CNET Editors' review
The bottom line: iLife '11 is a welcome and long-overdue update to Apple's suite of digital media applications. This year's version adds a handful of advanced features to iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand without making them more difficult to use. It's a shame iDVD and iWeb did not receive updates with this year's version, but with a slightly lower price for upgraders than in years past, iLife '11 still represents a good value to consumers looking for a set of tools for editing and sharing media. At $49, and close to two years since the last major update, we can easily recommend picking this up.
Editors' note: The initial version of iLife '11 had given some users problems, specifically with iPhoto '11 library upgrades. Affected users had lost some or all of their photo libraries. The initial version had also shipped without the calendar-making feature in iPhoto. Both of these issues have since been addressed with software updates. Also, iLife '11 contains upgrades of iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand, but not iDVD or iWeb. For the purposes of this review, we're not including those two in this write-up.
Apple iLife '11
Setup and interface
As usual, iLife comes preinstalled on new Mac computers, so if you just bought one of the just-introduced MacBook Airs, you already have the suite. Otherwise, Apple is offering an up-to-date program that lets recent buyers pick up the disc at a discounted price. Installation on our test machine, a recent-model unibody MacBook, took just less than 20 minutes and required no extra attention or restarts after beginning the process.
iLife '11 requires a Mac computer with an Intel processor, 1GB of RAM, Mac OS X 10.6.3 or higher, and 5GB of disc space. In reality, our upgrade required just over 4.2GB. As with previous versions, you can pick which applications you want to install, and which you don't, cutting down on installation time and disc-space use. This year's version cannot be installed on machines running Leopard, so you'll have to upgrade to the latest point release of OS X to put iLife '11 on your machine.
iPhoto continues to live on as Apple's consumer-oriented photo-editing software, second only to Aperture, which shares many of the same features, but is aimed at professional photographers. iPhoto, along with iMovie, GarageBand, iDVD, and iWeb, make up iLife as a suite of software that can be used to manage, edit, and share digital media.
iPhoto '11 hasn't changed much since the '09 version of the suite. Its core user interface remains largely unchanged except for an optional unified full-screen mode (letting you view events, faces, places, and your albums with fewer visual distractions) and more opportunities to share your work via Facebook or e-mail.
Veteran iPhoto users will enjoy iPhoto '11's thoughtful tweaks to the editing tools and the slideshow maker. Editing now gets handled in a sidebar that breaks down tasks into "quick fixes" and "effects," but keeps the "adjust" menu from previous versions. This tabbed interface makes it easy to hop around to different settings--a substantial change from the previous method, which had all of the controls underneath your photo or in small, floating menus. Though the new system takes up more screen real estate than the old one, it makes for less mucking about with menu placement.
The slideshow editor now has twice as many themes as iLife '09's version. The new themes, which include two variations of a 3D-ish hanging mobile, an aged look called Vintage Prints, folding picture origami, and a GPS-friendly theme called Places, all take advantage of Apple's Core Animation technology to bring some smooth-looking effects to your photos.
Out of the bunch, the Places slideshow is one of the most visually interesting additions. The slideshow scours the GPS data in your photos and downloads corresponding map tiles, then places your photos on top of these maps and adds a neat zooming effect as you move from place to place. This is a good way to encourage people to geotag their photos, which is done automatically on some cameras (including the iPhone), but which can also be done after the fact using iPhoto.
iPhoto '11 also gives sharing a healthy boost. Facebook integration, introduced in the previous version of the software, now runs much deeper. Besides allowing you to post a shot to a Facebook album, you can also very quickly post to your wall, make a new album, or make a shot your profile picture. However, you still need to log in to Facebook back on your browser to do things like reply to comments from other users.
Apple has also revamped iPhoto's photo e-mailing tool, which now mimics what you'd find in its iOS mobile software. Now, if you want to e-mail a photo, you compose your message right in the iPhoto software so that you don't have to fire up the standalone Mail application. Included are eight themed templates that automatically arrange any photos you've selected into a message. You're also given the option to simply add these photos as attachments.
In-app e-mailing works with all the same services you get in the standard Mac Mail application, including Windows Live Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and AOL Mail. You can even set up your e-mail account credentials from one of these places from within iPhoto. We can only hope more of Apple's applications adopt this simple addition.
Analog sharing has also been improved with a totally new bookmaking experience. To aid in book creation, Apple now uses its face-finding and photo-rating technology to help pick what photos belong in what parts of a book. For instance, if there's space in a book for a shot that spans two pages, iPhoto will automatically pick a photo that's rated highly and does not have people in it. It also breaks out photos from different days into different sections of the book, which is a small, but nice organizational touch for creating books of long trips.
iPhoto now also lets you print cards through Apple's printing service. These run the gamut from flat and folded photo cards, to the more expensive, but quite pretty, letterpress cards. No matter which version you pick, they can be customized and previewed within iPhoto, and ordered the same way as books. One thing to note here is that you are still limited to printing out your work through Apple, and not through third parties, as you can with plug-ins in Aperture. Though on the plus side, with iPhoto you can export a photo book as a PDF.
iPhoto continues to compete against a handful of competitors, notably Google's Picasa, which is offered up for free on both the Mac and PC, as well as a beta version for Linux users. This year's iPhoto additions arguably give it the edge in continuing to offer a more full-screen photo-viewing experience, and deeper online integration out of the box. That said, Google's integration of Picasa Web albums and the recent addition of Picnik's online photo editing mean you can do a lot more with your photos even when you're away from your computer.
Much like iPhoto, this year's version of iMovie looks a lot like the old one, but with the addition of some extra creative options, the biggest being movie trailer templates. These templates help you create short, thematic videos of friends, much like what you'd see in theaters. Other additions include sound-editing tools, a people finder that does a good job at spotting when people are in your shots, and new effects tools.
Movie trailers now exist alongside project themes, and as with the themes, the trailers provide a quick preview of what your movie will look and sound like with an example provided by Apple. Unlike basic themes, trailers are custom-tailored for a specific number of people based on how many the template has been made for. This runs from one person, all the way to six. You can, of course, go off script without the program chiding you.
Each template breaks down what kinds of clips you need, as well as how many people you need for each shot. A people detector scans your video to see who's in it and figures out how much of a person is in a shot based on how close you are to them, which is very helpful considering some shots are scripted for close-ups, whereas others need something farther out. Just like the image stabilizer, running the people finder tool on your videos can take some time, but if you plan on making movie trailers, it's well worth it.
We found trailers easy to create, as long as you have the right source footage. If you keep in mind that you might want to make a trailer while you're out shooting, you can plan those shots ahead of time. Even so, once iMovie has scanned your footage, you can turn just about anything into a trailer, even if it's slightly off from the storyboard. Expect to see a ton of these on YouTube.
What may end up being a much more well-used feature than movie trailers for most people are the new audio-editing controls, which Apple says was the top user-requested feature. This has been introduced to the program quite gracefully, with a button to toggle them on and off, and an audio waveform that highlights sections that are too loud. Balancing these high levels can be done in one of two ways: either dragging down the main volume for an entire clip, or selecting the segment of the waveform you want to change, and moving the level up and down.
Alongside the audio adjustments are a fun set of 19 audio effects that can be added to just one section of your audio, or the entire movie. These range from the rather mundane of making people sound like they're on a telephone or a shortwave radio, to giving them a robot or alien voice. You can also adjust their pitch up or down, which lends itself well to video high jinks.
This year's iMovie brings with it a few more visual effects and two new themes: one for sports and another for a news event. Much like the movie trailers, the themes include templates that let you add in things like reporter and player names that pop up as onscreen overlays. The new special effects join existing effects and transitions, and offer up instant replays, flash and holds, and jump cuts at music beat markers. This last one is one of the most fun to use, as you can create markers that match up to your background music. This only takes a few seconds to set up, and has a neat end effect. We can easily see the replay feature getting much more use, though, especially for parents who use the sports template, or people making videos of friends and family members wiping out.
When it comes time to export your masterpiece, iMovie provides a handful of new, online options that join YouTube, and MobileMe. These include Facebook, video host Vimeo and CNN's iReporter. All of these require a log-in, which then gives you service-specific options on privacy, export quality, and categorization.
GarageBand remains one of the most creative tools in the iLife suite, and the '11 version follows suit. New to this year's version are features that better teach you how to play, as well as fix any mistakes you might have made when using it as a music editor.
On the learning front, GarageBand has tweaked its lessons system to give you feedback on how well you did. If you're playing along with a song with an attached instrument, it now listens and gives you both real-time and post-song reports. Notes you miss are highlighted in red, and can be relistened to and replayed until you get it. The application also keeps a history of your practice sessions, and it can show you how your accuracy is coming along on any particular lesson.
Apple has also expanded the number of lessons available, and it has changed how you can approach them. Instead of having a system where you play through from the basics to the advanced items, you can pick whatever lesson you want, as long as you've downloaded it from the integrated music store. There are also new lessons available for the piano, which now includes pop and classical lesson packs.
These lessons are free of charge, they just take up disk space and time to download. The celebrity-guided lessons, on the other hand, run $5 a pop and walk you through how to play certain songs directly from the artist. This is no different from the '09 version of the software, with the exception that you can now get a rating of how well you did going through it. We'd definitely like to see more celebrity lessons in the GarageBand store, though, as they bring not just instructional value, but entertainment value, too.
Another neat addition to the learning aids is something called the Chord Trainer, which listens to how you're playing an attached guitar and can tell you whether you're hitting the right chords. It can run through minor and major open and barre chords, and lets you know if you hit it (or not) almost immediately. The chord trainer works hand-in-hand with the built-in guitar-tuning application. Using both of these in tandem, you can fairly easily learn what your fingers should be doing before moving on to the lessons section.
Even if you've had lessons, though, you might have a recording with a mistake or two, which is where GarageBand '11's other new features come into play. Apple has introduced Flex Time and Groove Matching, both of which let you make quick corrections to the timing on your recordings.
Flex Time lets you drag an element of a waveform to move it, or even extend it out. This lets you do things like change when a guitar note is strummed, or take that same strum and stretch it out. In practice this ends up working out well for notes that are reasonably spread apart, but less so for the ones that are close together. Nonetheless, GarageBand does a good job letting you make the adjustment, see how it will affect nearby notes, and letting you take a listen immediately afterward.
The other new feature that works with Flex Time is what Apple is calling Groove Matching. This takes all the tracks and matches them up to their rhythm to whichever one you designate as the groove track. Doing this is as easy as hitting a little star icon on the far left side of any track. You can then listen to the results and go back into any of the other tracks to make adjustments with Flex Time.
Together these two tools represent a remarkable addition to GarageBand's post-processing capabilities, and a new avenue for casual home musicians to take what could be a very rough recording that they may not have the time or resources to rerecord, and turn it into something that sounds quite good.
Though this iteration of iLife may not have the flash of some previous releases, it brings each of the updated applications closer to professional-grade software-editing tools without making them unnecessarily complicated. If you're a frequent iPhoto user who does a lot of sharing, the updated Facebook and e-mail enhancements are must-haves; with iMovie's new movie trailer feature, you can turn scattered bits of vacation footage into something truly compelling that friends and family will want to watch. GarageBand's updates also bring a number of pro quality features to the table, while offering people who have little to no musical training easier ways to learn how to play.
iPhoto 11 has a whole new look, with stunning full screen modes for Faces, Places and Events. iMovie 11 makes it easier than ever to edit videos and quickly transform them into fun theatrical trailers for easy posting online. GarageBand 11 introduces new ways to improve your playing and create great sounding songs with Flex Time and Groove Matching.
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All versions:3.4 stars
out of 86 votes
Current version:2.6 stars
out of 29 votes
My rating:Write review
Version: Apple iLife '11
Can't think of any!
I have Ilife 11 on a MAC PRO Desk Top with 2 Intel processors as well as on a MacBook Pro W/Intel. IPhoto is absolutely useless. It won't even boot up let alone run. I have about 20,000 photos in the IPhoto library both JPEG and TIFF formats.
If you buying this suite for IPhoto, save your money and buy something that works. The other programs of this suite seem to work fine but IPhoto is a joke and not a very funny one. Fortunately I have Aperture and it works.
"Most Buggy Release - Not ready for show time"
Version: Apple iLife '11
Garage Band works very nice. iMovie trailers look clean/impressive, intuitively combines storyboard and timeline view and it now lets you output to 1080p HD video format.The green screen tool works effortlessly. Supports captions.
At the time of this release update 9.02 was released. iPhoto is not ready for release. iMovie only works with Cameras and Video records pre-processed video formatting and nothing else. Cameras supported are very limited.
When I purchased my MacBook Pro, I downgraded my iLife version to 2006 because of its ease of use, lack of bugs an superior editing features over the most recent version I had at the time. Since that time I have helped friends with later upgrades including 2011. For me, since the release of 06, I have not seen an improvement in editing feature or ease of use in the later versions and never bothered to upgrade. For 11, I have never seen an apple release so buggy. Apple support boards are overflowing with angry users particularly with iPhoto. This appears to be more common with Apple releases.
Often when you just click on the already-open iPhoto icon in the dock it freezes again; one to three minutes later iPhoto appears, with all the images that were visible on screen visually corrupted. It's frustrating that a program with so many compelling new features is so buggy for so many users. With the advent of digital photography, we are collecting more and more pictures.
I hope Apple can sort out the issues with iPhoto '11. If you take the plunge and upgrade to iLife '11, make sure you have a good backup of your iPhoto library. It's in your home directory, in the Pictures folder.
iMovie only wants to work with actual content from camcorders and cameras and no other type of pre processed file formatting. I was also disappointed with the limited selection of video-capable digital still cameras that iMovie directly supported.
For Garage Band, it is good and works fine. However, if you aren't a musician, this upgrade will do nothing for you over previous releases.
I'm confident many of these issues will be fixed in an update, but until then I'd advise users to hold off on upgrading, or use caution if they do. Once these upgrades are resolved, I'm willing to get iLife 11 and run and remove the 06 version of iDVD and Garage Band and iWeb to iLife 2011 while letting iPhoto and iMove run independently in 06 and 11. Apple has also been known to inexplicably stop investing in any bug fixes. The internet forums are littered with Apple's key unresolved bug fixes. As a consumer, I just wait for those fixes to be resolved before buying the software. For me, it hasn't been worth waiting for most of those fixes. For 6 months 2011 users are still waiting. For product with a 1 year release cycle and iPhoto not properly handling fundamental issues and limited Cameras/Camcorders waiting for iLife 12 maybe a real option for some.
"Excellent Update to an already great software suite"
Version: Apple iLife '11
I really like the new menu for iPhoto and the Full-Screen mode is a nice touch. I also enjoy editing movies so the audio controls were a much needed addition to iMovie.
I still think they could have updated iDVD and iWeb, but the cheaper price is appreciated.
Now that apple has issued a patch for iPhoto, I can wholeheartedly endorse buying the iLife '11 software suite. If you love pictures like I do or dabble in editing movies then iLife '11 adds some much needed features that will make your job a whole lot easier. Overall a great buy and definitely worth your money.
"Does everything with Photos, Movies, and Garage"
Version: Apple iLife '11
Youtube now can easily Upload 1080p, Facebook pictures can now organize albumns and tags
nothing so far
This is the best ilife I have up to date! :)
"iPhoto email process ridiculous"
Version: Apple iLife '11
Like Faces, Places, Events in iPhoto
Email photos is absurd, no fullscreen in spite of claims.
Emailing photos, a once simple process, is now absurd. You are limited to using the provided (horrible) templates, you have to email from within iPhoto unless you drag and drop to email, use email photo browser or set up an iPhoto service yourself. You can only email using one of your email adresses (we all have many for specific purposes), iPhoto hangs while it emails (you can't use iPhoto until mail is sent) and it's buggy. It sends 2 photos for me - 1 full size and one smaller (same issue for a friend). You can't determine the size of the photo you want to send. Full screen is not full screen - you get thumb nail images at the bottom of the screen, permanently, The thumb nails don't behave like the dock - disappear and reappear when the mouse pointer enters the appropriate region. Not worth the 'upgrade' - any improvements (?) are more than negated by the losses from the previous version. iPhoto is not a mail client. Why make it one. Apple should make this software available on a trial basis and include a proper uninstaller. In the early days of OS X iPhoto 'upgrades' were free. Why isn't it still? If iPhoto is what you're after in the iLife upgrade I'd strongly advise against buying it.
"Apple Software iLife11 Problems"
Version: Apple iLife '11
none so far as new iLife 11 disc won't let me upgrade
Don't know how else to rate iLife11 since I can't upgrade, "Upgrade can't be completed, contact Software Manufacturer". Looking at some of the reviews, this may be a good thing. I am back in the Apple Store tomorrow to get my money back!
I am just surprised experiencing a software update that doesn't work coming from Apple. Hey Apple, that's why we buy your stuff because it always works!
"Photo Editing Options Reduced"
Version: Apple iLife '11
Not sure what to say here---it comes as free software on my very expensive Macs.
Apple continues to reduce the effectiveness of the "adjustment" features with each new version of iPhoto. This basically makes the program a non-tool, useful for little more than cataloguing and storage.
In earlier versions, one had the capacity to "play" with photos: with infinite capacities for sharpening, contrast, and the ability to switch the light and dark sliders, etc. It used to be possible to get really creative, in addition to correcting some very serious picture-taking flaws and mistakes. Each new iPhoto update has reduced user capacity for this, however.
When a user closes a picture after making changes--as one would with any other document--the next time the picture is opened one would expect to find all the adjuster tabs back at their neutral positions. This was the case with the older versions, and this is what made infinite adjustments possible, ie: bringing the sharpness up to the maximum, saving the change, closing the photo, re-opening it, and finding the sharpness adjuster back at neutral......so that the photo can be made even sharper. In previous versions it was possible to repeat this process several times until the user (not the computer) was satisfied. This is no longer the case. Every time one re-opens a photo, all of the editing tabs are in the positions in which they were left, thus limiting (within a very small range) user choices regarding editing and adjustments.
Whoever's idea this was back in iPhoto 04 (I think), it was a rotten idea back then. And it hasn't gotten any better since.
"iPhoto: Visual Niceties, Functional Misses"
Version: Apple iLife '11
Speed of Application, Expanded Slideshow Options
E-mail functionality (ugh), Limited Preference Controls, Photo Titling, Buggy
My wife and I use iPhoto to store and share our photos. Key to this -- and to my wife's hesitant conversion from PC to Mac 4 years ago -- is ease of sharing photos via e-mail. iPhoto '11 sorely misses the mark on e-mailing. With it, the user has no choice but to use Apple's predesigned email layouts. In these layouts, photos are small, there is limited space to add general message text and captioning is not possible. Ugh. The workaround is dragging photos out of iPhoto and into Mail, which is completely do-able, but why not let users set a preference to use either Mail or iPhoto templates to issue email with photos included? Second, titling photos is wonky at present. The titles do not appear to have been saved upon re-opening iPhoto later. And the titles do not carry over into Mail via drag-and-drop. Ugh. Finally, I'll point out that "full screen" is not exactly full screen. The iPhoto application expands to full screen, meaning that yes, your photo is now quite large but it also has a border around it with little menu icons and browsing thumbnails on it. If you really want to show a photo well, this detracts. Perhaps it could have been made to auto-disappear (like controls do when in Slideshow mode)?
But iPhoto '11 is a prettier application, made to be more 'consumer attractive.' In its functional execution though, it appears to be less than fully user tested and may be looking to create a very sharp line between who use iPhoto and who uses Aperture (or PhotoShop).
"LOVE IT..easy to use and download was perfect"
Version: Apple iLife '11
Love the email and facebook interface...fast and easy
Iphoto templates do not allow for adding text with the photos
Easy....easy! Awesome email and facebook interfaces. Love the books and cards but would highly recommend fixing the issue with adding text to iphoto.
"Don't buy this update!!"
Version: Apple iLife '11
Full screen little more
Potential Lose of All your photos
Editing tools are separated and to crop and edit you must first open up quick fixes to crop and then open advanced editing and then if you want to retouch you have to close advanced editing and go back to quick fix.
I've had two friends who lost all their photos after they installed and opened iPhoto and updated their photo library. After you install iLife do not open it but open software updates and install the update, then open iPhoto and update your library but make sure it finishes before doing anything else. DO NOT Force Quit iPhoto. Better yet: DO NOT BUY iLIFE 11 IT'S NOT WORTH THE MONEY.