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The Top Five Add-ons for Apple's iPhoto

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Ever since its initial introduction, Apple's iPhoto has been a great tool for anyone with a digital camera. As great as iPhoto is, however, longtime users with libraries containing thousands of photos know that the application does have some areas that need enhancing to make it more powerful and seamless for today's digital photographers. Ryan Faas gives his top five iPhoto plug-ins and helper applications to help tame your iPhoto library and expand your iPhoto experience.
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Ever since its initial introduction, Apple’s iPhoto has been a great tool for anyone with a digital camera. It makes it incredibly simple to import your photos from your camera (or from a folder, website, or other source), perform the basic editing, organize the, to order traditional prints or other printed projects, and to integrate your photos into other projects thanks to iPhoto’s tight integration with Apple’s other iLife applications and Mac OS X. As great as iPhoto is, however, longtime iPhoto users with libraries containing thousands or tens of thousands of photos know that the application does have some areas that could be enhanced to make it more ever more powerful and seamless for the common uses people have for digital photos today. These top five iPhoto plug-ins and helper applications can help tame your iPhoto library and expand the iPhoto experience.

Keyword Manager

When you first start using iPhoto, the natural way to organize your photos is by creating albums (and perhaps organizing those albums in folders). This makes perfect sense because generally you’ll want to catalog your photos around specific events such as parties or vacations or school projects. It’s also very natural because this is how you organized physical photos back in the days before digital cameras.

Although not as natural as using albums, iPhoto also supports tagging photos with keywords. You can create as many keywords as you like and assign as many as you want to any photo. Photos from a school holiday pageant, for example, could be tagged with the name of the school, the names of children in each photo, the grade level of each child, the holiday, and even the location if the event wasn’t held at the school.

This gives you the option of later searching you entire library for pictures that meet any of those keywords. You might search for pictures of Danny and Kayla together (using keywords for both their names) or pictures of Kayla in first grade (using her name and the grade level). This gives you a very easy way to locate pictures based on who, what, where, and when criteria across your all your photos—regardless of which albums the photos may be included in. Even more powerful, you could use a keyword search to locate photos to add to a new album (such as to send a set of all first grade pictures to Grandma and Grandpa) or even to automatically create a Smart Album that will automatically add the appropriate pictures (including new pictures as you add and tag them).

Keywords are very powerful tools in iPhoto, but they are not easy to use. You need to define keywords ahead of time in one dialog box and then drag each photo onto a keyword to assign it. This process is both incredibly time-consuming and cumbersome, which is why many people don’t use keywords.

Keyword Manager is a great shareware tool (with a price tag of $19) that makes it almost effortless to assign keywords. To assign existing keywords or add new ones, simply select your photos and start typing the keywords. For existing keywords, the text will auto-complete in the Keyword Assigner palette (which is displayed translucently onscreen). For new keywords, just type the word or phrase and hit Return to create a new keyword and assign it.

Keyword Manager also offers the capability to organize keywords into categories (such as people, locations, activities, and so on), which enables you to use a large number of keywords to tag your photos while still being able to sort through them very easily. It does this using a Keyword Manager palette that can also be used to easily select one or more keywords to use as filters while viewing your iPhoto library (either the entire library or an album or film roll). This combination of features makes Keyword Manager a must for anyone serious about having the best organizational ability with iPhoto library.

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