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Mac hints and tips

Use multiple photo libraries in iPhoto

The Apple Mac and OS X is in many ways superbly designed and its ease of use is legendary. However, it is also plain dumb in some respects too and you have to wonder why the designers would do what they have done when there are clearly better ways to do it. The Mac both astonishes with its wonderful design and irritates with its shortcomings.

Take iPhoto for example. In Many ways this is a fantastic application for organising, managing and tweaking your digital camera photos and it is one of the best applications of its type. However, it isn't perfect by any means and it is odd that important and useful features are hidden away where few people will find them or even realise that they exist.

iPhoto stores the photos you import in a library. This is a single file, which is a sort of database, that is stored in /Users/YourName/Pictures folder. It has the obvious filename of 'iPhoto Library'. What isn't obvious is that you can actually have multiple photo libraries. You might want to have separate libraries for work and for home, or simply to reduce the number of photos to a more manageable number. For instance, you could store each year's photos in their own library. If you take lots of photos you could have a library for 20005, 2006, 2007 and so on.

Where are the commands in iPhoto to select a library or to close the current library and open a different one? There aren't any! You would think that Apple would put Open Library and Close Library commands on the File menu, but you won't find them there, so how do you switch libraries?

iPhoto libraryIf you open a Finder window and rename 'iPhoto Library' in your Pictures folder to something else, when you start iPhoto it can't find the default library file.

A dialog is displayed that enables you to create a new library or to choose one. You get a standard file selector dialog and you can browse the disk drive for an iPhoto library.

You don't want to mess around renaming files though and there is a simpler way to display the dialog that lets you create or select a library.

Click the iPhoto icon in the Dock at the bottom of the screen and immediately hold down the Option key (bizarrely, the one with Alt written on it - why?). The iPhoto dialog now apears and you can choose a librry. It's easy when you know how, but why on earth isn't there a simple menu option? Why hide this useful feature?

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