Apple iPhoto '11 v9.5 for Mac review

Apple VP Eddie Cue said that the new iWork and iLife suites represented the ‘biggest updates ever’. But out of all Apple’s key apps the Mac version of iPhoto seems to have gotten the short straw, with few new features for either editing or organizing your photos.

Even so, iPhoto 11 v.9.5 is still a worthwhile upgrade. Apart from anything else it’s free as long as you already own iPhoto v 9.0 or later – although you do need Mavericks (v10.9) in order to install on your Mac. Read more Apple software reviews.

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Your shared Photo Streams can now include videos too.

The most significant change is the fact that iPhoto now fully supports 64-bit processors, just as iMovie and GarageBand do. That might sound like an obscure technical detail, but we did notice a definite improvement in performance when we installed the new iPhoto on our MacBook Air. Scrolling through our photo library was definitely smoother and faster than with the previous version of iPhoto. We also noticed a similar improvement when using the Places display, which allowed us to zoom in and out of maps very quickly and smoothly.

The Places option has changed in other ways too, as it now draws its map information directly from Apple’s own Maps app rather than Google Maps. In practice, though, this doesn’t really make much difference – you still get three viewing options, with a standard graphical map, a satellite camera view and a hybrid view that superimposes details such as street names on top of the satellite view.

There are no major new editing tools in iPhoto 9.5, but Apple has improved the Photo Stream options that are available for sharing your photos – albeit in a rather confusing manner. The old Photo Stream icon in the Library panel has now been replaced by an iCloud icon instead. Clicking on this allows you to create and share additional Photo Streams with other people as before, but you can now add videos to your shared Photo Streams, and also allow others to add their own photos and videos to the shared Photo Streams too.

This is where things get a bit confusing, though. The main ‘My Photo Stream’ that shares photos across all your devices is still limited to just photos – which, admittedly, makes sense as automatically uploading all your videos into iCloud and downloading them onto multiple devices would take a long time and seriously clog up Apple’s iCloud servers.

New 64-bit support provides improved performance when browsing through your photo library.

However, the additional shared Photo Streams that you can create allow you to be more selective and to share specific photos and videos. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t clearly spell out the differences between My Photo Stream and your additional shared Photo Streams – especially when it comes to sharing videos. There are numerous discussions on Apple’s support forums with questions from users who are confused about sharing videos, and it took me an afternoon of experimenting to really figure out how to share videos properly. The video sharing option is also only available to Macs and iOS devices running the latest versions of iPhoto with Mavericks and iOS 7, so friends who haven’t upgraded both their apps and their operating systems won’t be able to share videos.

Another problem here is that Photo Stream is presented in a rather inconsistent fashion across Macs and iOS devices. This means that I’m never quite sure how a change that I make on one device will affect the Photo Stream on any of my other devices. I also still find that Photo Stream sometimes has a mind of its own – I’ll delete a photo from one device only to find it still sitting happily on another. And on one occasion I attempted to import an old photo from a memory card and add it to My Photo Stream, only to find a completely different photo appearing in the Photo Stream instead.

There are few other major changes in iPhoto 9.5. The old Create menu has vanished, but the options for creating and ordering professionally printed photo albums and calendars have simply been moved across to the Share menu located in the lower right corner of the iPhoto window.

The Share menu also includes a new Print command, and Apple says that it has redesigned iPhoto’s ‘local printing’ features to make it easier to print your own photos at home. It’s easier to select multiple photos and print them on a single page, as iPhoto now displays previews of several different page layouts that you can choose from. You can also quickly crop photos from within these previews simply by clicking on the photos. Some previews also allow you to adjust various settings, such as the aspect ratio or size of a particular photo. Oddly, though, other options, such as the ability to change the border or background colour have been removed.

OUR VERDICT

The improved performance alone is enough to make this upgrade worth having. However, the iCloud and Photo Stream features can be a bit confusing at times, and may deter some people from using them. Even so, iPhoto remains the quickest and easiest way of organising your photo collection on your Mac.

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