note this in a Faces listing ("Jimmy may also be in these pictures below"). The program will display suspected photos with faces tagged ("Is this Jimmy Jones?") and you then click to accept or reject iPhoto's guesses.
Facial recognition isn't perfect, of course. In my photos, the application had difficulty recognizing children's faces at times, or confused some faces because of family resemblances. It got better as I tagged more photos, so it seems that iPhoto learns by example. At times, the program marked odd things as faces. Some "faces" were understandable, such as the framed picture in one photo's background (iPhoto thought it was another face in the photo). Some were amusing, as when iPhoto identified my daughter in a Halloween picture, but tagged the Jack-o-Lantern next to her as an unknown face. Others were confusing: iPhoto identified a section of blurry foliage and even a person's knee as faces.
A key benefit of facial identification was indirect. Using iPhoto's facial recognition feature motivated me to tag a large number of photos in my Library for the first time ever. As I accepted or rejected iPhoto's face guesses, I tagged a significant number of the people in my pictures within thirty minutes. The facial recognition made tagging fun, like solving a puzzle.
A third strong feature was almost as compelling as uploading and facial recognition: location tagging. iPhoto '09 adds a "Places" collection to its sidebar. At first, this seemed like an iPhone feature; I thought that my iPhone photos were tagged by the iPhone location in which they were taken. Places is much more than that, however. Apple has partnered with Google to provide a Google map of your photos in iPhoto. iPhoto places tags on the map for all known locations of your photos. It's easy to tag your photos in the main browser. iPhoto will offer existing locations as you begin to type a location in a photo's information window. Of course, iPhone photos are automatically tagged with their locations.
With these features iPhoto will tag, track, and display your pictures by people, places, and time (events), and help you to share these photos online. These features along with a logical, coherent interface, have moved iPhoto to its tipping point. It's well worth the upgrade price. In fact I purchased the five user family pack for twenty dollars more so that everyone in my household can benefit from the new iLife packages. Apple has hit a home run with this upgrade.
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