For a while now, the iTunes desktop app has been considered to be one of Apple’s ugliest, with its clunky and bloated user interface. However, the reign of the hideous iTunes 10.7 has come to an end, with Apple releasing its predecessor, iTunes 11, which is an exceptional music player that brings back the great design that has been missing from iTunes for so long.
Changes to the overall interface has made iTunes 11 a much more easy to use app than its predecessor. The header section in the app has been streamlined. The playback and volume controls are much more suited to the brushed aluminium texture, and give off a more sophisticated feel. There still is an indent in the middle of the header, but it too has gone through some changes. There is no longer a sway of icons surrounding the song title, just the cover art, queue icon (more on that later) and the progress slider. Also gone is the sidebar, which was often cluttered with information, in favour for one icon, showing which form of media has been selected. This icon is seated in a second header row, which also includes sorting options and buttons for the iTunes Store and syncing of iOS devices.
iTunes 11 is focused on album artwork, and how it is utilised to make for the best user experience. This has resulted in one of iTunes 11’s biggest features. Upon clicking on an album cover, a beautiful menu will be revealed, which makes use of each album’s unique color palate. This makes for an innovative new way to display songs, and although much of the interface will be covered in color, text is always visible and easy to read. Hidden in this view are a few icons that will do very much, despite looking like very little.
The play and shuffle buttons are the obvious ones, but the small arrow icon is one that is key to the iTunes 11 experience. Hovering the cursor over any song will reveal this small icon, which upon being clicked, opens up a large number of other options. These range from asking for Genius suggestions, to going to the iTunes Store, to adding it to a playlist, and adding it to Up Next.
This last option, adding a song or album to Up Next, is another large feature of iTunes 11. Now users have much more control over the when their music plays and in which order it plays in. This is accessed through the list icon at the top of the interface, which upon being clicked, will expand into a menu that displays which songs are set to be played next. The Up Next feature integrates with this list of upcoming music, making the feature much more powerful. Users can add any song to Up Next, and it is automatically selected to play next. The most important thing, however, is that once the song has been played, iTunes goes back to playing items in the list. This brings in a level of control not seen in previous versions of iTunes, and brings it up to speed with many other music players on the market.
The iOS syncing interface has received an update, not in the way of new features, but of making the experience less cluttered. There is much less information presented on each screen, and the info that is displayed has been given a formatting update to make usability better. One feature that has been added is the “On This iPhone/iPad/iPod.” It will let you view all content on an iOS device, and also manually add items through the album view.
Another section of iTunes that has been altered is the Store, which is now more in line with the interfaces of the iOS Stores in iOS6. Large rotating tiles make an appearance at the top of the store, displaying important items in a much more visually appealing manner than before. This style carries through for the App Store, iBooks Store and all other aspects of the store.
App previews have also been given a boost, through removing much of the superfluous information seen in older versions, and splitting the important stuff into a number of pages.
For certain artist pages, a specialised background will be present. This is often through the use of a themed header, and alteration of the color palate. This makes for an experience that is much more personalised for popular artists, and hence, gives the feeling that Apple will alter various pages to suit an artist’s demands.
iCloud is also used much more abundantly, with integration present across the entire application. iTunes will remember where you left off in a film, and automatically add new purchases to your library. This is part of their ongoing effort to make iCloud more functional, and in that regard, it works perfectly.
A feature Apple has pushed since unveiling iTunes 11 is the new mini player. This minute window, which iTunes can be minimised to, is extremely small, yet packs an amazing amount of functionality.
Putting the cursor over the mini player will show playback controls, while moving the mouse away will show the title of the song and the artist. Also included in the mini player is the list icon, which expands the window to show upcoming songs, and again, the Up Next functionality works here too.
This is aided by the search button, which will allow for searching of any song, and immediate adding to the queue. AirPlay also makes an appearance in the mini player, with a small expansion window allowing for much functionality.
iTunes 11 is much better than its predecessor for two reasons. Firstly, the features that have been added are of a great quality. iCloud integration works very well, the mini player is nothing short of fantastic and Up Next is executed perfectly. Secondly, the interface has been completely overhauled into something beautiful, and something that Apple can happily put their name to. With iTunes 11, they have done something that is very hard, to make an interface more simplistic and aesthetically appealing, while adding a wealth of functionality. iTunes is no longer the music player to be ashamed of, but one to openly brag about. The new interface is clever in many new ways, and the new features make iTunes much more powerful. iTunes is free, and is easily the best music player available.