At the Macworld 2009 this morning given by Phill Schiller (Steve Jobs was absent this year due to health issues), one of the more exciting new software developments was to the iLife suite of software for Mac.
Long touted as the comprehensive suite from Apple to manage your digital lifestyle, iLife includes the popular Mac apps iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand, iDVD, and iWeb. Over the course of the speech, several enhancements to each software were given screen time, and many of the new features were those long requested by fans as well as innovative new features from Apple's developers.
New enhancements to iPhoto included two new ways to organize photos. Faces, which includes face recognition technology, lets users search across folders of photos by matching with the face of a friend or family member to get all the images that include a specific person. Places uses the location technology now available in iPhone 3G and in some digital cameras to organize where your pictures were taken. Along with the new search and organization capabilities, iPhoto now lets you quickly post to Flickr and Facebook, offers more advanced image-editing tools, and lets you illustrate your vacation photos using a slick-looking feature called Travel Maps. The Travel maps can also be used to make photo books using Apple's previously announced paid photo album making features.
iMovie also received several new features and enhancement tweaks including more themes to give your movies a different, elegant feel and a precision editor for more professional-looking digital movies. One of the more amazing parts of the keynote speech was the demonstration of iMovie's new video stabilization features which takes a user's shaky handheld video recording and makes it a almost as smooth as if the camera were riding on a rail. New title fonts and transition effects will delight iMovie hobbyists and a new browser makes it easy to find the recordings you want for your movie.
One of the more interesting feature enhancements involved GarageBand's new learn-to-play instrument features. Interactive piano and guitar lessons let you learn at your own pace, showing finger positions and HD videos of instructions so you can practice playing along. But the more interesting addition was the ability to learn songs from the actual artists who played them. Artist lessons (sold separately) lets you learn songs by watching videos of the artists themselves as they take you through the process of playing some of their songs. Famous artists like Nora Jones, Sting, Ben Folds, Sarah McLachlan, and others take you through each step. New sounds and amps were also included in the update to give you more variety in your music.
The iWeb application added better drag-and-drop Web design capabilities and several dynamic widgets you could include on your Web site. Improved features included easier page management and publishing options as well as fun additions like the ability to notify your Facebook friends when your site has been updated.
Overall, we think the expanded feature list for each program and usability tweaks make this updated suite worth looking into if you have interest in this project- and hobbyist-based suite. Single users who already own iLife '08 will be able to update for $79, and if you want to be able to install it on up to five computers, you can get the family pack for $99. iLife '09 will only work if you have Mac OS X 10.5.x Leopard installed, so those with older systems might like the Mac Box Set, which includes iLife '09, Leopard, and iWork '09 all in one box for $169. iLife '09 will become available at the end of January.