iTunes 10 full review - Page 2

Other perks in iTunes 10 include a new “Album List” view that displays music album artwork more intelligently, and new preferences allow you to hide some features like the checkboxes next to media in list view and the icons next to items in the sidebar. When updating software on an iOS device, most of the upgrade process is now displayed as an in-line notification on the device’s summary page—in the past this was a modal progress dialog that prevents you from controlling iTunes through the entire process. If you choose to restore your device from a backup, however, the second half of that process still presents modal dialogs, which makes me wonder if Apple didn’t get to finish polishing this particular feature update before shipping.

iTunes 10 also received a performance boost that is noticeable even on my fairly new 27-inch Core i5 iMac with a library north of 770GB. iTunes starts up faster and the interface feels a bit snappier. I imagine (or, at least, hope) these improvements might be even more noticeable on older machines that can struggle under iTunes’s growing heft.

Apple did remove some features from iTunes 10 revolving around ringtones. First introduced in iTunes 7.4, ringtones for the iPhone can no longer be bought from the store or created from your music; the option to display a ringtone column in your library has been removed, and the iTunes Store no longer displays a ringtone icon next to songs. Creating ringtones with third-party tools still seems to work.

Some users have reported a problem with iTunes 10 and music CDs, where CDs are not being recognized by the software. We tried several different CDs on several different Macs running iTunes 10, and we had no problems with the software reading the CDs and importing tracks.

Tossing interface darts

Another task that I am convinced Apple bumped up on one of its many to-do lists in recent years is “meddle with iTunes’s interface in strange, borderline malicious ways,” and iTunes 10 is no exception. Once again, various iTunes elements both big and small have been changed; many for the sake of change, but at the detriment of usability.

Apple iTunes 10

Probably the two most notable interface changes can be found in iTunes 10’s window bar and sidebar. First, the buttons to close, minimize, and “best fit” iTunes (the red, yellow, and green orbs, respectively, that are horizontally laid out at the top left of virtually every window in Mac OS X) are now listed vertically down the upper left of the window. In a way, this is not a new layout for these buttons—for quite some time, they’ve shifted vertically when you use iTunes’s Mini Player. But the Internet initially sounded a cry of horror upon seeing this change in iTunes 10, as if a million interface designers cried out and were suddenly silenced.

But I find myself liking this odd change—it allowed Apple to lop off around 20 wasted pixels of space from the top of iTunes and tighten up its toolbar. Now, some of its thinner elements, like the volume slider (which gained some girth in its own light redesign), view buttons, and search box no longer feel like they’re swimming in a sea of gray metal. But this new button layout could be a violation of Apple’s own interface guidelines for third-parties, so I hope developers don’t take it as Apple’s endorsement of using controlled substances while designing new interfaces.

Apple’s second major interface change in iTunes 10 is that, for reasons that eluded me through this review process, it decided to suck the color out of iTunes’s sidebar icons. Gone are the blue, green, and purple colors of icons like music, movies, iTunes Store, and Smart Playlists—they were washed away by the grey interface tides of the iOS moon that now revolves around Apple’s design world. Even the buttons in the lower toolbar for things like new playlists or hiding the Genius sidebar got the iPad treatment. They shed any kind of standard Mac OS X button bezel or border in favor of bold, elemental forms. Now, simplified, more easily identifiable toolbar buttons are always a good thing. But in this case, stripping the color from the rest of iTunes’s sidebar feels like Apple took the iPadification of its desktop apps too far.

 

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