Talking tech since 2003

Remember back in September when Apple told us that iTunes 11 would be coming in October? Well, that didn’t happen. The company then changed the update’s release to sometime in November. With only two days left in November, Apple finally decided that the new iTunes was ready to go, and pushed the update live. While you can’t get it via the iTunes Download page yet (which, at this moment, still displays iTunes 10.7 as the latest version), you can download the newest version of iTunes using the Mac App Store’s Update screen, or the Apple Software Update app on Windows.

So, what’s new this time around?

For starters, the entire interface has been revamped. For those who felt past versions of iTunes had gotten a bit too busy, the changes introduced in iTunes 11 should be a welcome sight. When you launch the app, you’re greeted by the “Music” screen, which shows off album covers of the songs you have in your iTunes library — whether that library is stored on your local machine or on iTunes in the Cloud. You see, another new feature of iTunes 11 is better iCloud integration. I installed a solid state drive a few weeks back and did a complete Windows system install. Not one of my songs are on my hard drive at this point, but all of the ones I purchased through iTunes are showing up with tiny cloud icons attached to them. When I double-click on a track, it streams without the need for a download. This is a great feature for those who don’t want to keep their entire music collection on every machine, and I assume it’s made even better if you’re subscribed to iTunes Match.

Of course, you’re not stuck using iTunes simply for music. A click of the “Music” button at the top of the screen displays options for Movies, TV Shows, and Apps, as well. Selecting one of these allows you to interact with your content much like you could in previous versions of iTunes.

Another neat new feature is “Up Next.” By clicking the checklist icon next to the Apple logo at the top of the screen, you can look at which songs are coming up next in your play queue, and move them around, remove them, or otherwise interact with them (add a star rating, view the artist’s iTunes Store page, etc.) by clicking the arrow icon next to the track. The Up Next feature is also available in iTunes’ sleek new MiniPlayer, which makes the compact player all the more useful.

The new iTunes is not without its faults, however. While iTunes improved vastly in terms of its user interface and overall experience, I’m not really seeing any signs that things have improved on the performance side of things. The app is still a bit slow in transitioning from one screen to another, and activities I engage in on a regular basis, such as editing the metadata of media files, are still as slow as it was in previous versions. I was really hoping to see some improvement here, but I’m also using the Windows version of iTunes, so your mileage may vary if you’re a Mac user.

All in all, iTunes 11 is a solid update for Apple’s media player and organizer. I think Apple did a great job on the redesigned UI; things are much more streamlined, and that benefits new users and old users, alike. I’m hoping that future versions of the software start to address some of the performance issues I’m experiencing, at least on Windows, but now that Apple has a good framework in place for its new iTunes experience, maybe Apple can start to focus some of its attention in that area.

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