Skip Navigation

iPhoto 6: preference maaadness

I never thought I’d say it, but I’m having trouble coming up with smart-alec remarks today. I know I should be able to say unkind things about petty mistakes in a company’s interface design, but the hate just isn’t there. Maybe it has something to do with those ‘woman’ pills I found in my bathroom cabinet the other week.

Might explain the vagina, too.

Today’s adventure begins with the Appearance pane, a happy place where all preferences related to how the application looks are stowed. Forgetting those misplaced ‘show this’ and ‘show that’ prefs who seem to prefer it over in the General preferences pane, everybody seems to be here for the right reasons.

Except maybe animated scrolling.

The first time I launched iPhoto 6 and saw a preference for animated scrolling I made a weird face, kind of biting my lower lip and arching my left eyebrow at the same time. I can’t arch the right one… I don’t know why. Animated scrolling? What does that even mean? I was hoping for something really exciting. Like one of those sales assistants at Boost. Now they’re animated. But lo, animated scrolling is simply an alias for smooth scrolling! Or at least that’s what everybody else calls that kind of smooth, slippery scrolling effect. And a preference for smooth scrolling, certainly not something one would expect to be opt-in on an application-by-application basis, is a System Preference! I heart redundancy.

Besides ‘Border’ and ‘Background’ being cruelly excluded from the ‘Organize View’ clique (being that they are relevant to the organize view, and the organize view alone —ignoring, for a moment, that iPhoto doesn’t really have ‘views’ like it used to— it just seems mean) the only thing left to pick on here is the ‘scrolling information’. What is this, 1997-era Internet Explorer? All I can think of is the <marquee> tag. There’s gotta be a better name for that scrolly HUD than this.

There’s really not too much to speak of in the Sharing pane. I’ll tell ya right now I’m pleased as punch they repurposed the design from the iTunes sharing pane: if you’ve used one, you can damn well use the other. But ‘cha gotta wonder why there’s a label telling you your Status when, judging from the unchecked ‘Share my photos’ box and the screenful of disabled widgets, it’s pretty darn obvious I’m not sharing any photos right now. An unchecked checkbox next to a verb phrase tends to mean “don’t do this verb phrase”, no?

Photocasting is a toughie. You see, I’m not a .Mac subscriber, so I don’t know what this pane looks like when it isn’t busy telling me I haven’t set up my .Mac account. But I can tell you right now that the big alert that pops up every time telling me my .Mac configuration is incorrect is getting annoying as hell. Congratulations. I know you’re trying to up-sell me, but like every salesman you’ve only succeeded in your unstated goal to bug me. Please go away.

My .Mac account configuration is not correct? And I must set it up in System Preferences? Must?

I already know the answer to my next question, but I have to ask. Why is photocasting a .Mac-dependent feature? Let’s forget all the bad RSS mojo going around for a moment: why can’t these photos and XML files be published to a WebDAV or FTP server? The same can be said of iWeb’s entire functionality, I know, but come on. Is .Mac customer retention so low you need to hang every convenient feature off of it to entice people to sign up?


Despite years of complaints against iPhoto’s keyword support in general, I can’t protest the way the master Keywords list is presented. It mightn’t even be needed if the feature were tidied up some, but there’s nothing really wrong with it. I’m unsure whether this warrants a thumbs-up, given the circumstances.

And finally, Advanced preferences… if only there weren’t a need for you. If only you weren’t the dregs of the preferences dialog, where ambiguous and difficult preferences go to live in obscurity. What does “Use RAW files with external editor” mean, anyway? Does it mean Edit them in an external editor? I hope so. Because there are only so many uses I can dream up for RAW files. I’m guessing the option is grayed out because I don’t have a RAW editor on the system, or I don’t have any RAW files in my library. Either way… weird.

It seems strange that the phrase “Copy files to iPhoto Library folder” should need to be qualified with a “when adding to library”. The checkbox is already grouped under “Importing”, the qualifier seems pretty redundant. And I should definitely hope it isn’t copying files into its library just for fun when it’s unchecked. Better check that box… you don’t want it copying files into your iPhoto Library folder when you aren’t adding them to your library.

It also serves as a timely reminder to us all that you shouldn’t try to force a checkbox label onto two lines. Besides the fact that it can’t be done in Interface Builder, necessitating a ‘fake’ second line to be inserted using ordinary text elements, it means the second line doesn’t accept clicks to check and uncheck the box. You could code your way around this, but the iPhoto team didn’t.