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Improve iPhoto5 performance by setting thumbnail size Apps
Currently, my iPhoto library is over 30GB and 10,000 photos. Its performance has been so dismal, even on my dual 2Ghz G5 (1GB RAM) that I've seriously thought about dumping it altogether. But before I did that, I thought I'd try dividing up my library into multiple smaller libraries. After I split off my first library, which only had my 2005 images in it, I was surprised to find iPhoto's performance wasn't a whole lot better. So I did some poking.

When you import photos, iPhoto creates a thumbnail for each image. This thumbnail is 240 pixels wide by however many pixels high are appropriate to retain the original aspect ratio. You'll find these files in the iPhoto Library/YYYY/MM/DD/Thumbs folder, and you can open them in Preview to see their size. What I finally realized is that when you're in the Organize view of iPhoto, if you keep the photo size slider so that the images are no larger than the thumbnails (about 3/4ths of the way over), iPhoto is *much* faster than if you move the slider further over.

What I figure is that as long as you keep your displayed photos smaller than the thumbnails, iPhoto loads the thumbnail files and scales those down to the requested size. But as soon as you move the slider to larger than that, iPhoto has to load the original images and then scale them down in order to display the requested size. With the size of my library and my 6 megapixel images, this was causing my machine to start swapping like mad as iPhoto attempted to read in and scale all those images. Since the GUI slider isn't very precise, I played around with setting it to different values via the iPhoto preference file. e.g.:
defaults write com.apple.iphoto ThumbnailSize .80
Ideally you could set this to a value such that iPhoto wouldn't need to scale the thumbnails at all and could just display them as they are on disk, but I was unable to figure out the magic value. It's somewhere between .8495 and .85 though. On my machine, it's pretty obvious whether iPhoto is scaling from the thumbnail file or from the original image.

So anyway, with ThumbnailSize at .8495, iPhoto is fast enough that I'm happy even with my original library of 10k images. Your mileage may vary, of course.

[robg adds: A previous hint for speeding up iPhoto still seems to hold true in iPhoto5 -- get rid of the shadows.]
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Improve iPhoto5 performance by setting thumbnail size
Authored by: jaysoffian on Feb 16, '05 12:10:13PM

Just found this. You can press "2" while in organize mode ... that appears to display the thumbnails w/o any scaling:

http://www.macfixit.com/article.php?story=20050210003611191

j.

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Not in the Help file for keyboard shortcuts
Authored by: jscotta on Feb 16, '05 02:35:40PM

Very interesting. Also, "1" will scale the selected photo to fill the current organize view. Pressing "0" will do the same thing as dragging the picture size slider all the way to the left and show as many pictures as possible in the view.

It is interesting that Apple does not document this in their help file.

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Windows because I have to. OS X because I want to.



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Not in the Help file for keyboard shortcuts
Authored by: r0n on Feb 22, '05 07:17:41AM
Actually you´ll find that shortcut in iPhoto´s help file (see shortcuts -> edit).
The "iPhoto Getting Started" document is not too bad though. It´s accessable through the help browser - or deep buried inside:

/Library/Documentation/Applications/iPhoto/iPhoto\ Getting\ Started.app/Contents/Resources/English.lproj/iPhoto\ Getting\ Started.pdf

However it´s just referring to "edit" mode and not mentioned in the "organize" section for some reason...
1 - Zoom in on photo so that one pixel on your display equals one pixel in the photo
2 - Zoom in on photo so that two pixels on your display equals one pixel in your photo
0 - Zoom out



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Improve iPhoto5 performance by setting thumbnail size
Authored by: DanFrakes on Feb 16, '05 02:49:35PM

For a better MacFixIt explanation:

http://www.macfixit.com/article.php?story=20050211013652912



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Improve iPhoto5 performance by setting thumbnail size
Authored by: Puzo on Feb 16, '05 12:29:56PM

I think thumbnail size ratio will depend on your monitor's size... My display is 17" (1440 x 900) and, to make my iPhoto's thumbnail showing up at 240 pixels width, I'll need to set preference to about 0.8406 (0.8405 will make thumbnail view 236 pixels wide on my screen)

(I used Free Ruler 1.6 to find exact values - no affiliate, but I highly recommend it!)



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Improve iPhoto5 performance by setting thumbnail size
Authored by: pascalpp on Feb 16, '05 01:48:11PM

haha! awesome. thanks for the recommendation.



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Improve iPhoto5 performance by setting thumbnail size
Authored by: bakalite on Feb 16, '05 05:39:15PM

I played around a bit, and what I found is that there seems to be a point of diminishing returns. If the picture is big enough to take up the whole window, then performance is reasonable. If the picures are small enough to be below the threshhold where the thumbnails get used, performance is also reasonable. However, if the pictures are of a size where more than one fits on the screen AND too big for iPhoto to use the thumbnails, then performance really suffers. In practice, this means the slider should either be all the way over to the right, or only a little more than half way.



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Improve iPhoto5 performance by setting thumbnail size
Authored by: TC!! on Feb 16, '05 05:55:22PM

There was another hint which mentioned keyboard shortcuts to change the size of the thumbnail view.
If you press 0,1,2 you will see different sizes of thumbnails.

0 - Minimum size
1 - Maximum Size
2 - 'Natural' thumbnail size

So pressing 2 should give you the same size as this tip without having to edit a .plist. This definitely speeds up iPhoto and worked well in iPhoto 4 (but had to be done by editing the plist).



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Improve iPhoto5 performance by setting thumbnail size
Authored by: blalor on Feb 16, '05 06:35:49PM
WOW! Man, what a difference! This just saved me from going back to iPhoto 4!

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0, 1, and 2 in organize view
Authored by: anoved on Aug 12, '07 05:07:24PM

This is a great tip from a browsing perspective, too.



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Improve iPhoto5 performance by setting thumbnail size
Authored by: Panjandrum on Feb 16, '05 07:54:53PM

It is a little unclear as to whether this hint forces iPhoto to create larger thumbnails in the first place, or if it simply changes the scaling amount dictated by the slider so that the largest thumbnail setting you can access is lower than 240 pixels.

One of the reasons I don't use iPhoto is due to this long-standing issue (this isn't new with iPhoto 5, it's been there all along). 240 pixel thumbnails simply aren't large enough for me, so using iPhoto was always painfully slow.

So, which is it?

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David Butler
http://www.macmaven.net/
http://www.dhbutlerphotography.com/



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iPhoto using AOL for mail broken
Authored by: Spiritman on Feb 17, '05 12:01:55AM

AOL is now greyed out in iPhoto preferences as a email choice with the latest AOL version....anyone have a solution? Even thought AOL saves the last version, booting it up doesn't help.

thanks



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Improve iPhoto5 performance by setting thumbnail size
Authored by: dzurn on Jun 27, '05 11:15:42AM

I doubt that iPhoto changes the thumbnail size. This hint only refers to the display of the thumbnails that iPhoto has already collected. If it has to perform scaling on-the-fly on every photo view, that is slower than just tossing the thumbnail as is to the screen.

In other words, at the "2" view level, iPhoto doesn't have to do any processing of the original photo or scaling of the thumbnail, it just shoots the thumbnail as-is to the display.

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Madness takes its toll.
Please have exact change.



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Improve iPhoto5 performance by setting thumbnail size
Authored by: kaih on Feb 17, '05 12:37:34AM

and, FYI, hitting "2" sets the thumbnail sizes to 0.862051784992218
(usable as per the original defaults write command)

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k:.



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Improve iPhoto5 performance by setting thumbnail size
Authored by: earthsaver on Feb 23, '08 07:39:33PM

In iPhoto 7 (iLife '08), 0 zooms out, 1 zooms to full (one photo in frame), 2 zooms to two columns of thumbnails, and 3 zooms to three columns.

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- Ben Rosenthal
PBG4 1.25 - Leopard



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