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iMovie: The Missing Manual by Aaron Miller, David Pogue

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Whether this is your first time using iMovie or you’re an old hand, you have a lot to look forward to. iMovie is incredibly powerful software, but you might not know it from the surface. Under the hood, it does intensely complex things (like stabilizing shaky footage) that video editors in the past would’ve sold their children for.

And that’s the whole point of iMovie, to do amazing things with your footage without requiring years (or even days) of expertise. Still, when you first open the software, you won’t realize all of iMovie’s full power. This book will introduce you to iMovie, diving into all its features (and even into a few nooks and crannies), so you can draw on all its abilities.

The Difficult Birth of the New iMovie

Within six months of its release in October 1999, iMovie had become, in the words of beaming iMovie papa (and Apple CEO) Steve Jobs, “the most popular video-editing software in the world.”

Apple only fanned the flames when it released iMovie 2 in July 2000 (for $50), iMovie 3 in January 2003 (for free), and then—as part of the iLife software suite—iMovie 4, iMovie HD, and iMovie 6 in successive Januaries.

Then, in August 2007, Apple dropped a bombshell. Or, rather, it dropped iMovie.

The company’s new consumer video-editing program, called iMovie ’08, was, in fact, not iMovie at all. It was a totally different program, using all-new code and a different design, and built by different people. It was conceived, according to Steve Jobs, by Randy Ubillos, an Apple programmer who wanted to edit down his vacation footage—but found the old iMovie too slow and complicated. So the guy sat down and wrote his own little program, focused primarily on editing speed above all. Jobs loved it and decided that it would replace the old iMovie.

Many people were stunned by Apple’s move—and I, your humble author, was among them. In my New York Times column, I wrote about just how different iMovie ’08 was from its predecessors:

iMovie ’08 has been totally misnamed. It’s not iMovie at all. It’s designed for an utterly different task.

The new iMovie, for example, is probably the only video-editing program on the market with no timeline—no horizontal, scrolling strip that displays your clips laid end to end, with their lengths representing their durations. You have no indication of how many minutes into your movie you are.

The new iMovie also gets a D for audio editing. You can’t manually adjust audio levels during a scene (for example, to make the music quieter when someone is speaking). All the old audio effects are gone, too. No pitch changing, high-pass and low-pass filters, or reverb.

The new iMovie doesn’t accept plug-ins, either. You can’t add chapter markers for use in iDVD, which is supposed to be integrated with iMovie. Bookmarks are gone. Themes are gone. You can no longer export only part of a movie. And you can’t export a movie back to tape—only to the Internet or to a file.

All visual effects are gone—even basic options like slow motion, reverse motion, and fast motion. Incredibly, the new iMovie can’t even convert older iMovie projects. All you can import is the clips themselves. None of your transitions, titles, credits, music, or special effects are preserved.

On top of all that, this more limited iMovie has steep horsepower requirements that rule out most computers older than about two years old.

Pretty harsh, I know. But listen, I was an absolute whiz at iMovie 6. I knew it like the back of my mouse. And it looked to me like Apple was junking that mature, powerful program for what amounted to a video slideshow program.

Fortunately, Apple restored many of those “doesn’t haves” in iMovie ’09. The last major missing feature, detailed audio editing, showed up in another version of the program, iMovie ’11. Furthermore, iMovie ’11 came with so many useful features of its own that it changed the focus from what was missing to what was added.

Well, now Apple has swung the simplify hammer again. Realizing that the software was getting more complex with each new feature, it went back to the drawing board. The goal this time wasn’t a complete redo, but something more like a spring cleaning. The result is a dramatically streamlined iMovie.

The new iMovie still has all the cool features the old iMovie could only dream about. Image-stabilizing, color-correction, and frame-cropping tools are unprecedented in a consumer program. The trailer-builder is downright awesome. And it’s all hooked up to the Web, so you can post your masterpiece on Facebook, YouTube, or Vimeo with a single command.

iMovie also creates titles, crossfades, and color adjustments instantly. There’s no “rendering” time, as there was in the old iMovie. So you gain an exhilarating freedom to play, to fiddle with the timing and placement of things, without having to watch your computer crunch the effect for 5 minutes only to decide you don’t like it.

But a lot of features hit the chopping block, too. You can’t tag video with keywords anymore. Your export options have been reduced. And if you used iMovie’s Space Saver feature to free up hard drive space from unused, unwatched footage, I’m sorry to tell you that ability is gone, too.

Time will tell if Apple starts filling in more features again or keeps iMovie lean and trim. Just know that what you have now is all muscle.

iMovie for iOS

As you may have noticed, this book comes with a free bonus book: iMovie for iOS: The Missing Manual, which constitutes Chapters Chapter 18 through Chapter 24. See, iMovie’s little brother works on iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches, and it’s no slouch. Those chapters will cover everything iMovie can do on a touchscreen.

A Crash Course in Video Recording

For decades, when you said “camcorder,” people understood that you meant tape camcorder. And until about 10 years ago, that meant recording onto MiniDV cassettes.

The popularity of digital tape camcorders has permanently crashed, however. These days it’s hard to even find one to watch old tapes on. Now if you buy a camcorder, it’s tapeless—your footage gets saved to a memory card or hard drive. And today’s cameras record in high-definition format.

But if you’re like most people, you don’t even own a camcorder. That’s because still cameras and smartphones have taken over the world of home video.

The Switch to Tapeless Camcorders

At some point, camcorder manufacturers realized that what the world wants in a video camera is the ability to jump directly to any scene without having to wait. In theory, a tapeless camcorder also saves time because, when you transfer your video to your computer to edit it, you don’t have to play the camcorder tape back from start to finish in real time. The camcorder stores your video on a memory card or hard drive as a regular computer file, which you can simply drag and drop onto your Mac’s hard drive.

It used to be that tapeless camcorders couldn’t match the incredible video quality of MiniDV tape cameras. To store a reasonable amount of video on a tiny memory card, hard drive, or DVD, the camera had to compress it to an alarming degree, using less information to describe each frame of video. Video recorded onto MiniDV tapes, on the other hand, is essentially uncompressed. What you record is what you see on playback.

Everything changed with the advent of high-definition, or HD, compression techniques. Camera manufacturers figured out a multitude of ways to compress very high-quality video onto small storage media. Today, most tapeless HD camcorders match or surpass MiniDV picture quality.


The world of tapeless camcorders is filled with alphabet-soup model numbers. Apple identifies all iMovie-compatible cameras at http://help.apple.com/imovie/10/cameras. But you should also run a Google search before you buy any camcorder to ensure that other owners of the same model have had a good experience with iMovie. (Search for Sony HDR-CX190 iMovie, for example.)

High Definition

The other huge change in the past decade is that camcorders now film in gorgeous, widescreen, ultrasharp high-definition format. The video looks absolutely incredible on an HDTV set. Your own life looks like a Hollywood movie crew filmed it. Standard definition now looks as quaint as daguerreotype photographs.

Still Cameras and Smartphones

This brings us to the latest chapter of our camcorder history class. It used to be that people carried both a digital still camera and a camcorder on every vacation. That’s because neither one was good at doing what the other one did well. Still cameras shot only low-quality video clips that were limited in length. Camcorders could shoot only low-resolution still images that looked even worse in bad lighting.

Then still cameras started getting better. Expensive DSLRs with exchangeable lenses could shoot full-quality HD video. And what expensive cameras could do one day, inexpensive cameras could do the next. Soon enough, every digital still camera was capable of the same video quality as bulkier camcorders.

Enter the iPhone. In one fell swoop, the world of personal photography changed forever. Sure, the original iPhone took low-quality pictures, but in a few short years, it and its Android competitors were shooting HD video. They say the best camera is the one you have with you. Well, we always have our smartphones with us. And now the majority of home video is captured on a smartphone.

Lucky for you, iMovie can work with video from all these cameras.

H.264, MPEG-4, AVCHD, and Other Jargon

Tapeless camcorders store videos as ordinary computer files—on a hard drive or a memory card—that you can copy to your Mac and edit in iMovie. But what are those files? Every computer document gets stored in some kind of standardized format, whether it’s JPEG image (the usual format for photos) or TXT document (a text file). So what format do video files come in?


Today, most smartphones record in a format called H.264. It’s the same format Blu-ray disks use. It’s relatively lightweight and fast, file-wise, making it appealing for smaller cameras. Because H.264 is less data intensive—meaning it compresses the video more at the cost of some quality—more expensive cameras opt for the MPEG 4 and AVCHD formats instead.


Many still cameras and camcorders record in MPEG-4 format. (The abbreviation stands for Motion Picture Experts Group, the association of geeks who dream up these standards.) iMovie recognizes and imports all MPEG formats—usually. Unfortunately, there are multiple flavors of MPEG-2, used in older camcorders, and iMovie doesn’t recognize them all.


It’s worth repeating: If you’re tempted to buy a certain camcorder but you’re not sure if it uses a file format that iMovie works with, Google it.


iMovie also edits AVCHD footage, which is the most popular file format for high-definition tapeless camcorders. (It stands for Advanced Video Coding/High Definition, and yes, it’s an annoying acronym. Do they really think they’re going to make video editing more attractive by dreaming up names like this?)

Anyway, AVCHD is a high-def format concocted by Sony and Panasonic in 2006, and it is now standard on camcorders from Sony, Panasonic, Canon, Samsung, and others. It offers roughly the same video quality as MPEG-4 but takes up less space on your camcorder’s memory card or hard drive.


Back when HD was still on its way to becoming standard, Apple itself developed this video format in an effort to create easy-to-edit, reasonably sized video files. It doesn’t record in HD (it composes the image from 540 rows of pixels instead of 720 or 1080) but it edits more smoothly on slower Macs. The underlying format is based on industry standards, so you don’t need any special software to play iFrame video on a computer. That said, there’s not much point to the format anymore, with HD video so ubiquitous.

Camcorder Features: Which Are Worthwhile?

So how do you know which camcorder to buy? Here’s a rundown of the most frequently advertised camcorder features, along with a frank assessment of their value to the quality-obsessed iMovie fan.

HD Connection

Most HD camcorders now let you connect your camera directly to your HDTV. Using HD connections means you can see your camera’s footage at full-quality resolution on your TV.

Some cameras have jacks for component cables, which have three ends (red, blue, and green) for the video signal and two (red and white) for the sound. The jacks on your HDTV, if there, will match in color.

More and more, HD camcorders have HDMI connectors, a convenient, high-quality connection that sends video and audio signals through a single cable. The connectors are flat and rectangular and look like oversized USB connectors.

Image Stabilizer

Certain film techniques scream “Amateur!” to audiences. One of them is the instability of handheld filming. In a nutshell, directors shoot professional video using a camera on a tripod (Woody Allen’s “handheld” period notwithstanding). Most home camcorder footage, in contrast, is shot from the palm of your hand.

A stabilizing feature (which may have a marketing name, such as Sony’s SteadyShot) takes a half step toward solving that problem. As shown in Figure I-1, this feature neatly eliminates the tiny, jittery moves that show up in handheld video. (It can’t do anything about bigger jerks and bumps, which are especially difficult to avoid when you zoom in on a subject.) The stabilizer also uses up your battery faster.

A digital stabilizer works by “taking in” more image than it actually uses in your final footage. The stabilizer analyzes your clip and identifies its subject. It then shifts the focus of the clip’s individual frames to keep your subject centered and moving smoothly. To make this process work, the stabilizer zooms in on your image a bit. That’s why you need the extra-large image capture—to compensate for the zoom-in. On less expensive camcorders, unfortunately, this zooming in means that your clip’s final frames will have less video information in them than normal, to the detriment of picture quality.
Figure I-1. A digital stabilizer works by “taking in” more image than it actually uses in your final footage. The stabilizer analyzes your clip and identifies its subject. It then shifts the focus of the clip’s individual frames to keep your subject centered and moving smoothly. To make this process work, the stabilizer zooms in on your image a bit. That’s why you need the extra-large image capture—to compensate for the zoom-in. On less expensive camcorders, unfortunately, this zooming in means that your clip’s final frames will have less video information in them than normal, to the detriment of picture quality.

This kind of anti-shake feature comes in two forms:

  • Electronic, or digital, stabilization is what you get on cheaper camcorders. Figure I-1 describes how it works.

  • Optical stabilization is much more preferable. It involves two transparent plates separated by a special optical fluid. As the camera shakes, these plates create a prism effect that keeps handheld shots clearer and steadier than electronic (digital) stabilizers. The images are clearer because optical stabilizers don’t have to crop out part of the picture as a buffer, unlike the stabilizers illustrated in Figure I-1.


What could possibly be better than image stabilization on your camcorder? Image stabilization in your editing software. You’ll find iMovie’s amazing stabilizing feature described on Video Stabilization.

Manual Controls

Better camcorders let you turn off the camera’s automatic focus, automatic exposure control, automatic white balance, and even its automatic sound level. You’ll find this feature useful in certain situations, like when you want to change focus from one object to another in the same shot (known to the pros as a focus pull). If you decided to pay extra for this feature, look for a model that lets you focus manually by turning a ring on the lens casing, which is much easier than the alternative—sliders.

Optical Zoom

When you read the specs for a camcorder—or read the logos painted on its body—you frequently encounter phrases like “12X/300X ZOOM!” The number before the slash tells you how many times the camera can magnify a distant image, much like a telescope does. That number measures the optical zoom, which is the amount of magnification you get through the camcorder’s lenses themselves. Such zooming, of course, is useful when you want to film something far away. (As for the number after the slash, see Digital Zoom.)

You should know, however, that the more you zoom in, the shakier your footage is likely to be, since the camera magnifies every microscopic wobble by, say, 12 times. You also have to be much more careful about focusing. When you’re zoomed out all the way, everything is in focus—things near you and things far away. But when you zoom in, very near and very far objects go out of focus. Put into photographic terms, the more you zoom in, the shorter the depth of field (the range of distance from the camera that can be kept in focus simultaneously).

Finally, remember that magnifying the picture doesn’t magnify the sound. If you rely on your camera’s built-in microphone for sound, always get as close as you can to the subject, both for the sound and for the wobble.


Professional video and film work includes very little zooming in, unlike most amateur videos. The best zooming is subtle zooming, such as when you very slowly “move toward” the face of somebody you’re interviewing.


For this reason, when you shop for a camcorder, test its zoom feature if at all possible. Find out if the camcorder has variable-speed zooming, where the zooming speed increases the harder you press the Zoom button. Some camcorders offer only two speeds—fast and faster—but that’s still better than having no control at all. (The standard camcorder literature doesn’t usually mention whether a camera has variable-speed zooming or not; you generally have to go to the store and try it out to see how it performs.)

Minutes-Remaining Readout

Fortunately, the problems exhibited by camcorder batteries of old are a thing of the past. One of most bothersome problems was the “memory effect.” That occurred when you halfway depleted an old camcorder battery several times in a row, and the battery adopted that halfway-empty point as its new completely empty point, effectively halving the battery’s capacity. The lithium-ion batteries today’s camcorders use eliminate the problem.

Some video cameras—mostly from Sony, JVC, and Canon—even display, in minutes, how much recording or playback time you have left—a worthy feature.


The number of minutes’ worth of recording time advertised for camcorder batteries is continuous recording time—that is, the time you’ll get if you turn the camcorder on, press Record, and go out to lunch. If you stop and start the camera to capture shorter scenes, as almost everyone does, you’ll get much less than the advertised time out of each battery charge.

Built-In Light

Insufficient lighting is one of the leading causes of “amateuritis,” a telltale form of poor video quality that lets viewers know that the footage is homemade. In the best—and most expensive—of all possible worlds, you’d get your scene correctly lit before filming, or you’d attach a light to the “shoe” (light connector) on top of the camera. Those few cameras that have such a shoe, or even have a built-in light, give you a distinct advantage in capturing colors accurately.

Scene Modes

Many camcorders come with a number of canned focus/shutter speed/aperture settings for different indoor and outdoor environments: Sports Lesson, Beach and Snow, Twilight, and so on. They’re a useful compromise between the all-automatic operation of less expensive models and the all-manual operation of professional cameras.

Remote Control

Some camcorders come with a pocket-sized remote control. It serves two purposes. First, its Record and Stop buttons let you record yourself, with or without other people, in a shot. Second, when you play back footage with the camcorder connected to your TV or VCR, the remote lets you control playback without needing to have the camcorder on your lap. You may be surprised at how useful the remote can be.

Flexizone or Push Focus

All camcorders offer automatic focus. Most work by focusing on the image in the center of your frame as you line up a shot.

That’s fine if your subject is in the center of the frame. But if it’s off-center, you have no choice but to turn off the autofocus feature and use the manual-focus ring. (Using a camcorder isn’t like using a still camera, where you can point the camera directly at the subject for focusing purposes, and then—before taking the shot—shift the angle so that the subject is no longer in the center. Camcorders continually refocus, so pointing the camera slightly away from your subject makes you lose the off-center focus you established.)

Some Canon, Sony, and Sharp camcorders let you specify the spot in a frame that you want to serve as the focus point, even if it’s not the center of the picture. (Canon calls this feature FlexiZone; Sony calls it Push Focus. On Sony cams with touchscreen LCD panels, it’s especially easy to indicate which spot in the frame should get the focus.) If the model you’re eyeing has this feature, it’s worth having.

Night-Vision Mode

Most Sony camcorders offer a mode called NightShot that works like night-vision goggles. You can actually film (and see, as you watch the LCD screen) in total darkness. The infrared transmitter on the front of the camcorder measures the heat given off by various objects in its path, letting you capture an eerie, greenish night scene. Rent The Silence of the Lambs for an idea of how creepy night-vision filming can be. Or watch any episode of Survivor.

The transmitter’s range is only about 15 feet or so. Still, you may be surprised how often it comes in handy: on campouts, during sleepovers, on nighttime nature walks, and so on.

Still Photos

All modern camcorders can take still photos. The camera freezes one frame of what it’s seeing and records it as a regular JPEG file on a memory card.

The still-photo image quality, unfortunately, is pretty terrible. The resolution may be OK (some camcorders offer up to 5-megapixel resolution), but the quality isn’t anywhere near what you’d get using a dedicated digital still camera.

Useless Features

Here are some features you’ll see in camcorder advertising that you should ignore (and definitely not pay extra for).

Title Generator

Some camcorders let you superimpose titles (that is, text) on your video as you film. In your case, dear iMovie owner, a title-generating feature is useless. Your Mac can add gorgeous, smooth-edged type, with a selection of sizes, fonts, colors, and even scrolling animations, to your finished movies, with far more precision and power than the blocky text available on your camcorder. (Chapter 10 shows you how.)


A title generator on a camcorder is actually worse than useless, because it permanently stamps your original footage with something you may wish you could amend later. In fact, as a general rule, you should avoid using (or paying for) any of the in-camera editing features described in this chapter—title generator, fader, special effects—because you can do this kind of editing much more effectively in iMovie. Not only are the in-camera features redundant, but they also commit you to an editing choice in advance, thus limiting how you can use your footage.

Special Effects

Most camcorders offer a selection of six or seven cheesy-looking special effects. They can make your footage look solarized, or digitized, or otherwise processed (see Figure I-2).

Using the stock collection of special effects built into your camcorder, you can create special, hallucinogenic visuals. The question is: Why?
Figure I-2. Using the stock collection of special effects built into your camcorder, you can create special, hallucinogenic visuals. The question is: Why?

Avoid using these effects. iMovie has its own special-effects options, and it gives you far greater control over when they start, when they end, and how intensely they affect the video.

In fact, unless you’re shooting a documentary about nuclear explosions or bad drug episodes, consider avoiding these effects altogether.

Date/Time Stamp

Every camcorder offers the ability to stamp the date and time directly onto your footage. As you’ve no doubt seen (on America’s Funniest Home Videos or World’s Wildest Police Videos), the result is a blocky, typographically hideous stamp that permanently mars your footage. Few things take the romance out of a wedding video, or are more distracting in spectacular weather footage, than a huge 20 NOV 14 12:34 PM stamped in the corner.

Nor do you have to worry that you’ll one day forget when you filmed some event. As it turns out, digital camcorders automatically and invisibly date- and time-stamp all your footage. You’ll be able to see this information when you connect the camera to your Mac; then you can choose whether or not to add the stamp to the finished footage (and with much more control over its timing, location, and typography).

Digital Zoom

Much as camera owners mistakenly jockey for superiority by comparing the megapixel ratings of their cameras (more megapixels doesn’t necessarily make for sharper pictures), camcorder makers seem to think that what consumers want most in a camcorder is a powerful digital zoom. Your camcorder’s packaging may “boast” digital zoom ratings of “50X,” “100X,” or “500X!”

When a camcorder uses its digital zoom—the number after the slash on the camcorder box tells you its maximum magnification—it simply enlarges the individual dots that compose an image. Yes, the image gets bigger, but it doesn’t get any sharper. As the dots get larger, the image gets chunkier, coarser, and less recognizable, until it ends up looking like the blocky areas you see superimposed over criminals’ faces to conceal their identities on Cops. After your digital zoom feature has blown up the picture by 3X, the image falls to pieces. Greater digital zoom is not something worth paying for.

The Long-Term Storage Problem

No matter which kind of camcorder you choose, you have more to think about than features and price; you have the future to consider. Once the memory card or drive is full, you’re finished shooting for the day. The camera is worthless until you offload the video to a computer, thereby freeing up space to continue shooting.

Once it’s on your computer, what do you do with all of this footage? Backing up to DVDs is no longer a feasible option. (Newer Macs don’t even come with DVD drives.) You could, of course, just keep the video on hard drives. Here again, though, you have to wonder: Will the hard drive you buy today still work 50 years from now?

The solution to all these problems is, of course, simple vigilance. Every five or so years, you should copy your masterworks onto newer hard drives, or whatever the latest storage format happens to be.

About This Book

Don’t let the rumors fool you. iMovie may be simple, but it’s not simplistic. Unfortunately, many of the best techniques aren’t covered in the only “manual” you get with iLife—its electronic help screens.

This book is designed to serve as the iMovie manual, as the book that should have been in the box. It explores each iMovie feature in depth, offers illustrated catalogs of the various title and transition effects, provides shortcuts and workarounds, and unearths features that iMovie’s online help doesn’t even mention.


Your camcorder and iMovie produce video of stunning visual and audio quality, giving you the technical tools to produce amazing videos. But most people don’t have much experience with the artistic side of shooting—lighting, sound, and composition—or even how to use the dozens of buttons found on modern camcorders. If you visit this book’s Missing CD page at http://oreilly.com/missingmanuals/cds/imovie2014/ (see The Missing CD), you’ll find a bonus appendix in PDF form: three chapters designed to give you the basics of lighting, composition, and camera technique.

About the Outline

iMovie: The Missing Manual is divided into four parts, each with several chapters:

  • Part 1 introduces iMovie with a tour, shows you how to transfer your footage into iMovie, manage events, and work with projects.

  • Part 2 covers every aspect of making a movie, from the basics of piecing together clips to advanced features like video effects, cutaways, music, titles, and iMovie’s incredible trailers feature.

  • Part 3 helps you share your cinematic masterpiece with the world. iMovie excels at exporting your work to the Web, to YouTube, to an iPhone or an iPad, to an Apple TV, or to just a QuickTime file on your hard drive. This part of the book offers step-by-step instructions for each method and shows you how to use QuickTime Player to supplement the editing tools in iMovie.

  • Part 4 is dedicated to iMovie for iOS, iMovie’s little brother that runs on iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches.

At the end of the book, four appendixes await:

  • Appendix A provides a menu-by-menu explanation of iMovie’s commands.

  • Appendix B is a comprehensive handbook for solving problems.

  • Appendix C is a master cheat sheet of iMovie’s shortcuts.

  • Appendix D is a visual reference to all the little symbols, stripes, and color-coded doodads that, sooner or later, will clutter up your iMovie window and leave you bewildered. Turn to this two-page cheat sheet in times of panic.

The Very Basics

You’ll find very little jargon or nerd terminology in iMovie: The Missing Manual. You will, however, encounter a few terms and concepts you’ll see frequently in your computing life:

  • Clicking. This book offers three kinds of instructions that require you to use the mouse or trackpad attached to your Mac. To click means to point the arrow cursor at something onscreen and then—without moving the cursor at all—press and release the clicker button on the mouse (or laptop trackpad). To double-click, of course, means to click twice in rapid succession, again without moving the cursor at all. And to drag means to move the cursor while keeping the button continuously pressed.


    In the iMovie for iOS part of this book, the lingo changes from clicking to tapping. There’s no mouse cursor; you do everything with your fingers and the touchscreen of your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch.

    When you’re told to ⌘-click something, you click while pressing the ⌘ key (next to the space bar). Such related procedures as Shift-clicking, Option-clicking, and Control-clicking work the same way—just click while pressing the corresponding key on the bottom row of your keyboard.


    Apple has officially changed the name it uses for the little menu that pops up when you Control-click (or right-click) something on the screen. It’s still a contextual menu, in that the menu choices depend on what you click—but it’s now called a shortcut menu. That term not only matches what Windows calls pop-up menus, but it’s also slightly more descriptive of its function. “Shortcut menu” is the term you’ll find used in this book.

  • Menus. The menus are the words at the top of your screen: File, Edit, and so on. Click one to make a list of commands appear, as though they’re written on a window shade you just pulled down. Some people click to open a menu and then release the mouse button; then, after reading the menu choices, they click the command they want. Other people like to press the mouse button and go down the list of commands to the desired one; only then do they release the button. Both methods work, so use whichever you prefer.


    On Windows PCs, the mouse has two buttons. The left one is for clicking normally; the right one produces a tiny shortcut menu of useful commands. (See the previous Note.) But new Macs come with either a single-button trackpad or a Apple’s Magic Mouse, a mouse that is just one big button but can actually detect which side of its rounded top you press. If you turn on this feature in System Preferences, you, too, can right-click things on the screen.

    That’s why, all through this book, you’ll see the phrase, “Control-click the photo (or right-click it).” That tells you that Control-clicking will do the job—but if you’ve got a two-button mouse or if you turned on the two-button feature of the Magic Mouse, right-clicking might be more efficient.

  • Keyboard shortcuts. Every time you take your hand off the keyboard to move the mouse, you lose time and potentially disrupt your creative flow. That’s why many experienced Mac fans use keystroke combinations instead of menu commands wherever possible. ⌘-P opens the Print dialog box, for example, and ⌘-M minimizes the current window to the Dock.

    When you see a shortcut like ⌘-Q (which closes the current program), it’s telling you to hold down the ⌘ key, and, while it’s down, type the letter Q, and then release both keys.

If you’ve mastered this much information, you have all the technical background you need to enjoy iMovie: The Missing Manual.


Throughout this book, and throughout the Missing Manual series, you’ll find sentences like this one: “Open your Home→Library→Preferences folder.” That’s shorthand for a much longer instruction that directs you to open three nested folders in sequence, like this: “In the Finder, choose Go→Home. In your Home folder, you’ll find a folder called Library. Click it to open it. Inside the Library window is a folder called Preferences. Click it, too.”

Similarly, this kind of arrow shorthand helps to simplify the business of choosing commands in menus, as shown in Figure I-3.

In this book, arrow notations simplify folder and menu instructions. For example, “Choose →Dock→Position on Left” is a more compact way of saying, “From the menu, choose Dock; from the submenu that then appears, choose Position on Left,” as shown here.
Figure I-3. In this book, arrow notations simplify folder and menu instructions. For example, “Choose →Dock→Position on Left” is a more compact way of saying, “From the menu, choose Dock; from the submenu that then appears, choose Position on Left,” as shown here.

Online Resources

As the owner of a Missing Manual, you’ve got more than just a book to read. At the Missing Manuals’ website, you’ll find example files as well as tips, articles, and maybe even a video or two. You can also communicate with the Missing Manual team and tell us what you love (or hate) about the book. Head over to www.missingmanuals.com, or go directly to one of the following sections.

The Missing CD

This book doesn’t have a CD pasted inside the back cover, but you’re not missing out on anything. Go to http://oreilly.com/missingmanuals/cds/imovie2014/ to download additional information mentioned in this book.


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To keep this book as up to date and accurate as possible, each time we print more copies, we’ll make any confirmed corrections you suggest. We also note such changes on the book’s website, so you can mark important corrections into your own copy of the book, if you like. Go to http://tinyurl.com/imovieerrata to report an error and to view existing corrections.

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