Mac tip: Using iPhoto smart albums to build a better screensaver

Mac tip: Using iPhoto smart albums to build a better screensaver

The latest version of Mac OS X, 10.5 aka Leopard, includes a nifty screensaver setting that makes one of those mosaic patterns. It starts off with you looking at one photo and then zooms out to show dozens of other photos and then when it zooms out enough you realize they all make up another photo. And then it continues ad infinitum.

I’ve had this set to a smart folder in iPhoto that gathered all my pictures of Isabella based on the keyword of her name. And that worked well until Sophia came along and I wanted to include her as well. Now, I know I could have gone through an re-tagged all my photos of Isabella with a new tag like “my kids” and then tagged all of Sophia’s with the same and then created a smart folder for that tag and made the screensaver run from that … but that sounded like too much work.

Instead, I decided to use nested smart albums. Except, I found to my chagrin, iPhoto doesn’t supported nested smart albums. What do I mean by nested smart albums? Smart albums are photo albums constructed not one by one, but automatically by the program based on criteria you give it, such as keywords, dates, ratings, etc. What I was hoping was that one of those criteria could be whether a photo was in another smart album. Unfortunately, that’s not possible. Thus, plan B.

I created three smart albums: “Isabella”, “Sophia”, and “Isabella and Sophia”. The critera for each were:


  1. [Isabella] Match all: Keyword contains “Isabella”; Date is after “5/17/2006” (the day before Isabella’s birthday); and Keyword is not Sophia (i.e. photos of just Isabella alone)

  3. [Sophia] Match all: Keyword contains “Sophia”; Date is after “3/3/2008” (the day before Sophia’s birthday); and Keyword is not “Isabella”.

  5. [Isabella and Sophia] Match all: Date is after “3/3/2008”; Keyword contains “Isabella”; Keyword contains “Sophia”

So now, I have smart albums of the two girls alone and then together. Now I just drop those in a folder called “The kids” and in the Desktop & Screensaver Preference Pane, I point it at this folder and voila!


Just don’t ask me what I’ll do when the third child comes along. Maybe by then Steve Jobs and Apple will have added nested smart albums. Whew!