iTunes 11

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We've been waiting for iTunes 11 for what seems like forever, and now a month after it's original release date it has finally arrived. For me, there are two significant aspects to this release.

User Interface

iTunes has been getting a little bit crowded lately, it followed a menu/sidebar driven navigation philosophy - something which has been diminishing in Apple software for a time and that we're most familiar with from Windows applications. It's also taken on a certain amount of feature bloat, which is an inevitable consequence of time, and the nature of media centre software.

Bloat, thankfully, is a problem that can be alleviated with good design. So long as (currently or entirely) unused features get out of your way, there's no cognitive overhead - they won't bother you. The sidebar then, had to go.

Now each function of iTunes is presented in an unobtrusive drop-down list, and the entire window is given over to the task at hand. the iTunes store button hangs out on the opposite side of the window, and is joined by a devices list for managing and syncing iOS devices through a redesigned but functionally identical device management screen.

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Possibly the coolest feature of the redesign though is the album view, which samples the colour scheme of your cover artwork and uses that to render the tracklist in a slide-open view reminiscent of iOS folder access.

My only gripe is that I no longer appear to have control over the size of album covers in grid view, which was useful for my Mac mini, which displays via the TV six feet away.

Content Streaming

Alongside iCloud's new ability to remember your position in video content across devices, 'iTunes in the Cloud' as Apple so elegantly named it now gives you the ability to view your iTunes purchases (and presumably iTunes Match content) as though it existed in your local library and to stream it over the interwaves rather than download a local copy.

This is nifty, if like myself, you're using a MacBook with distinctly finite storage. Previously you could download all your purchases, which is great and all, but being able to stream them is far more convenient. Where as previously I would load TV shows or movies onto my iPad to take with me; so long as I know I will have access to fast internet wherever I'm headed this is no longer a significant concern.