iPhoto 4.0 gripes

I’ve been unhappy with iPhoto 3 for a while now but held off on upgrading to iPhoto 4.0 because I wasn’t sure that it would address my complaints. When I found a cheap copy of iLife 4.0 the other day I went ahead and did it. I find that I was right to be skeptical.

The biggest problem I’ve had with iPhoto 3 has been that it’s slow. iPhoto 4 seems to help, but I wouldn’t say that it’s exactly zippy now. I think I got as much improvement by the option-shift-launch iPhoto library rebuild trick as from the upgrade. I may get further improvement if I spring for more memory (an expensive choice — my 12″ Powerbook G4 has only one memory slot so to upgrade from the present 640 Mb I have to buy a full gig), but any way you look at it, iPhoto is a hog.

The other major shortcoming with iPhoto 3 has gotten worse in iPhoto 4: bloated image files when you export to the web. I was accustomed to iPhoto 3 exporting images in web albums that were 50% larger than Photoshop would produce at high quality, 250% larger than Photoshop at medium quality. That forced me every time I exported an album from iPhoto to load all the images back into Photoshop and do a “Save For Web” on each of them to bring them down to an acceptable size. I had hoped that iPhoto 4 would do some decent optimization and save me that tedious step. On the contrary: in iPhoto 4 I’m seeing bloat over Photoshop’s high- and medium-quality exports, respectively, to the tune of 120% and 500%! I don’t know what iPhoto is stuffing into those images, but the lack of image optimization makes it essentially unusable as a web publishing tool.

Finally, among the features Apple touted in iPhoto 4 was keyword support. Like everybody else on the del.icio.us and Flickr bandwagon I’m keen for keywords these days and thought that feature might be just the thing to help me sort out my ungainly photo collection. No such luck. There’s a keyword feature in there all right, and there might be a way to put it to use, but the interface to access it is horribly clunky. It doesn’t show up with the other metadata (title, comments, etc.) in image edit mode, nor in the cmd-i “information” dialogue, but in its own third popup dialogue. And it doesn’t allow free typing but instead requires selection from an (unsorted!) scrolling list. It’s so hard to assign keywords to photos that I probably won’t bother.

Now, of course, Apple has announced iLife 5.0, which includes a new major release of iPhoto. Unless I hear that these specific concerns have been addressed, I won’t bother buying it. As it stands I may have been better off saving 30 bucks and sticking with iPhoto 3.

Mac troubleshooting tip: unplug dead monitors

For the benefit of the Googlesphere, although probably of limited interest to anybody who reads this blog on purpose:

If your PowerBook boots with bizarro display preferences and won’t let you correct them, make sure you disconnect any dead external monitors, not just the live ones.

This came up when my 17″ external monitor went on the blink. I turned it off and rebooted only to find my PowerBook’s built-in display in the wrong configuration. I futzed around with it for quite a while before I thought to pull out the video cable for the powered-off monitor. Another reboot and the PowerBook was happy again.

Now thanks to a trip to Discount Electronics and $69 I’ve got a serviceable 19″ monitor in place of the dead one — not a bad outcome.