86 Comments

Summary:

Almost every year, Apple releases a new version of iTunes with some new feature. Last year it was Home Sharing. This year, it’s Ping. Apple also usually tweaks the UI, many times creating a backlash. This year Apple has outdone itself.

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Almost every year, Apple releases a new version of iTunes with some new feature. Last year it was Home Sharing. This year, it’s Ping. Apple also usually tweaks the UI, many times creating a backlash. This year Apple has outdone itself.

Vertical Buttons

I’ll start with the most obvious UI tweak: the close/minimize/maximize buttons. I understand why Apple made this change: it saves space. When you hit the maximize button in iTunes, you get the mini-player, which has vertical close/min/max buttons in order to save space. Apple used the same reasoning with the main iTunes window.

There is a way you can disable it. Fire up Terminal and enter the following code:

defaults write com.apple.iTunes full-window -boolean YES

That will put the buttons back horizontally. You can change it back if you want to by changing the “YES” to a “NO”.

I don’t mind this change that much. I usually use the keyboard shortcuts to close or minimize iTunes anyway, and the vertical buttons do save space (if only a little).

Monochrome Sidebar

This one really irks me: Apple completely did away with color in the icons in the sidebar. To show you why this was such a dumb idea, I’m going to quote from Apple’s own Human Interface Guidelines:

Making each toolbar icon distinct helps the user associate it with its purpose and locate it quickly. Variations in shape, color, and image all help to differentiate one toolbar icon from another.

Making all the sidebar icons monochrome makes it harder to identify them, especially since they’re all similar in size. Back in iTunes 9, you could easily tell where the iTunes Store was because its icon was green. In iTunes 10, you have to distinguish between the shapes, which is harder for us to do and takes more time.

There are currently a couple of hacks available to address this.

Show/Hide in the Sidebar

Another change made to the sidebar is getting rid of the triangle buttons on the left of list headings. These have been replaced by “Show/Hide” buttons that only appear when you’re hovering over a list name.

Album List View

Album list view is basically list view, but with albums on the side. A version of this existed in iTunes 9, but Apple tweaked the functionality of it as well as added a new toolbar button for it.

The New Icon

The new iTunes icon isn’t bad, it’s just not terribly interesting. I think Apple should have used a color other than blue, because, as Josh pointed out, there’s already a surplus of blue icons in OS X (Finder, Mail, Safari, iChat, QuickTime, etc). Purple would’ve worked nicely.

Apple chose to change the icon as the former “CD” icon has become less and less relevant in the age of digital downloads. But Apple could have taken it a step further. It could have changed the name as well, seeing as iTunes has long been for more than just music. My current favorite is “iMedia,” but that’s a little too broad; media can be images, as well. Also, “iMedia” doesn’t sound as good as “iTunes.” I think Apple will eventually change the name (and the icon to reflect that).

If you’d like tou can change the icon yourself:

  1. Open your Applications folder in Finder and highlight iTunes.
  2. Right click on it and select “Show Package Contents”.
  3. Go to Content -> Resources and replace the iTunes.icns with a new one. There’s already some great replacement icons coming out, like this one from Mattias Ekstrom. Of course, you can also just use the old iTunes icon.

Conclusion

It seems to me like most of the changes in iTunes are changes for change’s sake; just to make it look newer. The only really new feature in iTunes is Ping, and that’s basically just a link in the sidebar.

Do you love or hate iTunes 10? What other new names might work for it? Tell us in the comments.

Related GigaOM Pro Research: With Ping, Apple Builds a Social Network Inside a Walled Garden

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  1. i think changing the logo is the first step of itunes re-branding, which is not easy. I think they already know that itunes” is false

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  2. The UI Changes don’t bother me so much. The greyscale sidebar icons are the most bothersome, but not so much really.

    I would agree there’s not much reason for a whole version upgrade. This is more like iTunes 9.5. Although, the download was about 40 MB smaller so I’m sure there’s a great deal of underpinnings that have changed as well.

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  3. Samuel Herschbein Friday, September 3, 2010

    I hate the new interface. When media was in its infancy it was Black & White. Now that we have Retina displays & bright LCDs we’re going back to Black & White. WTF?

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  4. Er… you know that only a tiny minority of iTunes users are running Mac right?

    First they should fix iTunes so it’ doesn’t run like crap on Windows 7.

    It also broke all my podcast subscriptions for some reason. Bleh.

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    1. The site *is* called TheAppleBlog, so we generally don’t cover Windows.

      Performance of Apple software on Windows has always been atrocious, and no one’s sure why. They could definitely make it better, but I think the rate at which iTunes is getting new features outweighs the effort they’re willing to put into making it perform better on Windows.

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      1. Hmmm… Read your own conclusion again (“Change for change’s sake[...]No new features[...]“), and your defense of Apple’s bad Windoze performance is that the rate of new features is good enough so that they don’t put effort into getting it to run better on that O/S. Makes no sense.

        And of course making it run better on an O/S you don’t use is outweighed by X other priority.

        No flamewar start here, just pointing out some stuff that stood out in your arguments…

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      2. @gm I meant from their perspective, as in the people developing iTunes are putting too many new features in for them to consider how it runs on Windows. I think they should spend more time optimizing performance, on both platforms. I’d rather have a faster iTunes than an iTunes with Ping.

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      3. Have you thought of re-naming this site TheMacOSBlog? If you’re covering Apple products, might as well cover them where they’re used most.

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      4. The “Apple” Blog should surely cover Apple products, not just Apple products that are RUN on Apple products? The vast majority of Apple product owners run Windows… Or are you saying their should be a separate blog for this majority: “TheAppleProductRunningOnWindowsBlog”? Just saying, it seems strange to ignore the biggest customer base.

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    2. Wait…Sean, are you saying that the “large” majority of iTunes users are Windows users?

      I’d love to see some stats to back that up the “tiny minority” you’re referring to, because frankly I don’t believe it.

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      1. Don;t think there is a way to get the actual numbers (will Apple release them?), but just think about all the Windows users who have iPods/iPhones/iPads and must install iTunes to communicate with their device. Given Windows’ marketshare of the PC O/S market and Apple’s marketshare in those three devices, it stands to reason (to me, anyway) that a lot of Windows iTunes installs exist.

        As to whether or not it’s a big majority only Apple knows, but I think it’s very highly likely that there are more Windows iTunes installs than MacOS.

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      2. Definitely would agree there are WAY more Windows installs of iTunes than Mac. Seems like a given.
        Take a look at views on discussion.apple.com:

        1.1 million views for iTunes on Windows topic
        773k for iTunes on Mac

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      3. No its definitely not “tiny”. there could be a bigger percentage of windows users running iTunes but sure isn’t very small. Besides that there are allot of people changing to a mac because of the experience with there iPhone’s and other Apple devices. Simple,Beautiful,Fast,Powerful and it gets the job done. Just like we all want it. i’m not saying Windows is shit. but people underestimate Mac as well as other apple devices.

        On the other hand I don’t have a good experience with Microsoft applications for Mac. they remain bad like example Messenger for Mac.

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      4. Yes – yes I am saying the “large” minority are running iTunes on Windows.

        Some basic numbers – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OS_market_share

        Ok accuracy is always an issue, but it’s a good ballpark – certainly OSX is less than 10% – and that’s in the US, globally it’s much lower.

        Only Apple knows for sure, but the iPod line has sold extremely well – enough that iTunes installed base should start to match overall OS numbers fairly well. Even if more Mac users have iPods than PC users, iTunes will still be massively more widely installed on Windows than Mac.

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    3. I definitely agree with you about it running like crap on Windows. Before I got my Mac I had a simple PC desktop. So I know what you mean even though that was many years back.

      If I could decide what to change about iTunes it would be the name even though the name is hard to let go. And the logo does look good but it misses something unique. I design so i think there should be a little more thinking about the logo. Then again I think Apple isn’t really happy with the new logo. It was mainly meant for getting rid of the CD in the image. Further more I like the solid logo’s in the sidebar. just needs to get used to like everything does.

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  5. I think they went for the monochrome look to emphasize AirPlay — the icon at bottom right is nearly the only instance of bright colour in the entire UI. The functionality is no different than when it was a simple grey button that said “Speakers”, but it draws more attention to the wireless streaming functionality that iTunes has long had. Likely no coincidence the change coincides with the announcement of the new AppleTV.

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  6. I think a lot of bloggers/people have forgotten that iTunes is the vehicle that Apple has used over the years to premiere new UI changes. Remember how Apple changed iTunes before Leopard (OS 10.5) came out? Come to find out when Leopard shipped, all the UI windows became more like iTunes. Remember when cover flow was adopted into iTunes? Well that showed up in Finder after that! This is not about change just for the sake of change, this looks like a glimpse of OS 10.7. Just another taste of the future.

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    1. They better not make the icons in Finder monochrome.

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      1. mmh they did that already with Leopard folders, didn’t they?

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  7. Sadly at this point I don’t think Apple can change the name or move any of the functionality out of iTunes and into another app. iTunes is the go to app for too much stuff and making any changes would just confuse a large portion of their user base.

    Also sadly iTunes X is still Carbon and likely to remain that way to ease porting to Windows. I was really hoping to see a Cocoa rewrite like they did with Quicktime.

    Other than moving the buttons I don’t mind the new UI changes though. I always paid more attention to the names than the icons and wouldn’t mind ditching the icons completely.

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    1. I’d like to see them break iTunes up into multiple applications. Maybe they could hand iDevice syncing over to iSync, books over to a new application called iBooks, and so on. I don’t think they’ll end up doing that, though.

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      1. I could see them rewrite it as a thin front end for their cloud.

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      2. No that sounds like something Microsoft would do with a windows application. Just doesn’t make sense to split up iTunes. most of my Mac usage I have iTunes on (not at startup). Having everything in one place is better then running several applications. I think most of us wouldn’t be happy if they made it like that.

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    2. What makes you think iTunes is still carbon? Services work, and Services do not work for carbon applications.

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  8. “In iTunes 10, you have to distinguish between the shapes, which is harder for us to do and takes more time.”

    If this is the case, you need to get your eyes tested. And anyway, your a writer, you went to school; surely you should be able to read the words next to the pictures?

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    1. It’s just a fact of being human: our brains can process color quicker than they can distinguish shapes.

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  9. I agree with Twist. iTunes has become “the go to app for too much stuff.” At this late date, I’m not sure how they could split it apart again, but having a media player, mixed with music and audio book purchases, along with mobile device management, and now a Facebook-like feature makes it a muddle to use. It does too much.

    If they want a name change, I’d recommend iMess.

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  10. I strongly disagree with you in one point: The new icons are much sleeker and less chaotic. In my opinion, it is much easier now to locate and distinguish them and the new layout adds more calmness to the user interface.

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