Apple – iLife ’08 review

multimedia suite for Mac owners
Photo of Apple – iLife ’08
£55 (single-user), £69 (five-user family pack)

Apple’s iLife suite comes free with each new Mac sold, but is also available as a standalone package. The new version, designated iLife ’08, has been heavily revamped, with major rewrites to the core applications iPhoto and iMovie.

As before, Apple’s emphasis is on ease of use and iPhoto now organises your photos through Events. The program automatically groups your photos by date, assuming that typical events, like holidays or parties, can cover one or a few days. You can flick through all the photos in an Event group by ‘skimming’ your mouse pointer across its thumbnail and select whichever image you like to represent the group.

Photo editing has also been enhanced, with highlight, midtone and shadow adjustments in a revamped Adjust panel, and the ability to copy a set of adjustments from one photo to a series of them can be a big time-saver. There are direct connections to Web services, particularly .Mac, though that’s a £70 annual subscription, of course.

iMovie has been rebuilt pretty much from the ground up. With an obvious nod towards further ease-of-use, it really is a question of dragging and dropping your video clips onto the storyboard to build a new video. The program does scene detection and you can cut your own sections out of scenes, but in several ways the new program isn’t as versatile as iMovie ’06.

There’s only one audio channel, for example, which makes it difficult to work with narration, soundtrack and supporting music. You can’t overlap video scenes with soundtrack audio from others any more, either. While the storyboard editor is pretty easy to use, there’s no effective timeline view as an alternative. It looks more and more like iMovie Lite, but we guess it may appeal to YouTube video makers.

GarageBand has been improved with the ability to include multiple takes of your recordings, to print sheet music and to have some fun and sing or play along with Magic GarageBand. iWeb can now use widgets and Google Maps to enliven a Web site and includes a new page type, My Album, for organising photos and videos. Finally, iDVD includes new themes and a better encoding algorithm for DVDs.

There’s one big proviso with iLife ’08; you must have a modern Mac to run it on. The suite as a whole requires at least a fast G4 – it struggled on a 1.4GHz eMac we tried it on – but iMovie specifically needs more than that. Its video-handling routines require a dual G5 Power Mac or a 1.9GHz G5 iMac. 1GB of memory is recommended and you must be running Mac OS X 10.4.9 or later. If your Mac is more than a couple of years old, you’re likely to have problems with the suite.

Company: Apple

Contact: 0800 039 1010

iLife '08 is something of a mixed bag. Of the two heavily-reworked apps, iPhoto and iMovie, iPhoto is an improvement; it's easier to use and with something for the more serious photo editor as well as the beginner. iMovie is not going to win friends with enthusiast users of earlier versions, but may pick up a few newcomers to the genre.