iPhoto 5, by Apple Computer
Posted: 7-Jul-2005

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Apple Computer Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bill Teawell Class: MULTIMEDIA

iPhoto 5, part of Apple's iLife '05 suite, is a digital photograph management system for the home computer. Actually, it is professional enough to work fine for a small business as well, so it can be considered for the Prosumer. It is an end-to-end system from importing digital stills and short movie segments, storing, editing, organizing, and sharing. It comes free with any new Mac purchase.

System Requirements
Apple states that a G3 (400 Mhz or better), G4, or G5 is sufficient to run iPhoto 5. Only the G4 or G5 can take advantage of the advanced editing features. 256 MB of RAM is the minimum requirement, with 512 MB recommended. System 10.3.4 or later is required, with 10.3.6 necessary for RAW photo images. Quicktime 6.5.2 or later is necessary with a display capable of 1024 by 768 resolution. 4.3 GB of storage is necessary for the entire iLife '05 suite, but only 250 MB is needed for iPhoto 5 alone.

The evaluation system is a dual 1.25Ghz PowerMac G4 with 1.75MB of RAM, an ATi 9000 OEM video card driving two monitors, and system 10.3.9.

iPhoto 5 can be installed as part of the iLife '05 suite or individually in the iLife "Custom Install" option, or just launching the iPhoto package. I installed iPhoto 5 via the "Custom Install" option, which went without a hitch. I then did a "Software Update" search and updated to version 5.0.2.

iPhoto opens to what I would consider is becoming an Apple "standard" look. I believe it is modeled upon the ability to create "frames".

iPhoto 5 main window

The right frame, or main window pane, is the main display. It switches from View, to Edit, to Import. The left pane, called Source, is where the indices (Library, albums, slideshow, books) are kept. At the bottom is the toolbar (which is somewhat editable via the "SHARE/Show in Toolbar" menu). At the very bottom of the window are five buttons and a Zoom slider.

iPhoto 5 toolbar and buttons

The buttons control the creation of a new source, starting a Slideshow, getting Info for either the object (album, slideshow, book) or the pictures within the source, and search buttons (Calendar and Keyword).

Calendar search function

The Calendar search function searches by year, month, and day. All photos within iPhoto have a date associated with it. Click on a month in the Calendar pane and pictures having that date will be displayed in the main pane.

The other search button is Keyword. Keywords are defined in the Preferences under the Keyword tab. New Keywords can be added by simply clicking on the Add button. I have added up to a three-word keyword, but I am sure that there are third-party plug-ins that will handle more complicated keywords. Keyword searches can use boolean operators (such as "And" and "Or").

The Zoom slider on the right-hand side changes how may pictures can be displayed in the main pane. It goes from just one picture to a whole lot of very small thumbnails.

The VIEW menu determines what is seen in the main window pane. The submenus are: Titles, Keywords, Film Rolls, and My Ratings. All can be toggled on or off. If Film Rolls is not selected, thumbnails are displayed. If Film Rolls is selected, a film canister icon is displayed with the date and name of the roll. There is also a triangle to the left of the canister that, once clicked, will display the photos inside. Titles, Keywords, and My Ratings all affect what is displayed below the thumbnail.

The SHARE menu contains the submenu "Show in Toolbar ..." which adds or deletes icons from the toolbar at the bottom of the window. In addition, this menu contains a duplicate menu item for each toolbar icon. So, if the icon is not on the tool bar, the function can still be accessed via this menu. At the bottom is the "Export ..." command. The export options are "File Export", "Web Page", and "Quicktime".

The PHOTOS menu contains the menu items "Get Info", "Batch Change" , the ability to assign a Rating, Rotation commands, "Duplicate", "Delete from Album", and most importantly "Revert to Original". Most all of the function commands in the menu items have keyboard shortcuts. Several, like "Get Info", "Batch Change", "Duplicate", "Revert to Original" are also in the Contextual Menu.

The first time I launched iPhoto from the Dock, it told me that my library of previously stored photos would be updated to the new 5 format and that the change could not be undone. Hence, if the user has any doubts about upgrading from a previous version of iPhoto, you better make a copy of the library first. Once that task was completed, the interface window opened. If you notice any blank gray thumbnails, there is an Apple Knowledge Base Document (AKBD) that discusses what to do to rebuild the library to fix them.

Next, I connected my Olympus C-3000 Zoom digital camera via the USB cable. The camera was recognized and the interface pane switched to Import mode. Unfortunately, iPhoto 5 still does not let you selectively import pictures; it is all or none.

Importing from Camera to iPhoto 5

The new import pane allows for naming the film roll as well as adding a description. If you make a mistake or miss entering something, then at the "Delete Photos from Camera" confirmation dialog box, you can select "Cancel Import". This takes you back to the main window pane. With the camera still attached, you can then re-initiate the import by selecting the camera in the left window pane.

Camera import progress is shown in two places: at the bottom with an aqua "barber pole" and the spinning gear next to the camera icon in the left window pane. Photos can also be added to the library from other non-camera sources, such as files already located on your hard drive. For each photo, or group of photos, a new "roll" is created. A folder is treated as one roll, but if the folder has folders within it, new rolls are created for each subfolder.

In addition to the JPEG format, iPhoto supports PICT, TIFF, GIF, BMP, MOV and PNG formats. I tried dragging and dropping several of these formats onto iPhoto 5, and they were added without any problems. iPhoto, however, did not like TARGA or PDF files. My camera does not support the RAW format, so I was unable to test iPhoto's support of RAW photos.

iPhoto stores its photos in the main Library folder. It creates sub-folders that sub-divide the main Library by year. Photographs that have a date before 2002 are lumped together in the folder called "Early Photos". The last set of pictures to be imported are stored in a folder called "Last Roll" (The number of last rolls can be changed in the Preferences/General.) iPhoto also automatically creates a "smart" folder called "Last 12 Months" (This option is also selectable and editable from the Preferences/General).

Albums, shown with blue covers, are the basic organization tool in iPhoto 5. An album is created by selecting "New Album" from the FILE menu, pushing Command-N on the keyboard, or clicking on the plus button in the bottom left-hand corner of the window. A window-shade drops down from the window title bar allowing the user to create an album, a smart album, or a slideshow (as a comparison to iTunes, albums are much like iTunes "playlists"). To populate an album, drag pictures from the main Library into the new album. What you are creating are thumbnails that point back to the photo in the main library. This is important to remember when editing.

A Smart Album is a special type of iPhoto album, and is shown with a purple cover with a gear icon. To create a Smart Album, select "New Smart Album ..." from the FILE menu, push Command-N and select "Smart Album" from the drop-down list, or push the plus sign at the bottom left-hand corner of the window and choose "Smart Album" from the drop-down list. Holding down the OPTION key automatically changes the plus sign to a gear and selects the "Smart Album." After creating the album, a second window-shade drops down for setting the conditions (just like a smart playlist in iTunes.) Once the matching conditions are set, any photo that matches is automatically added to the album. A few of the fields you can include in your conditions are Album, Comments, Keywords, Date, and Roll. Oddly, only "is" or "is not" are available selections for Album (there is no "contains").

Slideshows and Books are an end product in managing your photos, and are more related to Sharing; hence, they will be discussed later on.

Finally Albums, Books, and Slideshows can all now be stored in folders. This is a great way to organize, because folders can be nested within folders. A whole hierarchy can be created this way.

iPhoto folders

The Search box at the bottom right-hand corner will search for any text in roll name, keyword, picture name, etc., and will display all the pictures that match the criteria entered. You cannot restrict where it searches for the text, so if you notice some pictures whose names don't match your search criteria, look at the Roll name.

iPhoto 5 allows you to edit your photos directly within iPhoto. Simply push the "Edit" button on the toolbar, or double click on a photograph, and iPhoto is in edit mode (to double-click edit, make sure that the "Double-click photo: Changes to edit view" is selected in Preferences/General). For additional editing options, control-clicking brings up a contextual menu which gives the choice of editing in the main editing pane, editing in a separate window, or editing in an external editor (which is setup in the Preferences/General). iPhoto will shift to edit mode and display all the photo thumbnails in a photo browser at the top of the window in a separate pane.

Within the edit pane, photos can be rotated in the direction set in Preferences/General. If you hold down the OPTION key, the direction switches. For cropping, there are different "Constrain" settings, or you can just drag the cross-hairs over the area you want to save. Once a selection is set, the Crop tool becomes active.

iPhoto 5 editing toolbar

The next five buttons all allow for one-touch editing. B&W and Sepia change the overall tone of a picture and are self explanatory. Red-Eye is a lot simpler to use. Click on the button and a small message box opens with the direction to just click on the center of the eye. Retouch acts like the Healing brush in Photoshop; it can be used to remove small imperfections.

The great thing in iPhoto 5 is, if you have a G4 or better processor, the Adjust pallet. Selecting this icon opens a transparent pallet which contains Brightness and Contrast, Saturation, Temperature, Tint, Exposure, Sharpness, and Straighten sliders. The G4 or better is required for the advanced Adjust features (which is everything except Brightness/Contrast.)

iPhoto Adjust pallet

The sliders work by grabbing the thumb and moving it left or right. However, you can't directly enter numbers next to the sliders, nor can you use the arrow keys to "nudge" the slider. Photoshop mavens may be disappointed, because there is no way to adjust curves. But there is a histogram that displays the different Red, Green, and Blue levels. At one end of the Sharpness slider is a Gaussian blur, and the other end is an Unsharp Mask. iPhoto 5 does a very nice job of both. I thought the Straighten slider was pretty cool. Clicking on the Straighten slider thumb causes a grid to appear over the photo in the edit pane. Then, depending on which way the slider is moved, the photo is rotated clockwise or counter-clockwise (allowing you to make slightly angled pictures perfectly vertical).

Before closing the edit pane, holding down the Control key will show the original picture so you can get a comparison between the "old and new". Once you are done editing, click "Done" and go back to the main view menu. IMPORTANT NOTE: Any changes made in the edit pane to any photograph in either the library or albums will permanently change the photograph and all instances of it.

iPhoto basically outputs to either the screen, the web, or the printed sheet. Albums can be printed, prints can be ordered, posted to your .Mac homepage, or copied to your iDisk so that anyone with Mac OS 10.2 or better can view it over the internet. Photos can also be emailed or used as Desktop backgrounds. Such is the total integration of iPhoto with other Mac services and products. Each of these options is a button or icon in the toolbar across the bottom of the window. Just click on the button and follow the instructions.

Sharing options in iPhoto 5

As mentioned before, Slideshows can now be saved as a source, and adjusted for Transitions, "Ken Burns Effect" (although this is not intuitive for a particular slide, but can be set as a default), Effects (None, B&W, Sepia), Music, Settings and individual slide adjustments (an individual slide can be held on the screen for longer than the default setting). One very nice feature is an option to make the slideshow match the length of the music selected. Photos can be zoomed within a slideshow by using the Zoom slider at the bottom right-hand corner. Then click drag the image around the pane until it is just right. Double clicking a picture puts you back in edit mode.

iPhoto gives you the ability to put photographs in a book that can be stored in the Source column. This means several books can be made from the same Album source and all be different. A Book is created by selecting "New Book" from the FILE menu, or the Command-N, or clicking on the plus button in the bottom left-hand corner. It allows you to select the size, the cover style, and a theme. Photos are dragged from a list at the top of the window to different pages. If there are more photos than pages, new ones can be added. When creating books, photos can be cropped without affecting the original. Double clicking on a photograph in a book activates a small slider that can be used to resize the photo. With a click-drag, you can move the photo around on the page. If you don't like the theme you started with, you can push the "Themes" icon on the Book toolbar and select a different one. Once the book is as you want it, choose "Buy Book" and iPhoto connects to the internet and transfers the information to Apple's printing service.

Under the SHARE menu is the "Export..." function command. These commands will support three basic outputs:

  1. save the photo(s) to a file, with some conversion
  2. save the photo(s) to the Web
  3. save the photo(s) as a slidwshow Quicktime movie

iPhoto export options

Apple's iPhoto 5 is a solid photo management program that just keeps getting better with each iteration. It effortlessly imports, organizes, and stores pictures and short movies. For removing Red-Eye, cleaning up minor flaws, performing one-touch enhancement, it just works. With the Adjust palette, users have control over Tint, Saturation, and Temperature, as well as Brightness/Contrast, Exposure, and Sharpness. Although iPhoto's editing features are certainly not at the same level as Photoshop, they will provide the needed functionality for most users (and for those that prefer to use Photoshop, you can have iPhoto use Photoshop to edit your photos). With the ease of managing and different methods for displaying and sharing your precious photographs, iPhoto 5 is the perfect photo management tool for the consumer, or prosumer.


  • Tightly integrated with other Apple products
  • End-to-end system
  • Photo Books
  • Keyword tags
  • Smart Albums based upon keywords
  • MPEG-4 support


  • Not a standalone product (only comes as part of iLife)
  • Can't nudge with the arrow keys or key in numbers in the Adjust palette sliders
  • No selective import; photos from camera are all or none
  • No hand dragging control, all window movement is by scroll bars in edit mode

Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice