With iPhoto's thumbnails visible, selecting any of them and pressing the 1 key makes the thumbnails very large.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

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Not using iPhoto? Here's what you're missing in Mac OS X

Aug. 29, 2006

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2006, Al Fasoldt

   If you're a longtime Mac user who considers iPhoto a kind of kindergartners' toy, stick with me and let me tell you something you don't know.
   First, let me explain what the current version (V. 6.x) of iPhoto is, so I don't lose my Windows cadre. iPhoto is the industry-leading digital image manager for consumers -- for non-professional photographers, in other words. Plug your camera or memory card into your computer -- your OS X Mac, in this case, since iPhoto's not available for Windows -- and they automatically appear in an iPhoto window and, of course, in iPhoto's image database.
   Within iPhoto 6, you can view image thumbnails, from small to very large, in a standard set of rows taking up most of the screen or in a ribbon along the top of the screen, with most the rest of the screen showing the selected image. At the left is a vertical pane containing the icons that open the all-inclusive iPhoto library or any subfolders or albums within it. You can create folders in the library, and those folders can contain other folders. Folders can also contain albums, but albums cannot be nested within other albums, and albums can't contain folders.
   To view a photo in iPhoto, you can simply select its thumbnail and click the "enter full screen" button at the bottom of the left pane. You can also double click on the thumbnail, or you can also choose to have that double click interpreted differently: You can set up iPhoto's defaults so that the photo is passed to a separate image editor. If you choose to let iPhoto take over image editing, the full-screen view becomes an editing screen if you press the right mouse button, hold Ctrl when you left click or click an Edit button below the photo.
   After a photo is edited by an external editor, the image's thumbnail automatically changes to reflect the revision. This also happens, of course, when you edit a photo using iPhoto's own editing tools. In either case, changes you make can be undone, and you can always revert to the original image at any time.
   iPhoto provides an exceptionally easy way to create slide shows. You simply press a slide show button and you are presented with a show of only your selected photos or, if you have none selected, of all photos inside the current album or folder, or, if the library itself is the selected "folder," of the entire library. Or you can put together slide shows manually, one photo or group of photos at a time, with the option of varying the slide transition and delay between images for every photo in the slide show. Slide shows are automatically saved, and you can create any number in each library; there is no practical limit on the number.
   While you're watching a slide show, pressing the Up Arrow key speeds up the slide show and pressing the Down Arrow key slows it down. Pressing the Space Bar puts a slide show into Pause. Slide shows can be exported to Apple's sophisticated iDVD software to burn them as video DVDs, a nice touch. They can also be saved as video files in your choice of quality levels. The videos are standard QuickTime movie (MOV) files.
   With iPhoto's thumbnails visible, selecting any of them and pressing the 1 key makes the thumbnails very large; pressing 2 makes them the ideal size (based on the way iPhoto creates the thumbnail views) and pressing 0 makes them as small as possible.
   Because iPhoto uses the Mac OS X operating system's own optimized image-handling (Core Image) routines, thumbnails are resized very quickly and are "snapped" into full sharpness almost instantly when you scroll a long list of thumbnails that have been resized. (The first view is an up- or down-sized version of the stored thumbnail; it is quickly rescaled and stored at the new size.)
   Keywords can be added to any photo or group of photos. Numbers can be assigned to any selected images to help grade their quality by clicking an icon or by pressing Cmd-1 to assign a value of "1," Cmd-2 to assign a value of "2" and so on. Numbers from 1 to 5 assign that value; 0 removes any assignment. You can sort your photos by their assigned number ratings and you can view the ratings with the photos. A nice touch is the way you can assign ratings during a slide show; simply set the slide duration to a high enough number (10 seconds or more) to allow you to judge each image.
   Previous versions of iPhoto became sluggish when their libraries held more than a few thousand photos. Version 6 is able to store 250,000 images -- a limit I was not able to test . But libraries I created with more than 30,000 photos in each didn't hamper iPhoto 6 at all.
   Older versions of iPhoto stored all their photos in the library, a database iPhoto creates when you first launch the program. Version 6 allows you to choose between storing all pictures in the library or keeping them in the file system, wherever they were located when you imported references to them into iPhoto. This option eliminates duplicate photos but can cause problems if you delete pictures from their file-system folders. iPhoto won't be able to locate the photos. My advice: Use the first method. It's safer. (Open iPhoto's Preferences and click the Advanced tab to set up this preference.)
   iPhoto can store videos, including QuickTime panoramas and VR (virtual reality) panoramas, as well as photos. Double click to view them.