iLife ’11: Improvements (Almost) All-Round

As far as bundled software goes, iLife packs a serious punch. Apple’s suite of iApps is a serious selling point for OS X, and one of the reasons that many people are compelled to switch to the Mac platform. As with any software suite, there’s a constant battle between maintaining a solid, up-to-date set of applications without succumbing to “feature bloat”.

Today we’re going to be taking a look at some of the new features that Apple has added to iLife 11, along with talking about the two apps that were left out in the cold… Join us after the break to find out more!

iPhoto ’11

One of the key new features demonstrated in iPhoto ’11 was a far more powerful full-screen mode. Where this was only usable for certain functions previously, it now works for everything in iPhoto – you can live completely in full-screen if you decide to.

Full Screen iPhoto

Full Screen iPhoto

Along with this, you’ll notice various smaller interface tweaks and improvements. Everything feels smoother, and more coherent.

Slideshows are vastly improved – this seems to be more than just a set of “new themes” bundled into the app. The “Places” slideshow automatically flips between photos taken in a particular place, and various others make use of immersive 3D technology to provide a great experience.

The “Sharing” system for sending photographs elsewhere has received an overhaul as well. It now lets you know when and where you shared a photo, along with showing responses and comments left by others on social networking sites such as Facebook.

The new “Books” interface is absolutely gorgeous – it’s a 3D worktable! The whole system for creating books is far smarter than previously. It uses your album key photo as the book cover, displays higher rated photos in more prominent positions, and groups those taken in the same place at the same time. A great example of software using information you’ve provided in an intelligent way.

Finally, letterpress style greetings cards are available in addition to books. These are bound to be a top seller, though we’re yet to hear what they are likely to be priced at. This will be a major factor in whether they’re a good option for friends and family.

iMovie ’11

First up, in both iMovie project and event views, you can now see colour coded audio waveforms. They’re adjustable with drag and drop functionality, so you can easily adjust the volume in real-time by interacting with the audio waveform. It’s possible to do this with just certain segments of audio as well, and easily fade in/out levels changes.

Audio Waveform Editing

Audio Waveform Editing

Improved “one-step effects” give you a greater range of options for quickly and easily improving your videos. These include adding slow motion replays, swapping between colour styles, and plenty of other effects that lead to a really professional result.

A new “movie trailer” feature asks you to first fill out all the information about your “cast members”, location, video style, and a few other details. You can pick from fifteen different themes, each with it’s own original soundtrack recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra!

You then select various clips that should be inserted into your movie trailer at different points. You’re assisted by iMovie’s new “people finder”, that can automatically determine how many people are in a shot, and how close/wide the shot angle is.

The resulting effect of this whole process is absolutely amazing, and is a great way to have fun sharing video with friends and family.

Movie Trailers

Movie Trailers

GarageBand ’11

Last but not least, GarageBand has also seen a series of new features added. Groove Matching is a simple way to select one track that will act as the main “rhythm” for a song. This is then applied to all the other tracks, locking everything into the same timing and structure so everyone sounds to be playing perfectly in time! Think of it as “an automatic spell-checker for bad rhythm”.

New FlexTime and Rhythm Matching

New FlexTime and Rhythm Matching

Flex time turns your recorded audio into fluid, flexible being that can easily be manipulated with drag and drop actions. You can extend notes, shorten them, and match up different parts of a song easily.

Finally, if you’re a fan of using GarageBand for learning to play, you’ll be pleased to know that a huge range of new lessons have been added to the software. These are more advanced than ever, and include a scoring system to track how well you do at playing a particular song. It’s like Guitar Hero, but for learning to play an actual real-life instrument!

New, Improved Lessons

New, Improved Lessons

What About iWeb and iDVD?

As far as I can tell, neither iWeb or iDVD have received any updates or feature additions. Both are still bundled as part of the iLife suite, but they weren’t mentioned in Apple’s presentation today, and don’t have any new features cited on the Apple website.

They remain useful tools to have around, but it’s a shame to see that nothing new was added or changed. Many people think that iDVD is becoming something of a redundant tool, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple made the decision to drop this altogether in iLife ’12 next year.

Pricing and Availability

iLife is completely free with every new Mac, and it costs just $49 to upgrade to the latest version. It’s almost impossible to argue with the asking price for this suite of apps, even if two of them haven’t received an update this time around.

iLife 11 is available today – that’s right, you can go buy it now – so there’s no need to wait around for this one! If you think that the new features and functionality will make your life easier, you can pick up a copy from Apple.

What do you think? Are these feature additions enough to warrant a brand new release, or did you expect more from iLife ’11? Let us know in the comments!