iLife 2010

It's that time of year again: time to start thinking about what fancy new features Apple will add to the iLife and iWork application suites. The last updates to iLife and iWork brought some pretty good features — Faces and Places in iPhoto, video stabilisation in iMovie, lessons in GarageBand, the ability to upload to FTP servers within iWeb and some nice enhancements to Pages, Keynote and Numbers.

I was most impressed by the feature set of iPhoto. I actually wrote to Apple back in 2008 and asked for better geotagged photo support, I also predicted that face recognition would be added to iPhoto weeks before the Macworld Expo Keynote. I got exactly what I wanted from iPhoto '09, so I was very happy with the update.

This makes me wonder, what could Apple add to the iLife and iWork suites to improve them? Or more to the point, what new features do I want in the next iLife and iWork update?

Well, as usual, most of the things on my feature wish-list pertain to iPhoto. iPhoto is the only application from either iLife or iWork that I use on a regular basis. I've played around with iMovie, I'm not sure if I've ever opened GarageBand, I'm not in school anymore so I don't need Pages, Keynote or Numbers and I used to use iWeb but I now use Blogger instead.

I would like to see iPhoto improved in the following ways: an overhaul to Places; the ability to identify duplicate photos; a built-in backup scheme; the ability to split and merge entire libraries; and more progress bars.

Wait — Places? Overhauled already? What's wrong with Places?

In Places, there are two ways of viewing photos: in the location browser and on the map. I would love to see those two views together in the form of a three-way split screen system. It's a little hard to describe so here's a mock-up:

Places interface mock-up

Here we have the photos and their locations together in the one interface. Clicking on a photo will highlight its marker on the map. Likewise, clicking a marker will highlight its photo. Clicking an area in the location browser will zoom to that area on the map and show all the photos from that area. I think this would enhance Places and make it much more than just a bunch of pins on a map. To see both the photos and their locations all at once would be brilliant.

[This looks rather like the hybrid view available in Bento 3, so I wouldn't be surprised to see it implemented in iPhoto. — MJCP]

You may have noticed that I've added the standard Google Maps navigation and layer selection tools in this mock up. I don't like the way Apple has used its own controls for Places, I would prefer to use Google's controls on Google's map. It's just more consistent.

Another area of Places that needs a look at is the geotagging. At the moment the process is rather clumsy — you have to click the little "i" in the corner of the photo, select "photo place," select "find on map," search for the location and then click "Assign to photo". You have to go through that tedious process for every single photo.

Geotagging needs to be simplified in the same way that Faces was simplified. Apple did a brilliant job of Faces. The interface is quick easy — hell, it's even fun to use. I want the same for Places. Perhaps that three-pane interface I came up with could be used for assigning places to photos. Click a button that says "Assign Place" — which is like clicking the "Name" button for Faces — then select a photo, click on the map and move onto the next one. That's a lot fewer clicks and turns it into a two-step process: select photo, find place — there's no step three.

I'd still like to be able to do things like import GPX tracks into iPhoto and geotag photos that way, but I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon. I don't think we'll get built-in KML export either — but I can dream.

Next on my wishlist, I'd really like a built-in duplicate finder for iPhoto. Even though iPhoto checks for duplicates on import, it's still possible for a duplicate or two to get through. I think it would be good if iPhoto used Faces to find duplicates — it's already analysing every photo for faces, why not get it to look for duplicates too? An interface to check and remove duplicates would be nice as well — something that presents the duplicates for you to go through and say yes or no. Just like Faces. I still have a lot of duplicates that I need to go through, and it's a time consuming and tedious process. A built-in duplicate finder and remover would be a real time saver.

Who still has their iPhoto Library on their internal startup drive?

I moved my iPhoto Library off my startup drive to a 1TB drive ages ago. Back then, it was about 30GB, but it has since grown to over 80GB. I don't have room for that on my startup drive. Of course, now that my library isn't on my startup drive anymore, it means it's not being backed up by Time Machine, so I'd like some sort of built-in backup system. Photos are among the most important and irreplaceable files we keep on our computers, and having an up-to-date backup is essential. Some sort of tool that backs up entire libraries to multiple discs would be great, although I think I will have to wait until Blu-ray Disc support comes to Macs before that's viable. Last I heard that will be when pigs fly but I think Mr Jobs has since filed it under "when hell freezes over".

Or maybe Time Machine could actively look for iPhoto Libraries and back them up no matter what drive they're on. I just want something that will backup my library on a regular basis.

[You know Time Machine can already back up multiple drives, right? — MJCP]

Something else I would like to have is the ability to split and merge libraries from within iPhoto. As I mentioned before, my library is 80GB, it would be nice to split that 80GB photo library into yearly libraries. Sure, I can already do that, but I can only view one library at a time. Wouldn't it be great to split libraries into yearly segments and still see them in the one place, no matter which drive the individual libraries are on? Yes it would. Wouldn't it be even better if iPhoto didn't need all the libraries at once in order to function? Yes it would. You could have the most recent library on your startup drive and the older libraries on an external drive. Want to look at the older photos? No need to restart iPhoto, just plug the drive in and away you go. How fantastic would that be?

Finally, I know I've already been over this on MacTheForum but I'm going to bring it up one more time. There aren't enough progress bars in iPhoto. It's really hard to know exactly what iPhoto is doing, how much it has done and how much longer it's going to be. The circular progress indicators just don't cut the mustard. To paraphrase Sir Humphrey, "I need to know" — I really need to know what Faces is doing and how long it's going to be. I desperately need to know how long that upload to MobileMe is going to take. Please Apple, give me some progress bars, tell me how much time is remaining, tell me what's going on.

Oh, and one more thing. I've read some rumours about iLife and iWork being delayed until late 2010 just as the updates were delayed in 2007. I really, really hope this isn't true. I hope we get iLife and iWork '10 in January as per usual, I hope it's not delayed by the mythical tablet and I hope that Apple gives us some snazzy new features. If Apple included any of the features on my wish-list I would be ecstatic, just like I was last year. But hey, surprise me Apple — give me something I won't expect.

So what's on your wish-list for iLife and iWork '10? 64-bit support maybe? An actual timeline in iMovie?

Discuss it with me at MacTheForum!