Apple suite's latest upgrade puts power of publishing in easy reach
Product: Apple Computer iLife '06
Pros: Great tools for imaging and sound manipulation that can be shared on the Internet. Provides support for both PowerPC and Intel-based Macs.
Cons: An expensive purchase for Apple users who do not care about the software's new sharing and iWeb features.
Designed to serve a digital lifestyle, Apple Computer's iLife '06 suite comes with major upgrades to the iPhoto, iMovie HD, iDVD and GarageBand applications. It also adds a key publishing tool to help create podcasts.
The first three of these applications deal with imaging - still or moving - and work better than the previous editions. All have that simple but well-designed Apple interface. These tools also handle large amounts of data with considerable ease.
When it comes to iPhoto 6, Apple apparently remains the 'king of recognition'. I have yet to meet someone who plugged in a digital camera that iPhoto did not recognise. More popular platforms have had trouble doing that.
Remember when you wanted to send that picture to Aunt Agatha in Berkshire but the resolution was so high it broke her e-mail client? Well, iPhoto 6 also allows you to send smaller files as e-mail attachments. That is wonderful for the resolution-challenged.
Users can also share images directly from within iPhoto 6 via .Mac - Apple calls this photocasting, which is like podcasting for photos.
Putting some Hollywood-style effects to home video has become easier with iMovie HD 6. It also allows multiple projects to be opened at once. In addition, video clips can be moved among projects. This tool is the easiest way for Mac users to make video podcasts.
Ten new Apple-designed menu themes in both widescreen (16:9) and standard (4:3) formats are available with iDVD 6. Users can make custom DVDs with this tool, which copies the created video content onto a blank disc with compatible third-party DVD burners.
Although a unique tool, GarageBand 3 could be the greatest waste of time on a computer since Pong - but in a good way.
Even a tone-deaf person can play music for hours with this application and produce some amazing results. If you know even a little about music, you could easily lose a day playing with GarageBand 3.
But the real news from the iLife upgrade is the new publishing tool called iWeb. If you want to create good-looking webpages but have little sense of design and no patience for using the advanced applications in the market, then iWeb is just what you need. The templates, as usual, are smart.
With iWeb, your photos, blogs and podcasts can be published via .Mac for anyone to view on the internet.
Still, using iWeb is not quite as easy as it might seem. The problem is creating webpages can be difficult and software can only help you so far.
For example, if you have not taken good pictures or you do not know where they are, you will have all kinds of trouble. (If you use iPhoto 6, you will be fine.)
Despite these pitfalls, iWeb is one of the best products to keep your ideas together and eliminate the drudgery from webpage design. To get it right, you must spend hours - perhaps, days - putting your stuff together.
If the whole world started using iWeb, the Web could all look the same. That is unlikely to happen but might not be such a bad thing, given that many webpages are terribly designed.
All iLife '06 tools are elegant and simple. They will not appeal to professionals, but then, they are not aimed at them. Considering what you get, iLife is a terrific bargain.