iTunes has gone through a lot since it’s initial release back in 2002, but all of the updates through the years have simply added features. iTunes 11 feels brand new as Apple has rewritten the underlying code to shrink down the entire app making it much more efficient. There are a number of new features in iTunes 11, but it’s the under the hood enhancements that are truly noteworthy. In using iTunes 11 extensively since launch it’s very easy to tell how much smoother the entire app is as all of the loading pop-ups, long wait times when first opening, battery drain, spinning kaleidoscope wheel on Mac, and more are no longer present.
iTunes 11 can actually be described as fast, and that in itself is a remarkable achievement. Now that iTunes can actually launch and be used without frustration, we can dive into the new features. The biggest new addition is the album view when you first launch iTunes, and the overall impression is cleanliness with a clear focus on the music. The landing page is now just the top bar, and the albums, though you can add the sidebar and status bar back in from the View tab in the menu. Once you click on an album, the song list appears, and the background is filled with the color based on the album artwork. The in-line album view with themed backgrounds is the highlight of the app, and it’s a treat to just go through your various albums to see the coloring scheme.
In terms of music playback, there’s a brand new Up Next feature, and this allows you to drag any song from the album view up to the top bar to add to a queue of songs to listen to next. If you see a song you want to listen to, you can simply drag it to the top, and it will be played in order based on the other songs you’ve already added to that list. There’s a bullet list icon in the top status window to bring up the Up Next feature, and from there you can edit. Also when you drag songs, your playlists appear in a slide in column to the right allowing you to add new songs to your playlists.
The mini-player has also been updated for a refined view as well including the album artwork, Up Next access, and search. There’s also a new button in the upper right to enable the mini-player, which is much more obvious. Beyond the music player, the iTunes Store has been updated in the style of the new iTunes Store in iOS 6 on the iPad. It’s not all that new, but is a lot easier to use. The iTunes Store has also subtly invaded the music player screen so you can view the store within the expanded album view detailed above. Rounding out the new features, iCloud has been further integrated so iTunes on your computer is connected with your iOS devices for automatically downloading purchases, saving where you left off, and showing your previous purchases available to download across music, movies, TV shows, and books.
In previous versions of iTunes, everything was just added in, and now with iTunes 11 it seems like everything has a particular place. iTunes 11 may not be the greatest thing ever, but it’s such a great improvement over iTunes 10 which is truly remarkable. iTunes is once again enjoyable to use, and there are some great new features too.