First look: Apple iLife '11

Apple turns its attention to the Mac OS today, launching a new suite of multimedia editing tools in the form of iLife '11.

Editors' note: We will continue to update this article as new information becomes available from Apple.

Today in Cupertino, Calif., Apple announced a major update to its multimedia management suite. The hope for iLife '11 is that it will provide a compelling reason for customers to choose Apple computers over hardware running Windows during the upcoming holiday buying season. Current Mac users can upgrade to the new iLife for $49 starting today.

iPhoto '11: The first feature for iPhoto mentioned this morning is the enhancement for full-screen modes, showing not only photos and editing possibilities, but also the ability to scroll through albums. Full-screen modes really immerse you in your photos, and have become a much desired component for many programs, including Web browsing as shown in the new "Reader" feature in Safari as well as document-composing in Word and Pages, along with e-book readers.

In addition to full-screen features, iPhoto is now more integrated with online services such as Facebook and Flickr, and will dynamically grab photos from these online accounts to show in iPhoto albums and galleries. Oddly, there was no mention of MobileMe support, but we can expect that MobileMe members will be able to access their galleries in iPhoto at least the same way as they currently do.

For those who miss Apple's iCards, the new iPhoto will have options to print photos on letterpress cards. It's not really an iCards replacement, but gives a real card people can hold in their hands, which from some perspectives is preferable.

The last new feature of iPhoto is a major enhancement to photo book creation. The books are a lot more customizable, and can be quickly formed and populated from any album. As expected with an update, there are also new themes and options for customizing layouts implemented into this feature.

iMovie '11: Apple's main goal with the latest version of iMovie is to make it even easier to use than before. For one, the app will offer news and sports themes. Also, the audio-editing bar is now highlighted to make it stand out more in project mode. Changes to the audio fade-in are visible as you edit, and there are also new audio effects, such as robot and Darth Vader. Additionally, the program offers automatic titling, which will add text such as "instant replay" to specifically selected scenes.

Perhaps the most exciting update is the ability to create movie trailers. This feature offers various templates with titles, fade-ins, effects, sounds, and so on. You can add your own titles, cast, credits, and even a studio name to your videos. Apple has even included original scores from the London Symphony Orchestra that you can add to your trailer.

iMovie has added some additional export options: Vimeo, Facebook, and CNN's iReport. Also, the face detection feature from iPhoto now works in this app.

Garageband '11: It appears that the new Garageband is getting more pro-level tools along the lines of Apple Logic. For instance, you can take tracks that play at different speeds and sync them with a feature called GrooveMatching. To activate this feature, hover your mouse tracks until a star appears, then select the "groove" track. The rhythm of that track is then applied to every other instrument in the song. Supposedly, the technology ensures the songs don't end up sounding robotic.

Garageband also includes a music lesson feature for learning to play the guitar or piano. Some lesson styles are already included, but more will be available to purchase separately. When you miss notes, the program indicates your error in red; bad timing is marked with yellow, and at the end, you get an overall score for your performance.

Looks like there's no new news on the iWeb and iDVD aspects of iLife.