iPhoto is part of my daily life, so I was very eager to try iPhoto 09 when it was announced at Macworld in January. I’ve been testing it for a couple of days, and so far I’ve been impressed.

The biggest features of iPhoto 09 include Faces (nearly automatic, seamless facial recognition and tagging of your photos), new built-in uploaders to Flickr and Facebook, Places, and over-all speed and stability enhancements. There are also new editing tools, printing options, and themed slideshows.

After installation, iPhoto 09 scans your photo library for faces. This can take over an hour if you have thousands of photos. It’s then up to you to go through your library to actually name the Faces identified by iPhoto. It’s very easy to do this, and actually rather fun. When you later add new photos of these people, iPhoto will automatically sort them by name in a new “Faces” tab. In this new Faces tab, you can also enter their email addresses and Facebook information.

In my testing, Faces worked well but didn’t always automatically detect people. Still, it worked better than expected, and was fun to use as mentioned. I tried to make Faces automatically recognize my dog, Spy, but it didn’t work. That would actually be a useful feature for me, as I must have thousands of photos of that darn dog. Some people report success in getting iPhoto to recognize feline faces. Interesting bias or limit of the software? You decide.

Places is the other highly-touted feature of iPhoto 09, and like Faces, it’s surprisingly fun and easy to use. This feature can use data from GPS-enabled cameras or the camera on iPhone to categorize photos by location. This information can also easily be manually added by place name or zip code. iPhoto will connect to Google Maps to locate your photo on a global map, which you can view on your computer. I’m not sure how much I’ll use this, but it’s intriguing to categorize and search photos by location. I did appreciate Places’ highly detailed maps, which even included the option to view topographical features. Location information can optionally be added for photos uploaded to the Internet.

There are also new editing features. For example, it’s now possible to increase the saturation of a photo without over-saturating skin tones. There is a new Definition slider which improves image clarity and focuses detail with better results than the old Sharpness tool (which usually resulted in grainy / digital-blah looking photos).

I welcome the built-in Facebook and Flickr uploading tools in iPhoto 09. I tested both, and they were fast and very easy to use. As I use both Flickr and Facebook daily, I definitely appreciate the uploader integration.

iPhoto 09 blends familiar features with new fun and useful features. My iPhoto library will be better organized then ever. I would pay $79 (the cost of iLife 09) for iPhoto alone. It’s a killer app.

We’ll offer iPhoto 09 tips, tricks, and gotchas as we spend more time with the application. Also, please send us your reviews and thoughts of iPhoto 09!


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