iTunes 9 full review - Page 2

iTunes interface changes

There are also minor interface changes that will trip up some users. For example, the green “resize” button in the upper left corner of the iTunes window no longer toggles between Mini Player and standard mode; it now zooms the window larger or smaller, just as it does in other programs. (You can still activiate Mini Player mode by Option-clicking on the green button, pressing a keyboard shortcut, or choosing a menu command.)

And in Grid view, the header—which lets you change the grid groupings (by artist, album, genre, or composer) and adjust the album-cover size—is disabled by default; you must enable it in the View menu.

Finally, it’s worth noting that because it now does so many things, iTunes’s interface is becoming more complex. For example, there are now six sections—Library, Store, Devices, Shared, Genius, and Playlist—in the sidebar, each of which contains its own sub-items, and each of those displays its content in the main part of the window. While Apple has indeed made progress in simplifying some aspect’s of iTunes’s operation, it’s no longer the dead-simple program the company once touted it to be.

The new column-on-left browser mode.

There’s an app for that (and it’s called iTunes)

For frequent customers of the iPhone App Store, one of the most frequent requests was for a better way to manage iPhone apps—both in iTunes and on your phone. iTunes 9 makes big, big strides here.

For starters, when you select the Applications item in the iTunes sidebar, you can now view your purchased iPhone apps in list, grid or Cover Flow mode. The icon-free list view is especially welcome for those of us who’ve downloaded far too many apps, and it lets you view—and sort by—columns for artist (developer), date added or modified, genre, kind, purchase or release date, size, and year.

One useful feature that’s not available: a way to see which apps are currently installed on your iPhone or iPod touch, and perhaps even rearrange your apps and screens, when the device isn’t connected.

But the improvements that generated oohs and aahs from the assembled media at Apple’s media event are the new tools for managing what gets synced to your iPhone or iPod touch and how those apps are organized on the device. Select your iPhone or iPod on the left, and then click on the Applications tab to the right: the main area of the iTunes window now shows two columns.

The first is a list of all the applications you’ve downloaded from the App Store; each app’s entry in the list shows its icon, name, category (Games, Entertainment, Productivity, and so on), and size. As in iTunes 8, you check the box next to an app to install it on your iPhone, or uncheck the box to remove it, at the next sync.

Tunes 9's new iPhone-app management screen.

Even better, you can sort the list by name, category, or date downloaded. (This last option replaces the category display with the date, and it’s the date the particular version on your Mac was downloaded, not the date you originally purchased the app.) You can also search the list. These improvements make it dramatically easier to work with the apps you’ve downloaded, although if you have many apps, the list can be slow to scroll thanks to the app icons.

The second column, though, is perhaps the most-welcome improvement in iTunes 9—at least for iPhone and iPod touch owners. It shows each of your iPhone’s actual screens and lets you rearrange apps via drag and drop. To move an app within a screen, simply click on its icon and drag it to a new position; other app icons will move out of the way to make room.

To move an app to a different screen, drag the icon to that screen on the right (the list scrolls automatically to show additional screens, although it would be nice if you could resize this area on larger screens to minimize scrolling).

You can even Command-click on multiple icons to move several apps at once, and you can rearrange entire screens by dragging a screen up or down in the list. Heavy users of the App Store, rejoice!

NEXT: Syncing and media: under new management

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