Apple iLife 11 gets an iOS4 facelift

Apple's unique suite of creativity software which comes bundled free with all new Macs has had a major facelift.

iLife 11 contains the same core applications which allow you to organise and edit your images (iPhoto), create amazing movies from your own video clips (iMovie), and pretend to be a rock star (GaragBand). It also includes drag and drop web site builder iWeb and DVD authoring tool iDVD, but these remain much the same as previous incarnations.

Snappy Talk
The first of these, iPhoto, has probably changed the most. Taking lessons learned from the iPad, the media manipulation tool - which has become the envy of more than a few PC users in the past few years - now features a unified full-screen user interface in which to browse edit and share your snaps.

Apple has really gone to town with the design tweaks here and everything looks incredibly sleek and professional for what is ostensibly free software.

iPhoto has also succumbed to the nightmare that is social networking and you can share pics, video clips, slide shows and other projects with a panoply of time-wasting websites especially the ubiquitous Facebook.

Facila recognition software takes a lot of the leg-work out of tagging your albums and smart geotagging lets you keep track of what was taken where and when.

Email integration has also been given a lick of paint with fancy new themes and layouts which will add custom frames and text to groups of pics rather than just lumping them all in a long list. You won't even have to fire up your mail programme or a web site because iPhoto talks nicely to the likes of Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail and AOL as well as Apple's own Mobile Me service.

Slideshows have also been gussied up with fancy new animated themes, soundtracks and transitions, which also use face recognition algorithms to centre and frame shots perfectly.

iPhoto's book builder has also been tweaked with better auto composition, new themes and better print quality. If you've never seen an iPhoto book in the flesh, try it out. The quality is truly impressive.

The latest version has also added traditional letterpress cards. These are created using traditional printing methods which emboss the resultant cards and are available in 15 olde-worlde themes with matching envelopes. The mest mash-up of modern tech and traditional craftsmanship we've seen for a long time.

I'm ready for my close-up Mr Jobs
Apple's video-wrangling application iMovie has come under fire for being overly simple, but if you want to be a hotshot editor, you can always use the company's full blown Final Cut Pro editing suite.

If you want to cobble together a few video clips into professional-looking package then you're in good company with iMovie. It's all drag and drop simplicity with custom-built themes and easy exporting.

New bits this time around include the ability to build cheesetastic movie trailers including music recorded by the london Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road, ridiculously simple audio editing complete with draggable volume waveforms and colour-coded warnings for over-loud clips, and one step effects and transitions.

iPhoto's face recognition routines have also been ported over to iMovie making that clip of Aunt Mabel flashing her drawers all the easier to find. As you'd expect, getting you movie out into the world is a doddle with more Internet, email and social networking connectivity than you could ever possibly use.

Speilberg probably won't be that impressed but iMovie takes so much of the pain out of video editing and comes up with such polished results that we can't help but admire it.

Back in the garage with my bullshit detector
Most 'proper' musicians would probably avoid GarageBand like the plague. It's a bit like Paint by Numbers for budding musos, allowing sampled loops, MIDI instruments and live performances to be edited together.

A few short years ago most of the tools included in GarageBand were quite simply not available to the vast majority of musicians, or if they were they cost hundreds if not thousands of pounds for the software or hardware equivalents.

GarageBand is a bit like the punk rock of modern music. It allows anyone to get involved with a minimum of talent and a modicum of effort. In the right hands it's a sophisticated music production tool wnich could quite easily be used to create any one of the songs currently sitting in the charts. There are more sophisticated music production applications out there, including Apple's own flagship Logic Studio, but most people don't use even one hundredth of Logic's potential.

If you want to make music and don't want to spend all day reading manuals, GarageBand will pretty much do the trick. And you can always port your demo projects over to Logic once you get that ten-year recording contract.

GarageBand 11 has a number of new bells and whistle, some of which will again upset die-hard musos.

Groove Matching allows all of the recorded tracks in a song to be pegged to a single groove track. If your drummer is rock solid, but the guitarist couldn't hit a crotchet with a cricket bat, then you can correct the wayward recording using the drum track as a groove template.

Flex Time allows individual chunks of waveforms to be manually moved or stretched to correct single note fluffage.

There's a whole bunch of new amps and stomp-box effects for guitarists, and new lessons for both piano and guitar have been added.

All in all this is a minor tweak to a great suite of programmes which the vast majority of Mac users will never have to pay for. They'll get it free with the next new Mac they buy, and as Apple fans almost certainly upgrade more often than their PC-toting brethren, many won't have too long to wait.

Whether the new features on offer here ae worth the £45 upgrade fee is open to debate. There really isn't a single killer feature which warrants the outlay in our book, but all of the minor tweaks could add up to a sound investment.

Either way, well let you know as soon as we get our hands on the software and publish our full review next week.

In the meantime head over to Apple's iTunes 11 web site where you'll find loads more details and demos to whet your appetite.