iTunes Refined

Apple’s event on Tuesday brought about an updated iTunes application among other announcements. Historically, iTunes has foreshadowed future trends in Apple’s GUI from the brushed metal appearance of iTunes 1.0 to the darker unified look of iTunes 5, so I thought the new iTunes was worth a look.

First up, I couldn’t help but notice (as have many others) that the icon returns to the blue of iTunes 2, but the beam connecting the eighth notes is thicker than in previous versions of this icon. I’m glad blue is back. It was my favorite iTunes icon!

Now right here is a shot of iTunes 6 & iTunes 7 side-by-side. (You can click these images for a larger view.)

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Immediately, it is noticeable that iTunes 7 sports a much more subdued interface. Colors in general are muted, and it doesn’t even use standard aqua scroll-bars and checkboxes. Also, some elements have been moved around, but it didn’t take me too long to find everything (except the Visualizer button seems to be entirely gone).

The sidebar sports more defined categories than did iTunes 6. The headers (oddly) are in all caps, but they do a nice job separating built-in libraries from online elements and user-created playlists. Overall, the sidebar looks much cleaner than before.

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Also new are some buttons that control how you are viewing your media. The first button is the classic iTunes list view; the second button shows a list with album art, and the third button is the new Cover Flow view (in which Apple did the “right thing” and bought out the developer who inspired them).

Below is a shot of the new Cover Flow view. It’s a very nice way to view your album art, but I have noticed it can be a little glitchy when browsing too quickly.

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On the store side of things, movie downloads and games are new features. So far, only Disney-owned studios are available for purchase, but that still makes for a devent variety of films to choose from. I’m not thrilled with the movie prices, but they aren’t bad either. Here’s a look at the movie section of the store:

iTunes706As you can see, Apple implements the new Cover Flow view into the movie store. This is also true of the TV store, but the music store hasn’t adopted this look yet. I found browsing through the movies and watching trailers rather painless, but I haven’t purchased a movie, nor do I foresee myself doing so in the near future. In thruth, I don’t understand all the excitement surrounding video downloads, but I’m not much of a TV-watcher or movie-goer as it is.

Here’s the new game section of the store:

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The addition of this section, I have to admit, was surprising to me. I had heard rumors about Apple hiring and contacting game developers, and iPod related games seemed a natural progression. I guess I just didn’t figure they would start selling them through the iTunes Store. It is a pretty convenient way to make sure iTunes can manage all things iPod.

I’ve been using iTunes 7 for a couple of days now with no real problems. The only glitch I have run into is the fact that Cover Flow sometimes uses placeholders instead of album art if I scroll too quickly. Otherwise, this is a great update. I love the new view options (even if one does seem directly copied from Windows Media Player 11), and everything else seems to be pretty well polished.

As I said earlier, iTunes often seems to preview future trends in Mac OS GU, and I admit that I hope this continues. By and large, I like the direction iTunes is going with its UI. The muted colors and subtle gradients work, and I even find myself drawn to those “fuzzy” scroll-bars. The only thing about iTunes 7’s interface that bugs me is how strongly it contrasts with the rest of Mac OS X. Hopefully, the rest of the Mac OS experience will continue to follow iTune’s lead.

By the way, Paul Thurrott has uploaded a nice gallery of iTunes’ new iPod interface. You can take a look at it right here. (Wow, I never thought I’d link him twice in one day.)

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