There are times when I get all gee whiz and giggle over something new. iTunes 9 is new. Newer than new. It looks and feels like iTunes but as you look around, explore, click here and there, you find it’s more than the sum of the parts.
iTunes 9 is faster, and is organized different. Not necessarily better, because that requires some time to become acclimated. It is easier to find what you’re looking for. But think of how much there is to find in iTunes.
If you’re not into iTunes Store but use iTunes to manage music on your Mac or PC, or sync it all up to your iPod, iTunes 9 brings more than a few new features.
I’m not much into mixing and matching music ala the new Genius Mixes (not to be confused with the cute guys at the Genius Bar in the Apple Stores). Think of this as the computer mixing your music just for you, based on your tastes in music.
Genius Mixes is more. It’ll do movies, too. The idea behind the Genius is to expose you to more music that somehow or another appears to a computer to match what you appear to like based upon what you have and what you play.
Good luck with that.
We’ve always been able to share our music. “Gimme that CD,” my friend. Legally, Apple made it easy to connect your Mac to another household member’s Mac so you could listen to what’s on their Mac without having to copy it all to your Mac (though it’s likely many did anyway).
Home Sharing means you can check out the iTunes libraries on up to five other authorized Macs or PCs in your household and even import those songs, movies or TV shows to your Mac.
It’s like a singular close encounter with a bittorrent in the room next to yours.
Sync Me, Baby, One More Time
Besides iTunes music management, if there’s a singular hallmark of iTunes and iPod (or iPhone or iPod touch) it’s the ability to sync without having to think.
That simple sync process is still there but improved, and with more options for iPod touch and iPhone users. Instead of dragging apps from page to page on your iPhone, manage the whole shebang inside iTunes.
That’s sweet, and long overdue.
iTunes has a few cosmetic changes here and there. The left column of Playlists and Library looks the same. Home Sharing is new. Smart Lists are improved with more options.
iTunes scroll bars are leftover from the previous version but still different than scroll bars in most Mac apps and the Finder. The top window status bar is thinner. I don’t know why that’s better. It’s more difficult to see.
The Library viewing options are the same; Cover Flow or list or icon for Music, Movies, TV Shows, and Podcasts. iTunes DJ is in the Playlist column.
If iTunes for your media isn’t changed all that much, and it’s not, then what has changed? Inside, iTunes’ architecture has changed, including adaptation of Apple’s Webkit technology (the rendering engine used in Safari). But the big changes are in the iTunes Store. Carry on to Page 2…
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iTunes Store, for all it was trying to do, had plenty of detractors. The interface was nightmarish and just plain cumbersome to use. Where is the App Store link? How do I find TV shows?
To be fair, iTunes Store has a lot going on. There’s upwards of 10-million songs, thousands of movies and TV shows, and 75,000 apps in the App Store. That’s a lot to ask of any single screen Mac application.
Search was limited and gave you a little of everything, including music, TV shows, movies, apps, games, music videos. From there you had to rummage through the results and dig deeper. It was time for Apple to Think Different.
Remarkably, not every Mac or Windows PC user also uses the iTunes Store. Apple claims to have over 100-million iTunes Store accounts, which is less than half the number of iPods sold since 2001.
Still, the store is where you go if you want to buy music online (73% market share), and the only real place to buy applications for the iPhone or iPod touch. Simply put, the Store is easier on the eyes, easier to navigate, but still complicated.
At the top of the iTunes Store you’ll see improved drop down tabs—Music, Movies, TV Shows, App Store, Podcasts, Audiobooks, iTunes U. If you just click on the tab you’ll get the whole section. If you mouse over, click and hold, you’ll see a drop down menu which makes drilling down to sub-sections much easier.
Search Me, Please
The iTunes Store search field remains in the upper right of iTunes. This is not to be confused with the search field when viewing music or whatever in your Library. The results are different.
For example, enter “apps games” in the iTunes Store search field and you get a handful of games on screen. One more click and you get a gargantuan list of all games, one window at a time. That’s not what you want.
The real fun begins with the Power Search button. Click it, and more options appear. Click Applications, and the search filter options change to include Developer, specific Category, Device, as well as Title/Keywords. That is the only way to search through tens of thousands of items. That alone is worth the price of admission (still free).
iTunes LP & Extras
Do you remember 33 1/3 albums? The vinyl record of 10 or 12 songs was tucked neatly inside the cardboard cover, which often had printed liner notes, sometimes a full album of extra information, often photos, and fanatic fan information.
CDs had something similar, though scaled back to dwarf proportions. The iTunes Store and digital downloads pretty much killed the extras you get with albums. Until iTunes LP.
Art, photography, liner notes and other goodies have made a comeback with iTunes LP. There’s not much to choose from yet, but more will come as artists get with it and try to outdo one another with extras.
Speaking of extras, there’s iTunes Extras. Think of this as that section on a DVD which included outtakes, documentaries, deleted movie scene footage, and even galleries. Some movies in iTunes Store are available now with such Extras, and more will come.
Here and there you’ll find other touches. The left column side bar can be hidden, which gives you more iTunes Store in the full window. The Genius Playlists will play music forever, just like a radio station, except it’s your music, mixed by the computer.
In an anemic, almost experimental way, Apple is getting all social, too, and lets you send specific iTunes Store items as gifts, create and add them to your personal wish list (it’s like a wedding registry for kids to parents), even publish them to Twitter or Facebook. Why? So people will know what you want and get it for you without asking them to.
Anemic? Yeah. In iTunes click on the arrow beside the Buy Song or Buy Album and you get a drop down menu with options. You can share on Twitter or Facebook, though what gets shared differs with each. Facebook gets the album picture and a link back to iTunes, so you’re advertising for Apple. But do you get a commission?
Is iTunes 9 the best iTunes yet? Yeah, it is. Just remember that iTunes is poorly named. It’s not just about music anymore. It’s also trying to do too much, but certainly does all it does better than any other application for the masses or online music store.