Apple's iLife applications get a major upgrade each year, as is evident from the suite's names. Apple traditionally launches the latest versions at Macworld. Steve Jobs, in his keynote speech, brags - and with reason - about the latest improvements and new empowerment capabilities each year's version brings. This year, Apple enthusiasts, though delighted with the newest upgrade, were furious there was no special upgrade price. The group rant was half-hearted, though. Users wanted the upgrade badly - they just did not want to pay for a suite they had got for free at one time or another. The fact is the latest iLife version's price (US$79) is the upgrade price. If you own a computer on which this suite will run, you already have a copy of an earlier version of iLife and are addicted to its empowering features. Even if you use only one of the applications in this package, you will find the price of the upgrade reasonable. At US$49, it would empower many more in the world. The iLife '06 suite contains iPhoto for image editing, managing and sharing; iMovie for home movie editing; iDVD for creating professional quality portfolios of creative endeavours anyone can view; and GarageBand, which allows anyone to create original music and share it. These applications help you create things you could not make before and share them with people you could not share with earlier. This model has been so successful that these applications are responsible for a dramatic increase in the popularity of the technologies they represent. For example, video camera sales boomed when people discovered iMovie could turn them into talented videographers almost instantly. GarageBand and iPhoto have had the same effect on the musical instrument and digital camera markets respectively. For those who have not discovered this yet, these are the tools for personal empowerment and change. There has been an addition to the Mac pack - called iWeb. I am giddy with its potential to once again push the frontiers of modern creativity. This iTool lets you create websites of incredible style using templates, and drag-and-drop interaction with the other iApps. Using iWeb you can not only post your movies, photos and music but also post blogs and podcasts for those who have something to say. With Apple's dotMac hosting or any other web hosting service, you can have a stunning new site up and getting promoted in an hour, with no experience. My 12-year-old invested 45 minutes before his first site was up and now all his friends know what he is doing should they decide to join him. I mentioned all the improvements were worth the upgrade. That is particularly true of iPhoto, which is now much faster and more precise. It has the feel of a professional application without the previous hangs and pauses. It will handle a quarter of a million photos, and introduces Photocasting, which allows others to subscribe to an album on your Mac and receive full-size copies each time the album is updated. The interface has been improved to allow you to view, compare and edit images in full-screen mode without extraneous menus and windows getting in your way. The popular Share features, such as book publishing, have been expanded to include calendars and greeting cards. A substantial number of attractively designed themes have also been added so that your creations do not become stale. iMovie now comes with a slew of new Apple-designed motion themes, transitions, cinematic titles and special effects, all of which can be viewed instantly using a new Apple technology. With new audio editing tools and dramatic performance increases, and of course, the introduction of video podcasts, this upgrade infuses new life into your cinematic creations. iDVD has the same performance, special effects and template improvements, with the addition of high-resolution slide shows formatted for the huge projection and plasma televisions that are now popular. iDVD also has a new simplicity mode in which a novice can create DVDs using only drag and drop. Apart from iWeb, the most popular new iLife feature is the near-automatic podcast creation tool in GarageBand (for audio) and iMovie (for video), or in iChat, where it is recorded automatically and then posted on your website or in the iTunes podcast directory. Helping creative people share ideas is the ultimate empowerment and facilitates the greatest potential for change. E-mail Dave Horrigan at email@example.com with your Mac queries.