iTunes 11: Worth Upgrading?

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While some lament the demise of Cover Flow, it was never an efficient way to browse albums. It looked cool, but was not good usability. A Cover Flow carousel appears in the new iTunes store, which looks very much like the iOS version.

iTunes 11 features the new Helvetica font, which is the system font for iOS. It looks very clean. Unfortunately, iTunes is the only application that uses this font. It is a bit of a hodge-podge to have one font in one application, and the old Lucida Grande system font everywhere else. Perhaps Apple was a bit premature in adding this new font. Most likely, the next release of OS X will feature Helvetica system-wide. The new icon for iTunes makes it more consistent with the App Store icon, however, it is unlike the Music or iTunes icon in iOS.

The iTunes Store has been redesigned to look more like iOS. As previously mentioned, there is a Cover Flow automatic carousel with recommendations.

iTunes 11 Store

It is almost identical to the iTunes Store for iOS. Convergence makes sense, as the user only has to be familiar with one user interface. The only difference is that the iTunes 11 version of the store has links on the right and some extra buttons at the top.

The new iTunes store is cleaner and easier to shop. It features a new preview history, so you can go back and re-visit items you have previewed. iTunes 11 is all about getting you to make purchases in iTunes. It would be great if Apple spent this much effort on wi-fi sync or AirPlay stability!

New Functionality:

“Up Next” is the new ad hoc playlist for iTunes 11. As I mentioned in an article on preventing AirPlay crashes, you never regret making a playlist. Now iTunes does everything through a master playlist. If you play a playlist, iTunes adds it to Up Next. You can have it replace everything on Up Next, or add it to Up Next. It is quite flexible and something I had been kludging with an “ad hoc” playlist for some time. However, a master playlist can do more than a regular playlist, such as append other playlists.

The new MiniPlayer is a radical change from the old one. While it is mostly improved, one has to wonder why they removed the scrub/progress bar. If you want to see this control, you will need to click on the album art on the MiniPlayer. This displays a new window with the album cover. Hovering over the album cover will reveal the standard OS X media controls, with a scrub/progress bar.

iTunes 11 MiniPlayer

Despite this shortcoming, the new MiniPlayer adds some desirable features. Instead of being launched from the green “window zoom” button on the top left, it is launched from a dedicated button on the top right. The new player is simple at first glance, only displaying a small album cover with track information and minimal controls. (continue…)

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