For the same £55/$79 as last year’s product, Apple has strengthened the Web focus of its iLife ’06 creativity suite, with new multimedia-sharing features just shy of full-fledged social networking, podcast-creation capabilities for GarageBand 2, and brand-new iWeb, a Web page design application.
The media-sharing features are most pronounced in iPhoto 6 and GarageBand 2. The former gains a performance boost; a higher limit of 250,000 photos; full-screen photo editing; one-click effects; and improved book, calendar, and Shutterfly-like card publishing. In addition, the new version includes “photocasting,” which Apple calls “podcasting for photos.” With iPhoto 6, you can invite friends to subscribe to a photo album; each time you update it, all subscribers are notified, and if they have iPhoto 6, their copy of the album is automatically updated. You can also subscribe using any RSS-compatible browser or RSS reader.
GarageBand 2 includes features such as automatic ducking, voice recording and the ability to record interviews over iChat; all this can be compiled into a podcast with one click.
iWeb, the new Web page creation application, lets you build template-based sites by dragging and dropping images and selecting and entering text–no HTML experience required. This Web design application also gives you access to all your iLife media so that you can also easily integrate podcasts and iTunes playlists, as well as create blog entries.
New to iMovie HD 6 are animated themes, real-time effects and titles, new audio tools and sound effects, one-click export, and the ability to open multiple projects at once. Similarly, iDVD 6 gets new themes, improved slide shows, and the ability to make wide-screen DVDs.
Upside: For those who want to show their lives online, Apple’s overall integration of apps makes iLife ’06 perhaps the simplest and most powerful solution for creating, managing, and presenting multimedia over the Internet. And though Apple strongly recommends its .Mac service (which costs an annual fee) for hosting iWeb sites, you can upload them to other remote servers. Though other improvements are less flashy, regular iLife users will certainly appreciate the iPhoto speed and library-size improvements, as well as the visual boost iDVD 6 and iMovie 6 get from animated menus.
Downside: Depending on your point of view, the £55/$79 is either a bargain or a robbery. On the one hand, the ’06 package includes the new application iWeb and strong revamps of iPhoto, iDVD, iMovie, and GarageBand; on the other, there is no upgrade path for owners of previous versions, meaning that users virtually end up paying a subscription fee to keep their apps current. If you have little desire to share your creations with others, then new creation tools alone have to justify the $79 price. For experienced Web developers, iWeb will not be a viable solution. If you’re on a budget, iPhoto’s new book, calendar, and card features (which all cost to order) could be tempting enough to break the bank–consider yourself forewarned.
Outlook: Though it seems an odd choice for filling that role, GarageBand 2 could take the podcasting world by storm. If you’re already hooked on the Internet, or you want to be, iLife ’06 gives you the tools you’ll need in one convenient package. And it’s great that iLife ’06 ships with both Intel- and PowerPC-native versions, so it will run at the best speed whether your Mac is new or old.
Review from CNET.