Chapter 7. The Digital Shoebox

Chapter 7. The Digital Shoebox

If you've imported your photos into iPhoto using any of the methods described in the previous chapter, you should now see a neatly arranged grid of thumbnails in iPhoto's main photo-viewing area. You're looking at what iPhoto refers to as your Photo Library your entire photo collection, including every last picture you've ever imported. This is the digital equivalent of that old shoebox you've had stuffed in the closet for the last 10 years , brimming with snapshots waiting to be sorted and sifted, often never to be seen again.

You're not really organized yet, but at least all your photos are in one place. Your journey out of chaos has begun. From here, you can sort your photos, give them titles, group them into smaller sub-collections (called albums ), and tag them with keywords so you can find them quickly. This chapter helps you tackle each of those organizing tasks as painlessly as possible.

7.1. The Source List

Even before you start naming your photos, assigning them keywords, or organizing them into albums, iPhoto imposes an order of its own on your digital shoebox.

The key to understanding it is the Source list at the left side of the iPhoto window. This list will grow as you import more pictures and organize thembut right off the bat, you'll find icons like Library, Last 12 Months, and Last Roll.

7.1.1. Library

The first icon in the Source list is called Photo Library. This is a very reassuring little icon, because no matter how confused you may get in working with subsets of photos later in your iPhoto life, clicking Photo Library returns you to your entire picture collection. It makes all of your photos appear in the viewing area.

7.1.2. Library by Year

In early versions of iPhoto, the Library got a bit unwieldy if you had 2,000 pictures in it. But now that iPhoto can easily handle 25,000 photos, Apple realized that people needed a way to break down this tidal wave of pixels.

Enter the year icons, shown at top in Figure 7-1. When you click the Photo Library flippy triangle, iPhoto's Source list now shows small yellow calendar icons, one for each year going back to 2001 (and a catch-all for earlier images).

When you import your entire digital photo collection (or upgrade from an earlier version of iPhoto), the program files each photo by the date you took it. You can click Library to see all your photos amassed in one window, or click, say, the 2004 icon to see just the ones you took during that year.

The year icons are also very helpful when you're creating an iPhoto slideshow or trying to pinpoint one certain photo. After all, you usually can remember what year you took a vacation or when someone's birthday was. The year icons help you narrow down your search without requiring that you scroll through your entire Library.

Figure 7-1. Top: You can specify how far back the "Last ___ Months" album goes and how many downloads the "Last ___ Rolls" album includes on the General panel of iPhoto Preferences (bottom).
Don't forget, by the way, that iPhoto 5 isn't limited to grouping your pictures by year. It can also show you the photos that you took on a certain day, in a certain week, or during a certain month. See Section for details.
Bottom: While you're in Preferences, don't miss the "Show photo count for albums" option. It places a number in parentheses after each album name in the Source panel, representing how many pictures are inside.

7.1.3. Photo Library by Month

The Last 12 Months icon is the same idea as the calendar-year icons, except that it puts the most recent photos at your fingertips. The idea, of course, is that most of the time, the freshest photos are the most interesting to you.

Actually, it doesn't even have to say "Last 12 Months." You can specify how many months' worth of photos appear in this heapanywhere from one month to a year and a halfby choosing iPhoto Preferences and going to the General panel (see Figure 7-1). Like the new iPhoto 5 calendar, this feature is very useful when you want to find the pictures from this past Christmas, photos from your kids most recent birthday, or wedding pictures from your most recent marriage .

7.1.4. Last Roll

Each batch of imported photos is called one film roll .

Most of the time, you'll probably work with the photos that you just downloaded from your camera. Conveniently, iPhoto always keeps track of your most recently added film roll, so you can view its contents without much scrolling.

That's the purpose of the roll-of-film icon called Last Roll in the Source list. With one click, iPhoto displays only your most recent photos, hiding all the others. This feature can save you a lot of time, especially as your Photo Library grows.

In fact, iPhoto lets you specify how many film rolls you want listed here; choose iPhoto Preferences and click the General icon (again, see Figure 7-1). Simply change the number where it says "Show last __ rolls album." (In the unlikely event that you dont find this icon useful, you can also hide it entirely by turning off the corresponding checkbox.)

For example, if you've just returned from a three-day Disney World trip, you probably want to see your last three imports all at once. In that case, you'd change the last rolls setting to 3 .

Tip: If you delete everything from the Last Roll category, iPhoto promptly displays the previous roll's con-tentswhatever was the Last Roll before this latest one. It's a handy way to rewind into the past, even if it was many weeks or months ago, in your quest for a lost picture.

7.1.5. Other Icons in the Source List

Library, year icons, and Last Roll icons aren't the only items you'll find in the Source list. Later in this chapter, you'll find out how to create your own arbitrary subsets of pictures called albums, andthanks to a new feature in iPhoto 5even how to stick a bunch of related albums into an enclosing entity called a folder .

Later in this book, you'll find out how to swipe photos from other people's collections via iPhoto sharing. And later in life, you may discover the geeky joy of dumping photos onto CDs or DVDsand then loading them back into iPhoto whenever you darned well feel like it.

Shared photo collections, CD icons, and DVD icons can all show up in the Source list, too.

iPhoto 5 even introduces the notion of saved slide shows and book layouts. These, too, get their own icons in the Source list (and can be filed, alongside albums, in folders).

As you go, though, remember this key point: Photos in your Library, Last Roll, and Last Months icons are the real photos. Delete a picture from one of these three collections, and it's gone forever. (That's not true of albums, which store only aliasesphantom duplicatesof the real photos.)