Apple iLife '05 review: Apple iLife '05

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MSRP: $79.00

The Good Incredible value; improved performance; imports and edits high-definition video; top-notch music-creation features; better integration among apps.

The Bad Older Macs will choke on some tasks; limited options for burning to CD-Rs; iDVD's templates are too few and too sentimental; no common application launch interface; full suite takes up nearly 5GB of hard drive space.

The Bottom Line If you're a Mac user looking for an inexpensive way to do more with digital images, video, or music, iLife '05 is a must-have suite.

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8.0 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 8
  • Support 8

iLife '05

Included on all new Apple desktops and notebooks and available as a package for current Mac users, iLife '05 is one of the best digital media management suites around, certainly the best for Apple users. Bursting with organizational, editing, and creation tools for music, digital video, and photos, iLife '05 is well worth its sub-$100 price tag. In fact, three of the apps--iPhoto 5.0, GarageBand 2.0, and iMovie HD--could easily be sold separately, but they're not. Outside of a few minor complaints and some strict hardware requirements, there's no good reason not to add this update to your Mac today. The iLife '05 package includes a CD to install iTunes, iPhoto, and iMovie only (a total of 250MB) and a 4.3GB DVD that has GarageBand, iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, and iDVD. Consequently, you'll need at least a DVD drive, at best a SuperDrive, to install the entire suite. The installation procedure is fairly mindless, but it's not brief if you choose to load everything. Even on a relatively fast system, expect to spend about 40 minutes installing the whole package. Icons for each program appear on your dock during the installation routine--unless they were there already, in which case they are just updated to launch the new versions.

Those already familiar with Apple Mac OS X or iTunes will find the application interfaces familiar. You can access almost all operations more than one way--via a drop-down menu, a keyboard shortcut, or icon-based buttons. Not good enough? A lot of basic functions are drag and drop, too.

Integration between the different components is even tighter than for the last iteration, with easier, more intuitive ways to combine media within projects. For instance, iMovie's navigation bar lets you build your project by jumping from imported digital video (DV) clips to still iPhoto images to iTunes music, then straight to iDVD to burn the project. However, we'd like to see a project-based launchpad interface, grouping all of the suite's tools under one window; right now, all applications must be launched individually.

Also, while there's a lot of support for DVD burning, there is little for CD creation. In iPhoto, for example, there is no way to burn images to a CD and no way to turn slide shows into a VCD or SVCD. For greater control over optical disc creation, you'll have to go with third-party software, such as Roxio Toast with Jam.

iLife integrates five multimedia apps into one economical package: iTunes 4.7, GarageBand 2.0, iPhoto, iMovie, and iDVD.

For our money, iPhoto is the most improved application in the suite. Previous versions of iPhoto had little to be desired; it was just an image organization program (and not a powerful one at that), with light editing tools. iPhoto 5.0, however, ups the ante on everything. Organization and search features are much improved. You can quickly assign keywords to groups of images, create new albums and folders to hold multiple albums, and add ratings to each image. Similar to iTunes, a smart search box lets you search by any bit of information you've attached to the image, such as captions. Open Calendar View, and you can find all of the images you shot in a particular month and year. iPhoto 5.0 even remembers your imports as individual rolls, so you can find pictures from your friend's wedding by simply looking through the rolls you've shot.

Apple enhanced iPhoto's image-sharing features with the ability to order books and prints online, upload to the Web or a .Mac account, or just send images to your printer, all from within the interface. E-mailing pictures is easier as well. Just select your photo and click the E-mail button, and iPhoto launches your mail application. It will also ask if you want to adjust the resolution of the image before you send it.

iPhoto 5.0's enhanced editing capabilities, including the new Advanced Editing Dashboard, take the app from being mildly useful to necessary.

On top of all this, iPhoto 5.0 now includes an Advanced Editing Dashboard, with a histogram of the image and individual sliders to correct brightness, contrast, saturation, and temperature, allowing you more granular control over your images. You get unlimited undos in case you do something you really regret, and if you accidentally save changes you don't want, click the Photos menu and hit Revert to Original. Finally, Apple added support for RAW images, which, if you have a camera capable of capturing them, preserves all of the image detail recorded by the camera sensor.

iMovie HD
Apple simplified working within iMovie HD, letting you accomplish most operations by dragging and dropping. A new navigation bar lets you click through your content options, so you can easily add DV clips, music, images, and effects.