Immediate impressions on the new iTunes 9

I’m live blogging my experience of the new iTunes version 9 – as I explore a new feature I’ve written in here. I didn’t think I’d care much, but there’s a few things I need to get off my chest.

iTunes LP

iTunes LP is apparently the ‘best thing to happen to fandom’ and will make you ‘become an even bigger fan’ whatever that means. What they’re trying to do with these is give you back some of the things you’re missing when you buy digital music instead of physical media: sleeve notes, lyrics, artwork, etc. You might also get a few more extras like video clips, so it’s basically a DVD album. This is a good thing; I’ve written before about the shortcomings of digital media.

Call me a snob (and I’d be hard pressed to disagree), but I do object to the name iTunes LP. I still buy LPs. Vinyl pressing quality is at an all time high, particularly with the increase of double and triple disk albums (as a rule, less music pressed onto one disk increases quality). Nowadays LPs tend to be marketed as luxury items and often come in fabulous gatefold packaging, giving you a wonderfully tangible 4 square feet of artwork. A DVD it isn’t.

And let’s say I wanted to specifically buy an iTunes LP from the iTMS – how the hell do I do that? There’s no category for such things, at least not one that I can find. Maybe it’s down to Apple’s usual neglect for its European customers.

iTunes Home Sharing

Initially I didn’t quite get Home Sharing. The only real benefit seems to be that you can import from a library on one Mac to another, and automatically add new purchases made on any of the (up to five) computers in your home. Thinking about it more, it will be handy to easily see items not in one library but in another and just click ‘Import’.

What I really want to do is synchronise my iTunes libraries – in particular ratings and playlists – and Home Sharing doesn’t do that.

Redesigned iTunes Store

I’m not sure if the redesign has improved the usability much (I’ve never had any major complaints, but I’m not exactly an iTMS power user). It does look a bit prettier.

But who the hell came up with ‘iTunes U’? Yuk. On closer inspection it seems to contain a lot of educational material, so perhaps the ‘U’ refers to the rating or is some hideous abbreviation of University. Either way at first glance it sounds like a bastardised ‘My iTunes’ whatever that would be.

iTunes Extras

Extras seems to be fixing for films what iTunes LPs are trying to fix for music, ie. give you access to content you would normally get on a DVD. About time too.

Genius Mixes

At first Genius Mixes weren’t there. According to the help ‘to play a Genius Mix: on the left side of the iTunes window (below Genius), click Genius Mixes’. I had to force a Genius Update to get this option to appear. Once the Genius Mixes had arrived, I was quite impressed. I love using Genius Playlists, and Mixes are very similar except they are not based on an individual song, but are more like a genre-based Last.fm station, in as much as they still play related tunes (from your library), but you can’t see or edit what’s coming up.

For example I’m currently listening to “Alternative & Punk Mix 5, based on: Fleet Foxes, Of Montreal, Arcade Fire, & others”. Judging from that title, iTunes Mixes may be based on the genres specified in your library, although I hope not because my genres are all over the place, as I suspect are many people’s.

Improved syncing

I forgot my phone this morning so I can’t really comment on whether the syncing is better or not. Although I do like the idea of organising and arranging my iPhone apps within iTunes rather than struggling to do it with my finger on the phone.

New column view

I’m not convinced about the new default layout, with artists down the left side. It doesn’t leave enough room for the info I like to see and I like to be able to easily select individual albums. Admittedly the new layout does feel I little more like navigating folders in the column view of Finder. No problem though as there’s the option in the View menu to put it all back how you had it before.

Fixing the store arrow

This isn’t a new feature but a reminder of an old hack from the days of version 4.5. The little arrows which show up upon selecting something in column view by default go to iTMS. You can option-click these arrows to go the album or artist in your library instead. If, like me, you think the option-click method should be the standard, quit iTunes, open a Terminal window, and type:

defaults write com.apple.iTunes invertStoreLinks -bool YES

That hint courtesy of Mac OS X Hints.