Old Toad's Tutorials
Old Toad's Tutorials
No. iP02
Sharing a Referenced iPhoto Library Between
Multiple Users on the Same Mac or on Multiple Macs
iPhoto's "reference" option (uncheck the checkbox for "Copy items to the iPhoto Library" under iPhoto's Advanced/Importing section provides a method by which multiple users can use the same "source" files but have a totally separate and independent iPhoto library all their own. Each user can create albums, slideshows, books, cards and calendars that are unique to only their library. Kind of like "What Happens in Library A Stays in Library A". If User A deletes a file from their library it only affects that library. The source files are never touched. To delete a source file it must be done from the Finder.

This method may be used with multiple users on a single Mac or on multiple networked Macs by placing the source files in the Shared folder or on an external hard drive that all have access to.

I've created this tutorial to assist users in setting up such a system.
Preparing the Source Files and Folders
 iPhoto has created folders for each event or roll. You can add the event/roll date to the event/roll title within iPhoto itself and iPhoto will change the title of the folders accordingly in the Originals and Modified folders. This will assist you in changing the dates in the new library so they will list correctly by date.

1 - Copy the Originals folder from your iPhoto Library folder to the Shared folder or the external HD as appropriate.

2 - Set the permissions on the Originals folder and its contents so that all users have read and write access. This will allow non-admin users to add new folders of files to the container folder.

If you have modified files in the library you that you need to keep here's one way to add them to the original file in the originals folder:

1 - Copy the Modified folder and its subfolders to the desktop.

2 - Using a file renaming application like R-Name batch rename each folder of files and add a letter designation like "-m" to the end of each file name (before the extension) to identify it as the modified version, for example IMG_34487-m.jpg.

3 - Move the renamed files from modified sub-folders into the Originals sub-folder of the same name.

4 - Temporarily move the original iPhoto Library folder out of the Pictures folder to the Desktop. Once you’ve established that the alias libraries are working and all photos are present and accounted for you can delete it.
Creating the Individual Referenced Libraries
1 - Each user launch iPhoto and create a new library.

2 - IMPORTANT: Go to iPhoto's Advanced Preference section and uncheck the "Copy files to iPhoto Library folder when adding to library" checkbox.

3 - Go to and select the File->Import to Library menu item.

4 - Navigate to the location of the Originals folder, select it and click the Import button.
Adding new source file to the Originals folder.
Each new batch of photos should be added via a new sub folder in the Originals folder. This is the only way the users will be able to identify the new files. iPhoto does not update existing source files so any files placed in there will be ignored by iPhoto and difficult to locate by users.

Once a new sub-folder is imported into an iPhoto alias library those photos can be moved into existing rolls as the user sees fit. This will not affect the source files in the Originals folder.

This, and the other tutorials, should give you a handle on how to convert to, run and share an alias based library.

WARNING: It should be noted that there are a number of pitfalls to running a referenced library.

1 - You assume responsibility for the management of the source files.

2 - They cannot be moved, renamed or edited outside of iPhoto after they have been imported into the library.

3 - If there is an interruption of any kind while iPhoto is open and writing to the library the library's database file, Library6.iPhoto, can be damaged which will result in losing all of your organizational effort in the library. The image files will not be lost, just your keywords, events, slideshows, books, etc.

4 - The library can be opened but will have limited use if the source files are not available. Only thumbnail and edited versions of the photos can be viewed. Any operation required the original file, i.e. slideshows, etc., cannot be performed.

5 - If the library contains any movie files it cannot be opened unless the source movie file is available. You will get continued warning messages preventing you from any further operation unless the source file is located.

 Generally speaking it is not recommended to run a "referenced" library due the many pitfalls a referenced library is subject to.

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