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Apple iLife '11
The recent updates to iLife are more incremental than revolutionary, but welcome nonetheless

Apple's iPhoto '11 is all about new ways of enjoying and sharing your photos. This is achieved with improvements to the full-screen mode, the online sharing features and the books, cards and slideshow tools.

Also, the full-screen mode has been extended so that you can now browse your Faces, Places, Events, Albums and Projects. You can choose which of these you want using buttons at the bottom of the screen and then double-click the Album, say, that you want to look at.

Albums look very different now in full-screen view. Previously, they were just entries in the source list, but in this new mode they get their own icons, just like Events – they're styled like stacks of photos, with the Key Photo you've selected on the top. When you've finished browsing your Album, you click a button at the topleft to go back to the main view.

The full-screen mode is a terrific way to browse your photos, especially if you've got other people crowded round your Mac to watch.

Full-screen view

But there is a flaw. Full-screen view feels different and separate to the standard view. It's like an alternative interface rather than an extension to the existing one. And you'll still have to swap back to the standard view for some routine housekeeping tasks, including imports.

Full screen

Never mind, though, because iPhoto '11 has lots more to offer. iPhoto will now download existing Facebook albums from your account, however they were uploaded; it can post pictures to your Wall, as well as albums, and can upload Profile pictures too.

The comments synchronisation is smart – comments made by your Facebook pals show up in the photo's Info panel.

iPhoto's new book tools are equally impressive. The highlights here are the new dynamic theme browser, which uses your own photos to preview the book design, the fact that you can edit books in full-screen mode, and an All Pages view that shows you the layout of your whole book in a single screen.

The Autoflow feature will make your highest-rated photos the biggest, use face detection to crop photos intelligently and keep photos together when they were taken on the same day. It really does take just a few minutes to make a ready-to-print, professional-looking book, and the design themes are good enough to flatter even the most amateurish pictures.

Apple's new letterpress cards are pretty pricey, but it's the quality of the production process and the finished product that you're paying for. And while a couple of the six new slideshow themes are a bit odd, the overall standard is excellent.

But is this all a bit superficial? Yes, a bit. If all you want iPhoto for is to organise and fix up your photos, there's really not much here that's different. The reorganisation of the editing tools is handy, but other aspects of the interface design are less successful.

iPhoto '11

You now have to click a button to activate the search box on the bottom left, as well as using the thumping great Info panel on the right rather than a little box at the bottom of the source list to type in photo descriptions.

You'll soon adapt to the new screen layouts, though, and iPhoto's new sharing options are so good you might be inspired to start using your photos in new and more adventurous ways, which can only be a good thing. Besides, it's only £45 for the whole iLife suite, and for this you're getting new versions of iMovie and GarageBand too.