iTunes 7, a ragbag assortment of second impressions and thoughts

  • On my MacBook Pro, a little over a third of my 120GB hard drive is taken up MP3s. All encoded at 192kbps (MP3 not AAC for better compatibility). It’s a relatively limited selection of my collection of music, but enough to be going on with.
  • I’d be interested to know how people with larger music libraries use iTunes (er, that’s an invite dear reader to post in the comments…) I don’t like to scroll – something that Jakob Nielsen points out is common to the vast majority of web users. I dimly recall that in early useage of iTunes I had a long list of albums in the Source pane (this very second I’ve just noticed that the sidebar is no longer called Source, in fact it’s not called anything at all) and I found myself more frequently playing music from the visible section than the stuff hidden further down. So my iTunes setup is very much oriented towards ease of use. I don’t want to click folders open and closed in the sidebar and then have to click through to the album – I want to be able to see my top level choices as fully as possible

itunes 7

  • right away in front of me, but I also want to see album art properly. I know, I want my cake and eat it. (This is the reason I don’t use the Quicksilver iTunes interface – too much scrolling – all well and good if you know exactly what you want to play, but who does very often – my experience is that more than half the time I just fancy listening to some music, but don’t know what.) Here’s what I’d like to see:
    • Either an interface that reflected the current Finder column view so that you made your choice of Genre (or chosen alternative) then followed through to Artist > Album. I’ve sketched this out before, but with iTunes 7, my updated, preferred option would be:
    • The aforementioned column view or retain the current multi-column browser interface, but when the album (or playlist or whatever) has been chosen and is being played, coverflow appears to display all the cover against the lovely, rather dramatic – and slightly chilly – black background, plus to the side the details of the album including performers, production, etc. gleaned from the tab of the MP3 file or preferably from a separate, but linked file.
    • Then again, I’ve just spotted that this is possible, which is quite nice (thought note still the acres of wasted space):
  • Another iTunes view
    • Unfortunately, as soon I steer away from it or quit and restart iTunes the folder size reverts to the original, tiny version. Relevant tags: ‘irritating’, ‘frustrating’.
  • Whatever, coverflow really doesn’t currently meet my requirements, at least as far as I can see – when choosing coverflow, I’m forced into a consecutive list view in the lower pane, there’s no chance to access the genre/artist/album view simultaneously. Shame.
    • What’s also weird is that if I choose to play one album in the new ‘grouped with artwork’ view, it continues to play the next album in the list after the chosen one has finished. Not nice at all. It should stop at the end of the chosen album. This seems not properly thought out, but on the evidence of previous iTunes development, it may be a long time before it’s addressed.
  • Interestly Daring Fireball has just written this in a post about the shuffle: “My cheap little Shuffle is far and away my favorite iPod. It ends up that the shuffle mode’s randomizer does a better job picking music I want to hear than I do. When I pick music manually, I tend to keep picking the same music I just listened to yesterday, and I bore myself.” I don’t have this exact problem, but I’d like a more intelligent way of suggesting albums than the random shuffle approach.
  • The iTunes Store – like the screenshots of the movie store (apparently US-only until ’07) is a lively, colourful place – shame something similar can’t be done for iTunes – why can’t we have something like Last.FM’s Dashboard for iTunes with thumbnails of recently played album, long unplayed, random (or weighted) suggestion based upon what you’ve been listening to recently), etc – all from the tracking info iTunes already logs and customisable for the user.
  • Another improvement still lacking is that if you navigate away from the playing track to check something about another album, then switch to a different app and pause the music, you lose the current track entirely. This is another one of those basic things that seems daft to see in an app at version 7.
  • Still no interface for viewing lyrics (or whatever other data you’ve added) of the currently playing song without going into Get Information for the particular track and choosing the appropriate tab. Strange that this was added (in version 5?), but not fully exploited – could be a great feature, but currently seems like a forgotten impulse. Same goes for the ability to add multiple Artwork to each track.
  • iTunes does still seem to be more of a resource hog, still getting spinning beachballs from time to time and coverflow artwork sometimes takes a moment to load.
  • I’ve had to restart the app a few times to rid the interface of ugly blurring on the column titles, as illustrated below:

Blurred titles in iTunes 7

  • And finally, now that iTunes is a storefront for movies, TV, audiobooks etc, why’s it still being called iTunes? It’s similarly position to the UK’s now weirdly named ‘Carphone Warehouse‘.
  • All in all, I’m still underwhelmed. The problem with iTunes is that, yes, it’s fairly configurable, but I still have infinitely less choice in terms of interface than I do if I were buying audio playback hardware where a wide range of manufacturers and designers – from Bang and Olufsen to Amstrad (…) to NAD, etc – are all working towards the best marriage of sound quality and ergonomic design. Also the best (well you know what I mean) efforts of the creative visual teams behind the music are not being interfered with by the playback device – with a CD, I can still see all the details as intended (by the record company at least…) I wish I had the brains to be a programmer.

See also: Dan Hill’s post on iTunes 7 (favourite quote: “chances are that your album’s artwork won’t be in iTunes. (You can add it yourself, which is good, but not even I bother to do that.)” Er, no, neither do I, of course I don’t, who’d be that sad? Not me, no, no, no…