Blog Post

iTunes UI: Deconstructing 8 to 9

iTunes Icon

The one thing many people did not expect with a new version of iTunes was that Apple (s aapl) would use the opportunity to cause dissent among its fanbase by introducing another new user interface. Some classify the new styling as “needed” and “elegant and refined” while others have resorted to a variety of hacks to return to the UI of yesteryear.

We’ve gone through every corner of iTunes we could find and dug up all of the major changes in the interface. Here’s what we found.

Welcome to iTunes 9

The first thing many noticed is that iTunes 9 now launches with a Welcome to iTunes screen, offering quick links to videos showcasing some of iTunes features. Similar to apps like iPhoto and iWeb, users can disable this by ticking a checkbox.

Welcome to iTunes 9

iTunes Preferences

iTunes Preferences also featured a few notable changes, specifically adding support for grouping iTunes U content.

iTunes 9 General Preferences
iTunes 9 General Preferences

iTunes 8 General Preferences
iTunes 8 General Preferences

Parental Control also received a new icon (matching the icon in Snow Leopard) as well as some slight rewording.

iTunes 9 Parental Controls
iTunes 9 Parental Controls

iTunes 8 Parental Controls
iTunes 8 Parental Controls

Removed from iTunes 9 are references in the Store section to “adding to shopping cart” versus buying with Amazon’s (s amzn) licensed 1-Click technology. Added is an option to use the full window when browsing the iTunes Store.

iTunes 9 Store Preferences
iTunes 9 Store Preferences

iTunes 8 Store Preferences
iTunes 8 Store Preferences

Browsing Content

Browsing content within iTunes has also received a refresh. While browsing music in List Mode, the artists have been grouped along the left, making it easier to narrow down your selection rather quickly.

iTunes 9 Music List Mode
iTunes 9 Music List Mode

When browsing in Grid View, the first thing you will notice is that the dark black background is gone and now albums are scattered amongst an off white background. Badged content, such as Podcasts, TV Shows, iTunes U and Movies feature blue badges instead of the original red. Gone from this view are the tabs to sort content within an area (such as Music) by Albums, Artists, Genres and Composers. This can be re-enabled via the View menu.

ITunes 9 Podcasts
ITunes 9 Podcasts

Cover Flow view is pretty much the same, with the refining of the “full screen” icon.

iTunes 9 CoverFlow
iTunes 9 CoverFlow

The iTunes 9 Equalizer also received a refresh, styling the control knobs with blue accents.

iTunes 9 Equalizer
iTunes 9 Equalizer

iTunes 8 Equalizer
iTunes 8 Equalizer

Icons & Buttons

Buttons and displays in iTunes 9 have been overhauled to give them a more glossy, shiny three dimensional look. The toolbar has also been realigned, removing the ‘View’ label and moving the ‘Search’ label instead the Search field. The information area has also been updated, providing more useful information during syncing and downloading of content from the iTunes Store (such as time remaining).

iTunes 9 vs iTunes 8

iTunes 9 also brings about many refreshed icons, including many of the icons in the sidebar. Specifically, playlist icons have gotten the most attention, while TVs, Movies, Audiobooks, and Applications have seen slight refreshes as well.

Sidebar Icons

Syncing

Syncing is by far the area that received the most attention in this revision. Specifically, users now have the ability to sync content more selectively. When choosing a TV show, for instance, they can sync specific seasons or specific episodes. When syncing a podcast, they can choose to sync specific episodes. When syncing photos, users can take advantage of the iPhoto ’09 Faces and Places aspect to sync photos of particular people or a particular place. Many of these areas also provide a search field, making it easier to quickly narrow down and select the specific content you’re looking for.

TV Shows
Syncing TV Shows

Syncing Ringtones
Syncing Ringtones

Sync iTunes U
Syncing iTunes U

Syncing Music
Syncing Music

Syncing Photos
Syncing Photos

The biggest feature in the redesigned sync options is the ability to organize your iPhone and iPod touch apps directly within iTunes. Check the ones you wish to add, highlight to select them and drag them to whichever home screen you desire. Selecting multiple apps is a cinch and moving them between home screens is equally easy.

Syncing Apps
Syncing Apps

Everything Else

Upon a user’s first visit to a section, such as creating a new Playlist, or visiting the Podcast area, they are greeted with a new UI that discusses how that particular concept works.

iTunes 9 New Playlist
iTunes 9 New Playlist

While this overview is fairly exhaustive, there are likely many other features that users will continue to discover. If there’s one we’ve missed, please use the comments to let us know!

55 Responses to “iTunes UI: Deconstructing 8 to 9”

  1. Carl Mehlhaff

    In iTunes 8 you had the option to take off the album covers, and now I can’t do it. Was this option moved to another area, or just removed entirely. I liked to use the Album artwork space for putting in more music, sometimes up to 10-12 extra songs. I know this does not sound like a lot to you, but it was something i liked.

  2. The new iTunes sukcsssssssssd ……. Iterased all of my songs ibthe iTunes library and now that i want to get them back there it won’t let me…does anyone knows how to downgrade?

  3. iTunes 9 is a disaster for me as it has wiped out access to my 12,000+ iTunes library, and does not let me even open iTunes via the desktop icon, telling me instead that “The iTunes Library .itl file cannot be found or created. The default location for this file is in the iTunes folder in the music folder. Fat lot of good that is when it cannot be opened! It may be that it is because I have MS Vista as my operating system. iTunes v8 here I come until this disaster is sorted. I see from the above that I am not alone- anyone got a solution?

  4. There are many unrequired, even pointless, changes in version 9 that far outweigh the minor benefits. An example… why mess with the equaliser control design!! Before they acted as a pointer to the scales beside. Now they are just round blobs! No improvement!
    The store is almost unusable for finding anything with long song or artist titles, because the new horrible grid can’t be resized. There is less useful information about the album too, and it’s at the side (!!) wasting valuable screen.
    As someone else said, this is the first time I have found an iTunes upgrade to be, in general, a regretted action. I’m going to revert to 8 until the store is made usable again.

    Anyone thinking of upgrading should do so only after backing up the iTunes folder, so it can be quickly restored when reinstalling version 8.

  5. I used to enjoy being able to click on an album and see the band’s “Bio” right there – a bit about the band, their roots, etc. I cannot seem to find that ANYWHERE anymore. Also, when looking at a particular band or album, I used to be able to click on the column headers and add say … “release date” and sort by the newest or oldest song within that band’s songs. I cannot seem to do that any longer either. OR – when looking at all the albums of a band, the release date used to show – not anymore. Why? I am NOT liking this new version – for the first time ever. I feel stupid looking around in here – and actually wish I never upgraded. Can anyone at least tell me how to see the band’s biographys?

  6. First time I ever regretted upgrading itunes. On version 8, I made wishlist playlists where I could drag and drop songs that I liked. I could then rate the songs so that my most-wanted songs would be at the top of my list. I really miss being able to do that. The new wishlist feature doesn’t allow multiple lists and you can’t rate the songs. Also, I really miss being able to navigate between songs using the keyboard while previewing an album. Now I have to use the mouse and click on the next song in the album where before I could just click on my right arrow key. I also really miss being able to adjust my columns to view different categories in such views as “show all songs by this artist.” Now you can only see limited categories and can’t adjust the size of the categories. So far, I much prefer version 8.

    • Totally agree. The ability to create playlists and rate songs you want to buy was highly impt to me.

      This is yet another smug update from Apple because Steve was bored. They do little to offer good usability anymore.

  7. I thought Home Sharing wuold be usesful, but what about an easy way to share music between different users on the SAME computer? I’m new to iTunes so maybe I’m missing something. Please help !

    • Hi Rick did you find out how to do it – I have spent some time copying the previous ITunes library – but then ITunes 9 couln’t locate the songs. I have now rsorted to adding files to library. I also can’t sync my ipod gen 3 with ITunes 9.

  8. Hey Julie the same thing happened to me. The only songs in my library were purchased from itunes. All the downloads from MP3 Rocket and my CDs were gone. What can I do? Fortunately my ipod retained all of my music.

  9. What happened to the MINIPLAYER? (green + resize button) you have to use a series of short cut commands… WHY? worthless to have two sizes of same view… this takes up more workspace. boooooo.

  10. itunes 9 looks like snow leopard is to leopard – a refinment. Not saying that is a bad mind, as it has a nicer ui, and the iphone organiser makes app syncing feel far more integrated.
    I’m waiting for itunes 10 (or “itunes X”! )

  11. ack, just figured it out right after posting (figures). you have to select “show column browser” again (it defaults to “hide column browser” if you unselect all of the column browser options). you know, i’m REALLY glad you helped me get the old top view column browser back, i couldn’t believe that they changed it and it wasn’t obvious how to change it back. however, i find that i’m really having to fumble around itunes a lot more often than i used to in previous versions. having to select “show column browser” in order to select items to view is silly, it’s additional steps. they could just NOT gray the options out, and automatically SHOW it if something is selected just as they do the opposite if you unselect everything. also, having to use the *option-click to minimize to the mini-player is absurd, what was the reason for this other than make it more confusing and difficult? not to mention this is the first itunes upgrade where i’ve found itunes to be acting super sluggish for simple tasks (change the genre of all songs in an album, for instance takes a solid 10-20 seconds sometimes). it’s especially funny since this is the release that other people seem to be heaping praise on while they’ve bitched about previous versions while i’ve had smooth sailing. i wish everyone else would continue to have problems so that i could have a trouble-free itunes experience. ;) j/k. ok maybe not….

    • Thanks Devon. Like you, I enjoyed having the column browser on iTunes 8, and was shocked iTunes 9 dumped the browser, offering no explanation on how to restore it. I kept saying to myself “why the hell are all these options grayed out!” Thanks for offering an explanation.

  12. so, i finally figured out (thanks to you guys) how to disable the artist column on the left of the songs list (default iTunes 9 view), but now when I go to view – column browser everything is grayed out and i can’t bring it (or of the other options) back. tried restarting itunes, no joy. wtf?

  13. missing Home sharing as an option to talk about seems to be missing this HUGE sleeper hit for students, or anyone on a shared network. DRM files can be shared to an extent, but it provides an amazingly useful way to share any non-DRM music (and presumably itunes friendly videos etc) between people on the network.

  14. I like the new UI but unfortunately all my music now has to be set to “part of compilation” for it not to be recognized as an individual album on my iPod Touch. Haven’t yet figured out how to mass edit songs rather than 1 by 1 as the option only appears on a song by song basis.

    • “Part of compilation” is available for editing multiple items – check the Options tab. But I don’t think I understand your problem. You have to tell iTunes all your songs are part of a compilation? What problem do you have that is making you do this? I don’t get it.

    • You just resolved my dilemma and thanks a bunch. I’m not sure how my problem actually existed. Its just after the firmware and iTunes 9 update my iPod decided it was going to recognize every song as its individual album. I concluded it from testing that my songs need to be marked “part of a compilation” for my iPod to recognize full albums again.

    • I think I understand your problem now. That’s very strange. I have found that when iTunes turns one album into multiple albums like that, there’s something strange in the metadata separating tracks, and batch editing the tracks and clearing unused fields like Composter, Sort Artist, etc. will sometimes fix this. Try batch editing album tracks and clearing irrelevant fields and see if anything changes.

    • Jean, do you have multiple songs selected? The Compilations option only appears in the “Options” tab when you have multiple songs selected, not when you only have one song selected. When it’s only one song, you select “Part of a compilation” in the main tab.

      • VOLKAN

        I just wanted to thank you, I never noticed that -…multiple songs selected- before and today considering, the option is removed from the iTunes 9, but obviously not…

  15. @ Panos:

    You have to “show the header” (with the genre controls and the slider). You have to be already in grid view, then go to view>grid view>show header. Took me a day or two to find it.

    The only thing I hate so far is the elimination of the shopping cart in the iTunes store.

    There is now an (almost impossible to find) “favourites” area that corresponds to it, but it’s obvious that a lot of people are going to buy things by mistake when they were really only trying to put them in a cart which is I guess not a problem for them, but it is kind of anti-customer IMO.

  16. Great article. Don’t forget home-sharing, dragging content from other libraries, and how iTunes categorizes it automatically. If in the info you change the genre to Podcast, the track is moved and listed in Podcasts. Very smooth. I also like the store redesign. The breadcrumb menu as you drill around in the store. Also, of course, the store navigation bar being at the top with kind of ridiculously small (my only gripe) diamonds to pull down menus. But overall the changes are nice. I like them.