Monday, September 24, 2007

iLife 08: iMoan but iLike it really

I'm a bit disappointed that iPhoto 8's implementation of albums is still still so inferior to iTunes playlists. In an application designed to manage large photo collections with simple rules it's unfortunate that the implementation doesn't allow chaining rules together to query your data with and/or/either.

In order to do this, you need to be able to reference one "smart album" (a photo album based on a rule or rules) when defining another, and you can't: the operation of creating a smart album is not closed.

iTunes allows this. Say you want all music that's been added to the library in the last six months and is either disco or funk. Easy: create a smart playlist that has genre=disco or genre=funk by using "Match any condition", and another smart playlist where the playlist is the one you just created and the date added is in the last six months.

Not a very real query, but the best I could think of. In iPhoto, I specifically wanted to create a query where the (keyword=Daisy or the keyword=James) and it's been added in the last year. This is to create a playlist that I can then send to iDVD to make a slideshow from with some nice music on to send to my mum. But, it can't be done: I can create the first two options easily enough in a smart album using "Any" with the two keywords, but I can't chain that to another album to restrict by the date.

It's easy to hack around this manually by creating static albums, filtering photos by keyword and dragging them to the album, until you get to a state where you can use a smart album to get the final set you want, but this is annoying because it doesn't update as new photos are added and needs to be redone every time.

Oh, there's another thing you can do in iTunes that would be very handy in iPhoto - you can context-click a track in a playlist and choose to open the track in any other playlists it is a member of, or in the default music collection. I was using an "Untagged" smart album and it would have been very handy to be able to jump to the photo within it's event or in the main photo list even.

Still, I like iPhoto's implementation of Events a lot. I got the new version in the middle of tagging 8,000 photos - I was accused of taking more photos of our eldest child than the younger, and there was only one way to find out. So as well as having 4,000 photos to tag I had 8,000 photos to put in events as well.. It took me a little while to adjust my workflow to the new keyword interface, and I usually have the keyword window over the album list which isn't the perfect usability. I have my events as months, so I don't have too many but they don't have too many in, but I like being able to have special events - holidays, birthdays - in their own events. It would be nice to be able to autosplit events monthly: I tend to take a few pictures a few times a week rather than a lot in one day. One thing I found annoying was that I would open an event I wanted to split into separate months, split it, then return to All Events. Usually then I would want to merge the split events into existing months, but iPhoto has automatically selected all the albums you have created already, and if you're not careful to deselect those before clicking on the one you want to merge, you can end out re-merging all the photos you've just split with some others!

Incidentally, when you delete the current photo in a smart album, if you then try and use the arrow key to navigate, at least under some circumstances you get summarily dumped to the top of the list. Annoying, but at least you can delete from within a smart album now. I deleted 1,200 out of focus photos as part of the tagging project, so it happened to me a fair few times.