The latest version of iTunes makes a number of changes to the way you view the content in your library of digital media files. Most significantly, iTunes 11 adds a new set of views and gets rid of most of the viewing options that were available in previous versions. 

With iTunes 10, you could check out your music (and other media content) in any of four ways – via List, Album view, Grid, or Cover Flow views. (Some types of iTunes content, such as apps, didn’t offer all those options, however.) In iTunes 11, those four views are more or less gone. Here’s a look at the different views that iTunes 11 offers. 

Songs View

What Apple used to call List view is now known as Songs view. In functionality, it’s similar to what iTunes 10 offered, though the new, narrower font in iTunes 11 makes it look more compressed and harder to read. Songs view shows you one song per line, with no artwork. 

New to iTunes 11, the Artist view allows you to look at song lengths and titles for all of the music in your iTunes library by any particular artist.

You can still use the Column Browser in Songs view, but there’s no artwork viewer at the bottom left of the iTunes window. Now when you select a track, Songs view doesn’t provide any visual indication of the album it belongs to. 

The main advantage of using Songs view is that it allows you to display any columns you want, with information from your media files’ tags. Simply press Cmd-J, and check the columns you want to display. This View Options window is greatly improved in iTunes 11, with different types of tags grouped into sections to make them easier to find. 

Albums View

Albums view, which is the new default view in iTunes 11, resembles that of its predecessor’s Grid view in most respects. With Grid view though, you could change the size of the displayed artwork, whereas in Albums view you can’t. To change the sort order of your files, press Cmd-J to display a small window that lets you specify two sort criteria. For example, you might want to organise your content by artist and then by title. 

Supplementing Albums view, a new Expanded Album view lets you see what’s inside an album and then start playing items or otherwise work with them. This works with movies and TV shows, as well as with music. 

Click an album’s artwork image, and you’ll see its contents displayed in a colour scheme that iTunes bases on the dominant colours in the artwork. (You can turn this option off if you wish: Choose iTunes → Preferences; click the General tab; and then, in the Views section, uncheck ‘Use custom colors for open albums, movies, etc’.) 

Artists and Genres Views

iTunes 11 also introduces Artists and Genres views. When you choose one of these, you’ll see a sidebar at the left of the iTunes window that displays a list of artists or of genres, respectively. For the first of these, iTunes uses the album art in your library to illustrate the entries. For standard genres, it uses built-in icons, but if you have custom genres, it uses art from one album of that genre. 

These views let you examine various details of your music such as artwork, and album and track names. If you’ve entered the year of an album’s release, you’ll see that date displayed to the right of the iTunes window. 

You have limited sort options in these views. You can press Cmd-J, and choose to sort by title, genre (in Artists view) or artist (in Genres view), year or rating. With each of these views, you can alter the size of the artwork via a slider; and in Artists view, you can group compilations in a separate section, so that the tracks of compilation albums won’t be scattered throughout the list. 

The Albums and Genres views display a new sidebar at the left of the iTunes window. In previous versions, the sidebar displayed your media libraries, any connected devices and your playlists, among other things. If you miss that old sidebar, you can re-enable it by choosing View → Show Sidebar, or by pressing Cmd-<Option>-S. It will stay at the far left of the iTunes window, regardless of which view you choose. 

Playlists View

The new iTunes’ Playlists view shows all your playlists in a sidebar at the left of the iTunes window, and is available only if you don’t display the sidebar mentioned above (which shows your playlists just as it did in iTunes 10). If you select a playlist, you can see its contents; and for each one, you can choose a number of view options. You can display the Column Browser (View → Column Browser), or you can click the View button at the top right of the iTunes window to select any of three ways of seeing the playlist: List, which is a simple list view; Grid, which resembles Albums view; and Artist List, which is similar to Artists view. 

You may also see your view options by pressing Cmd-J; these vary depending on which of the three views you choose. In List view, for example, the View Options window allows you to select which columns to display; in other views, you can select a sort order, choose whether to group compilations, and adjust artwork size. 

New and Improved?

iTunes 11 gives you some new ways to view your media. Even if you’re a longtime iTunes user, take time to try out the different views and their options, so you can figure out which ones work best for you. But don’t forget that you can switch views at any time, depending on what you’re doing in iTunes. 

Though adjusting to the new views can be a bit frustrating, you may find them to your liking once you’ve had time to get used to them. And if you still hate the new setup – and you feel adventurous – you can always try rolling back to iTunes 10. (For details on how to downgrade from iTunes 11 to 10, go to bit.ly/QHOYgh).

Expanded Album view in iTunes 11 allows you to look at the contents of your album in a colour scheme that’s similar to the one used for its artwork.