Apple's iPhoto app has some very basic slideshow features built in. Sure, you can apply the Ken Burns effect all day long, and even save your slideshows as screen savers. But if you are bored by iPhoto's simple dissolves, pans and wipes, it's time to check out ScatterShow (US$29.99) from Smith Micro.
The OS X app (which can be purchased as a download or in a physical box) allows the creation of some really unique arrangements and animations of slides, all of which can be set to music. The app includes a number of pre-set templates, or you can choose to start from scratch. Once you select a background from those provided by Smith Micro or have added your own, you're practically done making your slideshow. Images for the slideshow can be selected individually, or you can add a complete folder.
Each photo can be converted to black-and-white or retouched with a variety of filters. The app provides a simple way to change the position of each image, and when the slides are finally animated, the app moves from image to image in a visually interesting presentation. Music is supplied from your iTunes library, or any music file can just be dragged and dropped into the app.
Once completed, your creation can be shared on Facebook, YouTube or on any HTML-enabled web page. Your slideshow can also be saved locally and played back as a QuickTime movie. Some nice examples of finished slideshows are available for your viewing pleasure on the Smith Micro website.
Despite the sophistication of the app, I found it extremely easy to use. There were enough included templates that I could readily find one that worked for me. Making adjustments to presentations is straightforward, and there is extensive help built into the app. My only gripe? If you import a music track, there is no way to automatically conform the slideshow to the duration of the music. Similar apps like FotoMagico ($99.99) do this quite easily, making the slideshow and musical accompaniment end at the same time.
Scattershow is a welcome addition to the list of apps that can create nice-looking slideshows. It is easy to use, and I'm hoping it will evolve to give the user more control and automation. The app requires OS X 10.6 or greater, and a minimum of 1 GB of memory.