Alongside all the new features found in Mac OS X Yosemite, Apple promised us a brand-new app for OS X called Photos. Photos for OS X will provide all the features of Photos for iOS, which arrived with iOS 8 last September, to Mac users. Now Photos for Mac is available - as part of the latest update to Mac OS X.

The most recent version of Yosemite, includes Photos for Mac. With the Photos update come powerful editing tools that are simple to use as well as the ability to sync all your images to iCloud. But some will no doubt be concerned about how they will move from iPhoto to Photos, and whether they should. In this Q&A we seek to answer all those questions.

In this article we've been seeking to answer all your questions about Photos for Mac and specifically how to get your iPhoto library ready to import into the new software.

Also read: How to set up Photos for OS X, tips for using Photos for Mac | Yosemite tips for beginners and Yosemite tips for pros | And here's what's coming in the next version of OS X...

How to install Photos for Mac

Photos for Mac OS X is available now. If you update Yosemite to OS X 10.10.3 of later, Photos will arrive on your Mac. You may also want to know how to uninstall Photos for Mac.

Photos for Mac OS X Specs: Will my Mac run Photos for Mac?

Photos for Mac requires Yosemite so the spec requirements will be the same.

The following Macs are able to run Yosemite:

  • iMac (Mid-2007 or newer)
  • MacBook (Late 2008 Aluminum, or Early 2009 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid/Late 2007 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer)
  • Mac mini (Early 2009 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer)
  • Xserve (Early 2009)

The Mac version of Photos will be almost identical to the iPhoto and iPad version.

How can I prepare my iPhoto library for Photos for OS X

When you get your hands on Photos for OS X, which we think will be released to the general public during Apple’s Spring Forward Apple Watch event tonight, you’ll be asked if you’d like to import your iPhoto library.

We advise that you clear out any duplications and poor photos in your iPhoto library before switching to Photos. It’s a good ideas to clear any clutter from your photo library – especially if your library is particularly large. Do some spring cleaning. Here are our tips:

- If you have managed to import lots of duplicates, you could try Propaganda Software’s $8 Duplicate Annihilator for iPhoto.

- Remove any thumbnail images by searching for 240 – this will pull up any 240 by 180 thumbnail images that may have been created in iPhotos past. But make sure you don’t delete any 2400 pixel images while you are at it.

- If you take a lot of screen shots on your iPhone, or random images that you don’t intend to keep, search for the images taken with your current iPhone (or any iPhone, or for that matter iPad, you have ever owned).

- You can refine your search for dud photos further if you create a Smart Album. Choose File > New Smart Album and as well as searching for the camera model, you can search for other information such as ISO. This way if you wanted to find images you’d taken in low light you could search for ISO greater than 1250 and weed out the worst of your low light photos. Having identified these images the issue is that you can’t just delete the images in a Smart Album because doing so won’t delete the original image. In this case we recommend giving them 1 star so that you can then search for 1 star images and delete them.

Read next: Best Photos for Mac software plugins & extensions

What do you do if you have multiple libraries?

If over the years you have accumulated more than one iPhoto library, whether to avoid slow downs, or because you have had to archive photos as you ran out of space you may be wondering if you will be able to combine your photo libraries in Photos.

Unfortunately it doesn’t appear to be possible. If you have multiple iPhoto libraries, you hold down the Option/Alt key while launching Photos and then, in the Choose Library window that appears, select which library to use. Unfortunately you can’t import them all this way.

However there are apps you can use that will help you combine your iPhoto library before you import it to the Photos app. Our colleagues at Macworld US recommend Cat Software’s $30 iPhoto Library Manager which costs $30 (£19.50).

Do I have to import all my iPhoto images to Photos?

That appears to be the case, but if you don’t want the whole of your gigantic library to sync to iCloud (which will cost you) then we suggest you create a default library that will sync, and a second library for images you don’t want to sync.

If you have two libraries and want to switch between the two, close Photos, and when you restart the app hold down the Option/Alt key and select the album you want.

What happens to the photos in my iPhoto library when I import them to Photos?

When you ‘import’ you photos into the new Photos app, this won’t cause them to be duplicated. Photos will simply work with those images that are already stored on your Mac.

Should I delete my iPhoto library after importing into Photos?

When testers downloaded the beta version of Photos it appeared that the iPhoto library was duplicated, with a separate, identically sized, iPhoto library and Photos library. Even the Finder indicated that the new Photos library was taking even more space than the iPhoto library. Except it isn’t.

Both libraries are pulling images from the same location so you can edit them in the app. The images aren’t really in that file.

If you are worried that deleting your iPhoto library will leave you with no images, fear not. When we imported an iPhoto library into Photos, and then deleted the iPhoto library the images remained in the Photos library.

Read: How to use iCloud Photo sharing and iCloud Photo Library | Best Mac photo editing softwareTips for setting up and using Photos for Mac |Set Photo Stream up on your Apple devices |Photos for Mac review

Do I have enough space to import my photos into Photo?

If your iPhoto library is getting on for 30GB you might be wondering if you will need more than 30GB of space to safely import it into Photos. Luckily not: you will not be duplicating your images, just directing Photos to the library on your Mac where the photos you wish to sync exist.

Will Photos maintain my album structure?

If you have organized your photo libraries in a particular way, you may be concerned that when you import your photos into Photos they will sort themselves into date order. Perhaps, for example, you have scanned in, or imported old photos and want them to be dated according to when they were first taken, rather than when you added them to your library. Will Photos respect your filing system?

Photos folder structure is slightly different to iPhoto. Rather than filtering your photos into Events, your photos will appear in Albums. When you import your library all your images will appear in an iPhoto Events album in date order. Luckily you can batch change dates. Select the image and choose Image > Adjust Date and Time.

Will Photos import my Events from iPhoto?

When you import your iPhoto library you will see an iPhoto Events album in Albums. Inside this album you will find your Events listed by date. 

Will Photos maintain my star rankings

Photos lacks the 0 – 5 Star rating system, only letting you make an image a favourite. However, that doesn’t mean you will lose the star ratings you’ve added to iPhoto – Photos turns them into keywords. To find your 5 Star photos pop 5 Star into the Photos’ Search field.

How can I rank my images?

You can add images to Favourites, but you can’t give them star ratings anymore. However, you can also add keywords to the image - including typing a star rating into the metadata if you are keen to maintain star ratings system used in iPhoto.

How do I import new images to Photos for Mac?

When you plug in your camera or memory stick you’ll see an Import button, just like in iPhoto. If you have more than one device plugged in you will be able to chose which one to import from.

Can I apply geotags?

When you import image that have been geotagged (by your camera or manually) those tags will be respected. In Photos they will appear in the image’s Info window along with an accompanying map. Photos will still recognize geotags that are assigned to new images by your camera, however, it appears that you can no longer manually assign geotags to images.

Can I use AppleScripts with Photos?

You will be able to use scripts with Photos, but the scripting dictionary isn’t quite as robust as iPhotos, and many iPhoto scripts will not work. There appears to be no support for Photos in Automator (but that may change). 

Are there any Photos plug-ins available?

Apple has said that Photos will be open to third-party extensions, but as yet we have seen none. We hope that some third parties will be able to address the lack of professional features in Photos for Mac.

Will Photos for Mac recall faces I have previously identified?

Faces metadata will also transfer over from iPhoto. When you import your Aperture (and iPhoto) library Photos will also import your face identification information and you will be able to select Faces and see the faces you have already tagged.

Will I still be able to use iPhoto?

If you like, you can still launch iPhoto and work with your images there - with the understanding that any edits you apply will appear only within the app you used to apply them.

Are all the editing features of iPhoto in Photos?

Advanced image editors such as Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom, and Aperture let you perform a Levels adjustment to Raw images. You could do the same thing in iPhoto using the Adjust panel’s histogram. Unfortunately there is no equivalent in Photos.

Will Aperture ever be replaced?

Photos is not an Aperture replacement. It doesn’t offer Aperture’s organizational powers, brushes, versions, and so on.

What it does offer is a number of photo editing features for free. If you want an app that offers more you will have to pay for it.

Will my photos have to be stored in iCloud?

You can choose to store your images in the cloud, or you can choose to store them locally. You don’t have to use iCloud.

How can I sync just some of my Photos with iCloud

If you want to store your photos in the cloud via Photos iCloud Photo Library we recommend that you remove duplicates and the worst images, especially if your library is on the large side.

You get 5GB of free storage and we doubt that your photo library is that small, so it is likely that you will be looking at buying more storage from Apple.

Only the default System Photo Library will sync with iCloud, so you can choose just to sync some of your photos to the cloud by limiting the image that appear in that library.

What is Photos for Mac OS X and how do I use it?

Photos is a new app for Mac OS X designed by Apple. It is designed to replace iPhoto, currently the primary way for most people to view and edit images on a Mac. (The arrival of Photos for Mac will also see the demise of Aperture, but Photos is not a replacement for that professional level application).

Photos for OS X looks similar to the iOS edition, but has also inherited some design elements from Yosemite.

As with Photos for iOS, in Photos for Mac you’ll see your photos and video in the Years, Collections and Moments views.

If you click on the Years view you will see tiny images of all the photos you took that year. Tap on a thumbnail to zoom in on that image. As in iOS 8 if you tap and drag around your Years folder and slightly larger versions of individual images will pop up so you can locate the one you are looking for. It’s similar to iPhoto’s Events view.

The next level down is the Moments view, which will show you all your images taken at a particular event, says your friend’s birthday party.

You can also locate images taken at a particular location by clicking on the place name that appears in the top-left of the window, this will take you to a map with thumbnails of the images you have taken at that location over the years.

Other Mac viewing options include Photos, Shared, Albums, and Projects.

After enabling iCloud Photo Sharing you will see the photo streams you are sharing, or have access to, under Shared.

If you click Albums you will see all the albums you have created and some that are preconfigured. Albums include: All Photos, Faces, Last Import, Favourites, Panoramas, Vides, Slow-mo, Time-lapse and Bursts, just like in iOS. Doubleclick on the album to see what’s inside.

Projects are essentially slideshows, books, cards and calendars. These have been tweaked and improved compared to iPhoto (and Aperture). For example, the book creation tool is more streamlined, and there is a new Square book format as well as a couple of new book themes.

Slideshows can be configured from a drop-down window and also gain a few new themes. You can still export slideshows as movies.

You’ll also find a new option for printing panorama images and an option for ordering square prints. 

How to video images in Photos for Mac OS X

The software offers a number of options for viewing, managing and sharing your photos. These include:

- Double-click on the thumbnail of an image to view it full-sized.

- Mark an image as a favourite by clicking the favourite button in the tool bar.

- Click the Plus button to add an image to an album, smart album, or project.

- Click on the Share icon to send that image to iCloud Photo Sharing, Mail, Messages, AirDrop, Twitter, or Facebook.

- Press Command-I to see the Info window. You will be able to see information about the image including: (some) EXIF data, the location (if it was geotagged), keywords, and face ID.

How to edit images in Photos for Mac OS X

Photos editing tools are similar to those in the iOS version. Click Edit to access a list of tools including: Enhance, Rotate, Crop, Filters, Adjust and Retouch.

- Enhance will applies the changes most likely to improve the photograph.

- Rotate rotates the image in 90-degree increments.

- There are eight filters in Filters: Mono, Tonal, Noir, Fade, Chrome, Process, Transfer, and Instant.

- With Retouch you will be able to remove spots and blemishes.

- Crop features a wheel similar to the one in Photos for iOS. This wheal includes a tool for straightening the image (as well as an Auto button that will straighten the image automatically, according to the horizon). You can also choose the aspect ratio for your crop, as in iOS Photos. 

- The adjustments available in Photos for Mac are also similar to those in Photos for iOS. Adjustment options include Light, Colour and Black & White and these are controlled via smart sliders. For example, if your image is too dark you can click on the Light tool and drag the slider to the right to lighten the image. The changes are much more in-depth than many will realize, Apple isn’t simply changing the light levels, but also exposure, highlights, shadows, brightness, contrast, and black point. Photos calculates the best look for the overall image. This simplifies the way you edit photos, but maintains fine-tuning behind the scenes.

If you are thinking that this means you can no longer fine-tune images as you used to, you are wrong. Just click on the downward pointing triangle next to each control to see a series of other controls including Exposure, Highlights, Shadows, Brightness, Contrast, and Black Point. You can tweak until you are happy with your image.

There are even more editing options available if you click on the Add button in the edit area. Here you will find Histogram, Sharpen, Definition, Noise Reduction, Vignette, White Balance, and Levels.

When you edit images this way you aren’t actually changing the original image in any way, images are stored in their original format and resolution - including raw images. The Photos app just shows that image with your changes applied. 

You can find more detail about using Photos for Mac below.

Photos for Mac OS X and iCloud Photo Library

The key advantage of Photos will be its close integration with iCloud, and in particular Apple's new iCloud Photo Library service.

iCloud Photo Library is currently in beta form on iOS devices (you can find it under Settings > iCloud Photos). It will store all the photos and movies taken on all your iOS devices, and eventually any images you import to your Mac, on Apple's iCloud servers. You will then be able to view your iCloud Photo Library on all your devices.

You will likely need to add more iCloud storage if you want to be able to view all your photos on all of your devices. You can read more about iCloud here. The iCloud pricing options are as follows:

  • 20GB (79p per month)
  • 200GB (£2.99 per month)
  • 500GB (£6.99 per month)
  • 1 TB  (£14.99 per month)

Don’t worry, if you don’t want to host your photo library in the cloud you don’t have to, you will still be able to store your images in a folder on your Mac (or on a separate storage device).

You can also choose to store images both in the cloud and on your Mac - just enable the Download Original To This Mac option, within Photos’ iCloud preference.

The benefit of hosing your images in the cloud is that any change to an image made on any device will appear on all your devices. 

If you import a lot of Raw image you may not want to store them in the cloud as they will be huge!

Currently, there's no way to access iCloud Photo Library images in Mac OS X, which is why you should be careful before switching it on using iOS. This is the primary feature that Photos will introduce. Once Apple has Photos for OS X ready we expect it to take iCloud Photo Library out of its beta status and sync up all our images across all our devices.

There's more information about using Photos for Mac here.