Perhaps the only safe prediction for pre-Macworld Expo soothsayers, Apple has released iLife '06 - and it's a significant upgrade.

The suite features iWeb - a brand-new application for building complex websites with all the rich media held in iLife. iWeb will also publish to .Mac in a single click.

iWeb will create webpages, online photo albums, blogs and Podcasts using Apple-designed templates. Powerful editing tools make it easy to customise websites without having to know HTML.

New features across the rest of the package include an impressive performance boost for iPhoto 6, which now offers new high-quality printed books, calendars and cards, and Apple's innovative new Photocasting feature, for sharing photos over the Internet.

iMovie HD 6 introduces new motion themes; iDVD 6 will author custom DVDs for widescreen TVs; and, perhaps most significantly, GarageBand 3 now ships with Podcast-authoring built-in.

"This is the most exciting iLife upgrade ever," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. "Apple pioneered applications to serve our emerging digital lifestyle and then consolidated them into the iLife suite. With this major upgrade to iLife, we're leaping even further ahead of anything available for the PC."

iPhoto 6, for example, extends the data limit for images held in the application from a respectable 25,000 images to an over-arching 250,000 pictures.

It also introduces Photocasting, a way to share photos directly from within iPhoto via .Mac with friends and family. Photocasting is like Podcasting for photos - anyone can subscribe to a published photo album and automatically receive full quality photos when that album is updated, or constituent images edited or changed.

Editing gets a boost with Apple's new full-screen edit and compare mode without menus or windows to distract from the image. Up to eight photos can be compared simultaneously and adjusted with a one-click image enhancements and effects panel. Professional-quality books, calendars and greeting cards can be made in seconds using Apple-designed themes.

iMovie HD 6 introduces revolutionary new Apple-designed motion themes. Effects can also be previewed without waiting using new real-time Core Video effects, while cinematic titling gives users the flexibility to create impressive text effects. New audio enhancement tools and sound effects are available.

In a major move to meet demand, iMovie users can open multiple projects at a time. iMovie HD will also make a video Podcast which can be published with iWeb.

iDVD 6 allows users to take content shot with the latest HDV and widescreen DV cameras and author custom DVDs with widescreen menus, movies and high-resolution slideshows. It features 10 new themes in both widescreen (16:9) and standard (4:3) formats. iDVD 6 themes include new autofill drop zones.

Apple has also created a small opening for other businesses - iDVD 6 can burn to compatible third-party DVD burners.

Like Magic iMovie, Magic iDVD lets users select a theme and choose their movies and photos, Magic iDVD then automatically creates a complete DVD that's ready to burn.

GarageBand 3 is a Podcast machine. Voices can be recorded and Podcasts enhanced with radio-style sound effects, jingles, chapter artwork and URL links. Users can import audio recordings from iChat AV directly into GarageBand 3.

iLife '06 is available now, it costs £55 (including VAT). iTunes version 6.0.2 is currently available as a free download.

iLife '06 requires Mac OS X version 10.3.9 or version 10.4.3 or later (Mac OS X version 10.4.4 recommended), a Mac with a PowerPC G4, PowerPC G5, or Intel Core processor (733MHz or faster for iDVD), 256MB RAM (512MB recommended), iTunes 6.0.2 and QuickTime 7.0.4 (included), a DVD drive for installation, and 10GB of disk space.  HD video requires a 1GHz G4 or faster processor and 512MB of RAM.