iTunes 7: All the small things



Because I got the software upgrade along with my new computer (with bonus new iPod), I can’t tell whether all the changes that I’ve noticed are iTunes 7 related or not. Nevertheless, I’m really loving the new version of iTunes for all kinds of big and small reasons.

Cover Flow

This feature creates a virtual collection of album art for all your music (which doesn’t have to be purchased via iTunes music store) that you scroll through like flipping through vinyl LPs in the record store. Nostalgia aside, it’s incredibly sleek (though its practical value is questionable). Even though I think it’s much easier to find songs using the normal text-based listing, ever since I got iTunes 7, I’ve been hard at work getting all the album art for every single song I have (which numbers close to 4,000). The feature is great, but not flawless. If the name of the album or artist don’t match up with the online database, you can’t pick up the album art automatically (I found that out the hard way when I asked iTunes to grab all my art automatically but it got stalled at some problematic tracks and wouldn’t go on). Now I do it all one album at a time. I even have a dashboard widget that queries Amazon to pull up album art for ones that iTunes cannot get. My latest time-waster is that I’m trying to match all the individual tracks from my compilation CDs to their original art. Obsession, thy name is “Cover Flow”!

Skip when shuffling

One of the things I used to hate was the Shuffle Songs feature, because it always seemed super-lame to go from a song to the next track (which might be an audiobook chapter, or a podcast). Now there’s a track option that allows you to check off Skip when shuffling. So now that I’ve checked off all my audiobook chapters (and I think this might be checked off by default for podcasts), they never show up when I shuffle songs—it’s pure grooves all the way.

Remember playback position

Another track option that’s cool is that you can tell iTunes/your iPod that it needs to save the position you last listened up to on a track. This is especially useful for long audio files like podcasts. Too often I used to want to switch to a song or something at some point in a podcast, or maybe I’d arrived at work and need to turn my iPod off. Now when I go back to that podcast track, I don’t have to listen from the beginning and scan through to the part where I stopped listening. My iPod knows exactly where that spot is and starts from there—sweet.

Gapless playback

This one’s not as important to me. There was a lot of mention of this in all the hype surrounding the release of iTunes 7, but I just don’t have that many albums of continuous, gapless music. Nevertheless, when I set that option on the tracks from Madonna’s Confessions on a Dance Floor, it was cool not to have that split second gap as one song flowed into the next.

More than just for their practical value, these changes help me keep the faith that Apple’s the kind of company that really tries to understand how its customers are using their stuff and wants us to have a good experience.

  1. #1 by Jim on October 19, 2006 - 11:38 pm

    I like CoverFlow in iTunes, but I actually prefer the original stand alone app – it allows you to go full screen, performs quick textual searches, and has better cover art retrieval. iTunes did a good job integrating it but it just doesn’t have quite the same oompf that the stand alone app did. Lemme know if you want the original app, I’ll send it to you. (You can’t get it anymore since Apple bought it)

    One handy shortcut I like to use is with QuickSilver: I hit command-space to activate QuickSilver, then I punch in “next” and the command that comes up is ‘next song’ for iTunes. It’s a very quick’n’easy way to forward to next song.

    One app that I’m loving is called BackLight. It basically takes any screensaver and slaps it on top of your wallpaper. You can control the transparency level. I set mine to fully opaque, and then run a screen saver. Net effect: animated wallpaper. I use the Apple preinstalled ‘Flurry’ screen saver and it’s great eye candy. It definitely attracts a lot of attention and envy from PC users. 🙂

  2. #2 by William on November 28, 2006 - 6:54 pm

    I just got my 2000t and all of my songs are skipping in iTunes, and I cant figure out why. If someone could help me out and tell me how to fix this I would really appreciate it because its driving me crazy. Thanks for the replys.

  3. #3 by alving4 on December 1, 2006 - 11:04 pm

    Hey Jim, I just got Backlight 2 today and it’s great. (It’s funny because I remember the wallpaper changing when I first saw the iMac at BestBuy and I have been trying to replicate that ever since I got my computer. Thanks for the tip.) I also went digging for more free screensavers. I’m still trying to understand how to use Quicksilver (I don’t need it for iTunes as I have the remote control).

    William, I don’t know what a 2000t is. Do you have some kind of running software that is dragging your system down? That could explain the skipping iTunes. I wish I could help, but this isn’t exactly a tech forum.

  4. #4 by Jim Tay on December 12, 2006 - 12:34 am

    I believe a 2000t is the new HP 2000t laptop – veeeery nice, and it would be my choice if I was buying a laptop right now.

    William, you’ll need to look for answers in an iTunes support forum somewhere – as Alvin says, this isn’t a tech forum. More importantly, this blog is about switching to Mac – our answer to you would be “switch to Mac, then iTunes will work perfectly.” 🙂

    Alvin, Quicksilver is super powerful but I don’t fully understand how to use it either. I’m simply using it as a replacement for Spotlight – I find it’s faster and allows me to launch apps easier than Spotlight. Additionally, when you do a search, you can hit tab to switch over the action portion of the Quicksilver search screen and then perform various actions that way. I haven’t actually put this to use, but it sounds like a pretty good keyboard shortcut to enhance productivity. 🙂

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