By Frank Petrie
Come Christmas morn, Santa may leave you a trifle disappointed. But good old St. Cook wasn’t going to have any of it. And so he brought us a brand-new, shiny iTunes 11. With all the trimmings. Let’s unwrap it!
“A completely redesigned player. A newly remodeled store. And even more iCloud features. Everything you love about iTunes just got better. And easier.”
I find the design much more intuitive. You can access anything (your music, podcasts, movies, et al.) through a simple drop down menu in the upper left corner. Then the top the header presents you with a tidy list of selections. As an example, if you chose music in the drop down menu, then you can click on artist, genre, albums, radio, etc.
My favorite new feature is the dynamic Up Next feature in the right side of the Play window. You can add and remove songs “on the fly” from your collection. Drag them onto the list or double click on a song and it is added to the list. Another neat feature is that it doesn’t matter if the song resides in the cloud or on your HDD. iTunes will fetch the file wherever it resides (at least on your desktop machine).
The Album View is everything that I could have hoped for. You are presented with the covers of all the albums songs, full or partial, in your collection. Click on an album and a banner drops down, displaying the album art, a list of all of the songs on that album, and the ones that you already own are highlighted.
Getting to the iTunes Store is just a button click away. If you have been accessing the iTunes Store on your mobile devices, then it will look pretty familiar. They’ve also added a nifty new feature, IMHO. Were you looking at something several days ago and want to go back, but can’t remember the name of the item? No problem. There’s now a History button that, once clicked, will show you all of the recent media that you checked out.
As far as playback quality, I unfortunately own only a cheap set of cans (headphones). But even though their sound reproduction isn’t that great, it sounded to me like the dynamic range has increased, even on the 128kbps tracks. (I now finally have an excuse to by a pair of Dr. Dre beats!)
You now have an intriguing option regarding sound resolution. Previously, you went under the Advanced Menu to convert your music to Apple Lossless. But when I went hunting for the feature, it was gone. But after a quick search, I found ’Create New Version” under the File Menu. Now, not only do you have an Apple Lossless option, but you can tailor your files to play best on an iPod and iPhone, or an iPad and Apple TV.
And creating playlists has become slightly easier. Still a drag-and-drop procedure, just a little simpler (if that’s possible). And there are numerous other features that I won’t go into that you’ll just have to discover for yourself through play.
Finally, if all of the new features don’t impress you, you can always put back your sidebar, et al., and feel at home. But I don’t think that you will. Once I discovered a new feature, I found myself playing with it endlessly and incorporating it into my workflow.
They need to rethink the placement and size of the MiniPlayer button in the header. It needs to be as big as the AirPlay button and should be located on the other side of the play window, symmetrically laid out, not minuscule, instead of stuffed into the upper right corner of the app’s window. Plus, you can’t even access the MiniPlayer button in fullscreen mode. You can only switch to it through a keyboard shortcut, even though you still can access the AirPlay button. For someone like myself who lives in fullscreen mode, this is a minor annoyance. But an annoyance all the same.
I occasionally had some dropout while streaming. But I suspect that this was probably due to the fact that Apple’s servers were getting slammed by tens of millions of users.
The other thing that I have to look into is iTunes Match. Now, I know that if you join, your music gets an upgrade (i.e., a 128kbps file becomes a 256 kbps file and a 256 kbps file becomes a 320kbps file). But, I have converted many of my own CDs to AppleLossless. Will those files play at their 800+kbps native resolution or will they be dumbed down to 320kbps on my mobile devices? I know that there’s an answer, but I honestly haven’t researched iTunes Match.
This is a long, LONG due overhaul. And I think that the iTunes team deserves kudos.
This will be like most Apple releases as far as users are concerned. You have to rethink how to use this software, so you’ll grumble for several weeks. But
I feel confident that after you have settled in, you will be more than happy with what’s been achieved here.
I, for one, hope that this is a sign of the direction that Apple software is headed in.