The New iTunes 11: A Refresh
Yesterday was one of the more unique days I’ve had this week; playing around with a new piece of software, was a refreshing recourse to an otherwise average couple of days. As I sat beside my computer, I raised the lid excitedly, in anticipation of something promised to me for too long. However, unlike other users, I was not frustrated with the previous iTunes 10, but rather eager to anticipate what Jonathan Ive and Eddie Cue’s influences, would mean to the future of Apple’s interface mediums. Eagerly popping open the app store, I installed the software update, and hovered over the new, different iTunes logo. A few taps and clicks later, and I was ready to use Apple’s latest digital, entertainment hub. And as far as I was concerned, it was about time...
NEW MOVES AND GROOVES
There are many aspects of iTunes 11 that appear to have been changed, but that’s because they actually are. When I first explored the new interface, there were areas where I felt that I would experience a similar feeling of claustrophobia to browsing in the previous version; however, most of my concerns were alleviated the moment I actually began using iTunes 11, and navigating around the new interface. Primarily, the default view is now a scrollable, album-view that has many advantages over the previous, cover-flow mechanism: most noticeable, is the expanded perspective that occurs the moment an item is clicked. At first, it feels unfamiliar, but after only a day of use, I can personally vouch for its elegance and intuitiveness. Furthermore, the overall program is also displayed in a new and refreshing, edge-to-edge perspective. Here’s a quick comparison:
While the iTunes 10 cover-flow option (which is now gone) utilized a smooth, horizontal scrolling motion to navigate across albums, the newer option allows for a different approach to viewing your content. It also offers a new take on menus, with a strong emphasis on drop-downs, which will be more visible with further touring around the new app. Additionally, the "In the Store" option is a nice new addition, utilizing a core-strength of Apple’s ecosystem to show more information in a useful, usable manner. The albums open similar to folders in iOS, and the color-coded nature of expanded view, allows each unique piece to express itself in a vibrant way. When combined with the new sleek-metal overview, the new iTunes does seem to cement itself, as a foreshadowing of future OS X apps to come.
LIKE A SLEEK AND STEALTHY CAT
Other than the expanded album-view, iTunes 11 also switches many buttons and menus around, to the avail of a more minimalistic design. For those who miss the sidebar, it is available by going to the menu, view, and show sidebar. However, I personally prefer the new look and aspect of the "side"-bar, which is otherwise tucked beneath a small box in the upper-left hand corner of the screen. When clicked, it reveals the previously-shown menu, which now also sits beside an inconspicuous cloud symbol. Two more boxes round off the top-right hand corner, with one appearing when iOS devices are connected to the Mac in use (it serves the same function as before). The second button leads users to a redesigned iTunes store, which loads faster than the previous version. Also, the look of the store now resembles its iOS counterpart, and works with more scrollable, and viewable content bars.
The contextual menus now reside in the upper-middle section of the screen, which is more useful placement than before. Also, the controls and views at the very top portion of the application, have been slightly redesigned. The search bar has been changed as well, with it now filtering through all of your content, regardless of file / medium. And finally, there’s a new feature that many (including me) are delighted about; UpNext. Taken from Apple’s Website, which wonderfully summarizes what UpNext is all about:
"Already know what you want to hear? The new Up Next feature in iTunes lets you select a song and easily queue it to play next. Or last."
In iTunes 11, iCloud support has been reinvigorated as well: it’s now possible to synchronize where you have left off when watching a movie, for example. Also, items downloaded to your iOS devices can now be installed directly to your Mac as well. And, even though the foundation for cloud-based sync is now more relevant than ever, iTunes 11 also does a great job in keeping alerts and notifications on the down-low; it really meshes well with the overall aesthetic of the revamped interface, and I found it a pleasure to use.
MINI IS INDEED MIGHTY
As soon as I saw that curious little rectangle beside the fullscreen button in iTunes 11, I just had to click it. And boy, did I find myself surprised; after using it for merely a day, I have found Apple’s new mini player is more useful, graceful, and fun than I’ve ever cared to remember (Even more surprisingly, it’s even made me drop Bowtie from my most used Apps-list!).
Basically, the new Mini Player tries to utilize the fundamental aspects of media-playback, and fit them into a bite-sized area. The real question (to which you now know the answer) is, does it work? Well, instead of typing my thoughts, here’s a picture, which I hope does speak a thousand words:
Overall, I’ve found iTunes 11 to perform great on many fronts, with some changes more unexpected than others. While I also can see that it hasn’t received a dramatic change that would surprise all previous customers, I do understand that it still serves a purpose in today’s cloud-based, stream-errific household environment. I regularly use it for media consumption (even more-so because of the update), and there are still millions more that I know, see and use the new version’s benefits more than I have. And in conclusion, I do hope that future apps such as Calendar and Game Center retread down this path as well, as overall iTunes 11 seems to provide an exciting window into the future of the Mac.