Apple Releases iLife '11

Apple on Wednesday unveiled iLife ’11 at its Back to the Mac event in Cupertino, demoing three of the suite’s updated applications—iPhoto, iMovie, and Garageband. Features showcased included a new, iOS-like full-screen mode for iPhoto, redone audio editing and trailer templates in iMovie, in addition to revamped recording and teaching tools for GarageBand. The updated suite was released Wednesday and will cost $49 for users of iLife '09. It will also come preinstalled on all new Macs.

In a lengthy demo that consumed nearly half of Wednesday's press event, Apple CEO Steve Jobs was joined by Senior Vice President Phil Schiller, Randy Ubillos, chief architect for the company's video applications, and Xander Soren, GarageBand's product marketing manager, who each took one of the suite's flagship programs to demonstrate.

iPhoto ’11

First up was Phil Schiller—describing iPhoto ’11 as “the best version yet”—who started his presentation by showcasing the program’s newly redesigned full-screen mode. Taking a few design cues from the iPad, iPhoto’s full-screen mode features a row of tabs along the bottom of the screen for Events, Faces, Places, Albums and Projects. Faces and Places look similar to their iPad counterparts, while Albums adds the ability to pull read-only photos from both Facebook and Flickr accounts. Projects now displays user-created items like books and cards on a wooden shelf.

New slideshow templates offer auto-generated transitions, labels, and background music; Schiller previewed several themes, including one called Places—similar to iMovie ’09’s Maps—as well as a Reflections and Holiday theme.

Photo sharing, too, has been simplified. “Share via Email” allows users to select a group of photos, click the option, and have iPhoto automatically create a postcard within the program. Choose from several different templates; drag, drop, and resize photos within; and choose whether to attach the full-resolution photos or just the postcard. A new sharing panel links Flickr and Facebook accounts and shows the user’s sharing history.

Book creation, meanwhile, has undergone a complete carousel-inspired redesign. Users can pick an album, click Create, select Book, and are brought into the new full-screen book creation view.

Choose a type of book, and iPhoto will auto-fill photos, using information about the album selected to create the pages—for instance, the album’s key photos is translated to the book’s cover, and higher-rated photographs are automatically assigned to larger spreads. If you want to customize your book, however, it’s easily doable: users can change the picture layout as well as individual pictures, drag and drop pages to reorganize them, and alter the page background.

With iPhoto ’11, users can also create and order letterpress cards in addition to the flat and folded options previously available in earlier versions of the program. The Cards creator features an introductory video on letterpress techniques for new and interested users.

iMovie ’11

Improved audio editing—which Apple CEO Steve Jobs called "the number one request we got after the last version of iMovie”—led the changes to Apple’s entry-level video editing program.

Randy Ubillos, chief architect for Apple's video applications, took the stage for a demo highlighting new audio editing capabilities, as well as “one step effects,” which provide instantly rendered visual compositions; easy-to-build movie trailers with fifteen template themes, original scores created by the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road; People Finder, which uses face detection to distinguish the number of people in your photo and the framing of the shot; and direct sharing with Facebook and Vimeo. “Isn’t that awesome?” Jobs joked after Ubillos had finished. “You know Randy along with his team has invented all of that stuff.”

GarageBand ’11

The final program to get an on-stage demo Wednesday was GarageBand, shown off by Xander Soren, product marketing manager. Soren focused on GarageBand’s new recording and instrument tools, including new Flex Time, Groove Matching, and “How did I play?" features, more guitar amps and effects, and new piano and guitar lessons.

iWeb and iDVD?

Although not mentioned directly in Wednesday's presentation, Jobs did note in his initial speech that iLife '11 would feature the same programs as its predecessor, and both iWeb and iDVD are listed on Apple's iLife Website—though it's not clear what, if anything, has changed for these programs since iLife '09. Macworld has put in a call to Apple for further comment on whether iWeb and iDVD contain new features in the updated suite.

Updated at 12:45 p.m. PT to add details on iPhoto, iDVD, iWeb.

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