As a little surprise after having tought my 9 o'clock tutorial class – eek , I'm just not good that early in the day – I saw there was an Update of iTunes to version 4.5.
Being a curious type, I quickly downloaded and installed it. There are a couple of new features:
- Little arrows
- Good news: the little arrows behind album, band and even song names – as we know them from iTMS have made it into the Library. Bad news: they're quite useless because clicking on them will take you to iTMS rather than the corresponding section of my own library.
- Preferences are bad – we all know that. And iTunes just got a few extra ones. Helpful ones in fact. Most notably you can simply turn off those arrows, making the previous feature a neutral one for me. You can also turn off the 'Radio' section now. That was long overdue.
- Another new preference makes iTunes auto-group compilation CD (formerly 'Collections'?) as an 'Artist'. That's quite useful in my opinion. Actually it's even better than that because artists only appearing on compilation CDs won't be listed with the other artists any mor and hence not clutter that list. iPod users rejoice.
- Playlist sharing
- There seems to be a new feature to share your playlists on iTMS. For me it just doesn't work. Perhaps you need to log on to iTMS for it to work. But I can't. After entering my account details, I am asked to 'review' my account information. iTunes displays a legal crap page which I duely ignored by clicking the 'Accept' button. Then iTunes just crashed (while calling
CFStringUppercase). From download to crash in less than five minutes. QA hits again. Hooray. Now I'm waiting for my music library to be deleted.
- Playlist sharing
I am a bit disappointed now. Not only because I hoped that iTunes may treat playlists better now that it used to but mostly because I think that playlist sharing is a great idea (so great in fact that I've had it a long time ago but wouldn't keep my breath). And Apple completely missed that opportunity: Only songs available at iTMS can be in shared playlists. The feature just doesn't work when you're not logged into iTMS (although this isn't mentioned in the help file). iTunes just crashes when trying to log into iTMS.
- Lossless encoder
- Providing a lossless audio encoder will be good for audiophiles who are short on disk space. A nice idea. And perhaps a sign giving rise to the hope that Apple isn't all about candy-floss interfaces.
- Not that I have need for this, but iTunes claims to be able to import non-encrypted WMA files now.
- Party Jukebox
- A playlist that shuffles all of your library (or a playlists) and lets you re-arrange songs on the fly. A nice idea for parties, which may reduce stress levels in hosts who fear that guests may accidentally destroy their carefully crafted playlists. A few shortcomings on the first sight: I can't see a way to shuffle across different sources (Library + shared library+ iPod, say).
iTunes has a new way to highlight the currently playing song. It is highlighted in a shiny '3D' way. But it's only used in the Party Jukebox. And it doesn't respect my preferred graphite system colour setting and comes along in an all-too-familiar shiny shade of blue.
- A little detail, that may prove to be very usful: When a song plays, there is now yet another incomprehensible button in iTunes stateful multi-function display that'll take you to the song's playlist with the song selected when clicked. A good idea.
Another nice detail improvement is that iTunes now provides a Panther-Finder style eject button for removable sources right in the sources list.
Looks like there are under the hood improvements as well. I can now launch a copy of iTunes for every user on the machine. Shared music libraries of the other users on the same machine are displayed. – Just like it should be.
Want to print covers for your own compilation CDs? Pretty covers? Effortlessly? Well, just choose the 'Print' item in iTunes' file menu. Very cool. Very neat. Very pretty. The preview it shows could be a bit larger. And it doesn't really need to put
Printed with iTunes on every cover as far as I am concerned. The cover for my Waster CD is below.
- There is support for the new print feature in iTunes' AppleScript dictionary. Also there seems to be support for shared libraries – which hasn't existed all the time.
My fear with this update is feature creep. Apple keep adding things here and there. On the other hand, the new print feature is well done and non-intrusive. Some other details have been improved as well. The only thing I spontaneously dislike is that iTunes pitches iTMS much more aggressively now. And by doing so it misses out on a few wonderful chances: Easy navigation within my library for the 'little arrows' and playlist sharing, which should be available for everyone and independent of but integrated with iTMS.
That much for a first look. Time will tell how well-implemented the new features really are and whether iTunes' performance has also been improved to make it play without skipping in situations where there is a lot of hard disk activity.
iTunes history on this site: iTunes 4, (afterthoughts), 4.1, problems, iTunes 4.2 as part of an 'iMusic' roundup. I am a bit of an addict, I guess. Next, for the iPod update. Let's hope it is good.
April 28, 2004, 13:34
I’ve heard (but not tried) that you can option click on those arrows you find annoying to have it perform the task you were complaining they don’t do (with a single click, that is).
April 28, 2004, 18:49
Will, I just tried it and it does work. Not perfect but possibly good enough. I’ll add your hint to the post.
April 28, 2004, 20:19
It’s always been easy to delete a song from your library by deleting it from any playlist; just hold Option while you hit delete!
April 28, 2004, 21:11
Michael, that’s very helpful.
How could I have been using iTunes a lot for years now and not have figured that out?
It may be about discoverability. The command doesn’t seem to be available via the menu - or even the contextual menu, so I supposed it just can’t be done.
April 29, 2004, 0:55
Unfortunately, the Compilation grouping does NOT appear on iPods! At least mine, a 20gb 2G, and yes I updated it. Can users of 3G iPods confirm?
April 29, 2004, 19:18
Nope. I just checked and the compilation “artist” does not appear on a 3G iPod.
April 29, 2004, 19:50
I also found the arrows a bit annoying and ugly. Thankfully, you simply turn them off in the preferences.
April 29, 2004, 21:47
Love that new “Compilations” preference. It’s really cleaned up my “Artists” list a lot. (No sense cluttering it up when all I have is one or two songs per some obscure artist who happen to be a on a “Compilation” CD.)
HOWEVER, contrary to some of the hints in this page, not only does the “Compilations” artist not appear on the iPod, but the associated artists show up individually on the iPod’s scrolling list. Which is bummer — that’s where you really want to contain the clutter. Hopefully this’ll be addressed in a future iPod update.
April 30, 2004, 8:15
If you dislike the little arrows, be sure to also check out the next post for how to de-commercialise them and the post after that one to improve their looks.
May 5, 2004, 22:01