By: Tatiana G. King
For many a Windows user iTunes became quite the bane of an ipod/PC owners existence. It was clear Apple did not care as much as optimizing the application for Windows’ OS as they would do for their own devices. I can say from a personal standpoint that it was more of an afterthought: “Code it so it works on Windows but who care about fixing, yanno, bugs…”. I must say I am pleased with iTunes 11 so far. It seems to take up less system memory as it has loaded up way faster than previous versions. Typically I would double click the icon to open the program then walk away to “get me a cold pop” or something because it would take that long to fully appear. The memory issue must have been resolved for context sub-menu items as well. In the past if I right clicked a song to check the “Get Info” page (I am a sticker for editing the artist and album tags), I’d be rolling the dice. 9.8 times out of 10 my system would hang, up to 2 minutes at times due to either some weird bug or the fact that I have a cheap laptop. Nevertheless this issue is completely gone now and has not reared its ugly little snotty head whatsoever. It’s also of note that the iTunes store itself loaded faster which was good and I personally did not experience any rendering issues.
This new version looks good. Obviously everyone expects Apple programs/products to look good–but the update is noticeable and likable. Not only does it look good but (at least on the surface) its been cleaned and streamlined. The usual gripe I had with iTunes is that is was so damned cluttered. The context menus would increasingly become confusing (even though I would use iTunes more often as time went on–which would imply I wouldn’t be as confused but whatever). The landing page is now a high level overview of your Music Library–no more left menu. For traditionalists, you can easily bring the sidebar back by accessing the View menu. If you do decide to bring it back you’ll notice that the icons are now colorful as it used to be way back when.
The music player controls now appear on the top left of the window, while the song name, album title and album cover thumbnail remain in the top middle of the window. Now included in this space is a new menu icon. Clicking it will bring up an “Up Next” drop down listing that will list the next upcoming songs. I figured out that if you play a song while in Albums view, clicking the Up Next icon will reveal the next songs on that album (assuming you have additional songs from that album); while if you play a song while in Songs view, clicking the Up Next icon will show the next song (alphabetically) in the general song list. The same idea goes if you’re in Artists or Genres view; the Up Next feature will show related songs based on the view. You can also dynamically rearrange or remove songs from the Up Next list by dragging and dropping. This is cute feature that’s most useful if you’re in mini player view, or if you don’t feel like scrolling down the larger screen to manage your library.
There is a new middle bar where all your option types (Songs, Albums, Artist, Genres, etc.) are visible if you are looking within your music library. There is also an easy access “iTunes store” button located at the far right; of which switches to “Library” when you’re already in iTunes. Speaking of iTunes the new edge to edge designed revealed back in the summer looks great now that its fully realized on my own computer. Apple is clearly no stranger to design and they’ve given a lot more featured screen estate to artists. Screen estate is also maximized in Album view. Albums are now arranged in a grid format that you can scroll up and down through. Choosing an album brings an almost dialogue box-esque detailed view of each album. The animation is fluid and, once again, it looks good. I enjoyed how the detailed view extended the album cover graphic.
However its not all roses (if my tentative-sounding post title wasn’t a giveaway I don’t know what is).
First, I found it odd that at one point, the sync to ipod icon became visible. Sounds innocuous but my ipod was not (nor was any other device) even connected to my laptop. Weirder still was the fact that I clicked on the icon to see if the program would be smart enough to not do anything or display an “oops, my bad shouldnt have shown you this” type of error. Instead, iTunes actually attempted to sync to a non-existent device. Another bug I noticed was a visit to the movies menu (which for me displays all my videos) showed that EVERY movie was new/unwatched when it clearly has been on there for months if not years and watched several times.
Next, from the looks of it, the Cover Flow feature is completely gone and I’m not sure how iTunes enthusiasts will feel about that. Besides that (and perhaps I need to stop living in the past) I kind of wished that certain pop ups like the equalizer would “snap” or attach to the side of the main iTunes program window (like Winamp) instead of hovering randomly on screen. For the record there is no where to put it besides directly on top of whatever you’re looking at. Also inexplicably omitted was the “remove duplicate songs” feature. I thought it was handy–especially during those times when I was going on a download binge and was adding songs in groups of 5.
All in all while I applaud Apple’s efforts for delivering a really great looking, more organized product it will be interesting when (and if) iTunes undergoes a complete UI overhaul. I don’t agree with some of the omissions and I’m confused about the reports of people experiencing many bugs, despite iTunes programmers holding version 11 back a month to get more time to tweak it–perhaps they needed even more time? Still, I’d recommend iTunes 11 as a download for those looking for more optimized performance from the app.
UPDATE: AllThingsD’s Walt Mossberg has reported that Apple is preparing an update for iTunes 11 that will restore some missing functionality. Particularly restoring the duplicate search option, fixing album art, and movie streaming bugs. Source: