Revamped new iTunes 11 user interface hints at future of OS X

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited January 2014
Apple's upcoming new release of iTunes 11, due by the end of October (and likely to launch with the iPad mini), suggests several new user interface concepts that are likely to also be adopted its larger OS X platform.

Over the past five years, Apple has introduced a wide variety of new iOS features that have percolated their way "back to the Mac," as well as having introduced OS X features that have later shown up in its mobile devices. However, Apple's own first party apps, and in particular iTunes, have also served as harbingers of new user interface directions.

Apple has experimented extensively with user interface concepts in its iTunes, Safari, iLife, iWork and other apps, with mixed success. Two years ago, iTunes 10 debuted with a space-efficient, vertical stack of Close/Dock/Zoom buttons (shown below), an idea that didn't last long (outside of the mini player, shown below).

image


This year's new iTunes 11 release, however, boldly remakes the entire app, rethinking a series of features that have piled up within iTunes since it was first released by Apple in 2001.

iTunes piles up the features

The original iTunes was almost purely a music library management app, and slowly began to gain new features ranging from device support for the new iPod and for CD burning in iTunes 2, then smart playlists, ratings and Audible audiobooks in iTunes 3.

iTunes 4 introduced the first integrated Music Store with podcasts and support for AirTunes (now AirPlay) wireless distribution, and its overall look (but not really its user interface) was updated for iTunes 5 in 2005.

5 Years of iPod


Since then, Apple has loaded up on content features, adding TV and music videos in iTunes 6, full length movies, iTunes U podcasts and iPod games in 2007's iTunes 7, and iOS Apps (along with Genius features, HD video and rentals) in iTunes 8.

5 Years of iPod


Apple revamped its integrated music, video, audiobooks and apps store to be WebKit-based in iTunes 9, and experimented with TV rentals and Ping social sharing in iTunes 10, both of which failed to find traction along with the aforementioned new vertical window controls.

5 Years of iPod

Rethinking iTunes, with iOS in mind

For the first time, Apple is overhauling iTunes's overloaded user interface in version 11. The most obvious departure is the elimination of the Source List sidebar, which has for the last decade defined the iTunes user interface. Apple has used a similar sidebar in OS X's Finder, as well as other iLife apps, including iPhoto and the discontinued iWeb.

Unlike the Finder, you can't hide iTunes' current Source List sidebar. Instead, you can only show or hide iTunes' Genius recommendations that appear in a second sidebar on the right. The primary iTunes Source List sidebar includes Library items (including local music, movies, books and apps), separately lists Store-related content (the store itself, iTunes Match, and Purchased items available "in the cloud"), attached Devices, and Playlists (regular, Smart, and Genius mixes).

During the launch event showcasing iPhone 5 and new iPods, Apple's iTunes head Eddie Cue outlined why this was changing. Two thirds of iTunes downloads are now originating on iOS devices, he noted, prompting Apple to focus on redesigning its iTunes, iBook and App Store for iOS, "making them more fun and easier to use." While he didn't expressly state it, OS X sidebars are not really multitouch friendly, having been originally designed for the much more accurate targeting of a mouse-driven pointer.

Stores


Cue outlined the new design for iOS store apps (across music, movies, TV, books, and apps, pictured above), which are now outfitted with large promotional banners at the top and swipeable lists of available content below, with a heavy focus on album art rather than textual menus.

Cue also promoted the iOS stores' improved performance, search result and new integration with Facebook and Twitter (replacing Apple's own Ping for social promotion of iTunes content; artist pages and photos from Ping remain, although without the "Ping" branding). This results in a cohesive store experience across the desktop, iPad and iPhone version of iTunes.

iTunes 11

Integrating iCloud & Stores into your iTunes library

Transitioning to the desktop version of iTunes, Cue noted that new new version would be "dramatically simpler, and we've built iCloud right in," rather than being tacked on as a Sidebar item separate from the Library. Instead of managing your local files and your available downloads from iCloud in separate bins, you see all your content together, whether it's saved locally or not, similar to how iOS 6 now manages apps. To download iCloud content, you just click on the cloud icon.

In doing away with the Source List, Apple is now providing a consistent menu bar interface (borrowed from the original iTunes Store) for perusing your content, whether its local or stored in iCloud. It's the same multitouch-friendly interface used in the new iOS iTunes, iBooks and App Store apps.

iTunes 11 iCloud


Also built right in: Apple's iTunes Store. Instead of continuing as a textual database listing of your local content, iTunes 11 shows off your local music albums as icons full of songs, even using the iOS Folders user interface to represent the songs within in album (or the credits within a movie). Click a button, and Apple looks up Store content related to what you own, blurring the line between your content and the content that's available in the iTunes Store.

iTunes 11 integrated store content


Also new: playlists. Rather than being constantly visible from the Source List, Apple handles these collections similar to iOS Folders as well, poping up a listing of your playlists whenever you drag content to provide potential targets. This provides the functional equivalent of the old Source List without dedicating a broad sidebar of the app to showing it all the time.

Apart from this selection feature, Playlists now appear only when you select them in iTunes' menu bar. To add songs to a playlist, you click the Add button and pick songs from your library, then click done.

iTunes 11 integrated store content

iTunes 11 integrated store content

New iOS conventions in iTunes

In addition to its touch-friendly navigation menubar and its "iOS Folders" style representation of details within a collection (such as an album or movie), iTunes also borrows two other iOS ideas: Spotlight-style smart search (similar to Safari's integrated search, presenting a live cascade of results) and two timeline based features: "up next" (showing an editable list of songs about to play) and "history" (songs that have played), two new popup menus similar to Notification Center (they even use the same icon).

iTunes 11 up next

iTunes 11 play history


It's reasonable to think that Apple is likely to recycle some of these evolutions of the interface in OS X, in particular the Finder which shares iTunes' sidebar-orientation as well as its somewhat confusing mix of local and cloud based content.

A Finder focused on search and clean presentation could similarly provide an alternative, "iTunes 11 style" view of the file system that focused on your content, rather than the structure of the file system or the actual location of your documents.

It could also seamlessly integrate iCloud documents with local files, showing each iCloud-registered app library of your documents. This would clarify iCloud's app-centric document storage, a feature that is currently confusing to some users.

Rethinking iTunes' titlebar

Apple's presentation of iTunes 11 also highlighted several other changes to the user interface. Once again, there's now no title bar dedicated to labeling the window as being "iTunes." This was dropped in iTunes 10 two years ago, but reverted along with several other concepts.

This time around, the change is more likely to stick. Since iTunes 10, Apple has also launched the Mac App Store app without a title bar. In a sense, iTunes now has an extended titlebar played by its "virtual LCD panel" display of what's playing. This is what currently shows up in Full Screen mode, and there's no real reason for iTunes to dedicate an entire line of the tool bar just to declare itself.

The title bar still makes sense for document-centric apps (including the Finder, where it plays a navigational role), but for other apps that don't need it, the title bar convention is increasingly likely to be dropped, just as window scroll bars with fixed gutters disappeared in OS X 10.7 Lion.

Rethinking iTunes' window controls

Another element of the iTunes menu bar now in flux: the new Minimize icon next to the Full Screen control. These are slightly odd, because they seeming replicate portions of the standard Close/Dock/Zoom buttons.

Historically, Apple originally presented a Close box and Zoom button (that optimized the size of the window) on the Macintosh. Microsoft's Windows, on the other hand, presented Close, Minimize and Maximize buttons.

At the launch of OS X, Apple added a Dock button that effectively worked similar to Windows' minimize button for shrinking the window out of view (and replacing the "Windowshade" button that reduced a window down to its title bar, but left that visible and in place on the screen). Apple's Zoom never quite duplicated the "take full screen" intention of Windows' Maximize button, a convention mimicking the full screen text modes of MS-DOS.

After releasing the window-free iPad, Apple introduced its own Full Screen mode for OS X, but rather than simply maximizing the window, Apple hid the menu bar and removed the window controls entirely, putting a bit more "max" into its maximizing of the window's content.

Thus, Apple now has three old window controls, and two new ones in iTunes 11, with some overlap (the green zoom button in iTunes 11 is effectively the same as the new Mini Player button). Additionally, in the iTunes 11 mini player, Apple presents a new type of "standard" controls: a grey "X" to close and an grey "O" to zoom (resume normal size).

Mac window controls


This indicates Apple may finally get rid of the bright "gumdrop" Aqua window buttons at some point in the future of OS X (they currently have no analog in the windowless iOS), and replace them with "iTunes 11 mini player" style close and open controls that match the new Full Screen buttons that appeared in OS X 10.7 Lion: subtle, simple, grey icons. A variety of monochrome X icons are already used throughout OS X in place of the old Aqua red dot.

iTunes 11 isn't the only app hinting at Apple's future user interface directions as will be expanded upon later. But it does serve as one of the company's most popular places to experiment with user interface ideas. iTunes 11 will likely ship next week, although Apple has only stated that it will launch by the end of October.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 70


    I really think this should be invisible, like their hardware notification lights.


     



     


    Standard recessed-looking Apple logo in the center, slightly lighter, no differentiation from the surrounding bar. When information is there, have it appear. When not, not. We don't need a big box up top to show that. 

  • Reply 2 of 70
    Another 20,000 word count mini-novel from DED... Maybe he should just become a full time fan-fiction writer. :D
  • Reply 3 of 70
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    I suspect this will get released the day of the iPad mini event, at least as a beta.
  • Reply 4 of 70
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,650member


    I hope that they change their iCloud/iTunes Match back to the way it was on iOS.


     


    I want the option to either stream or download an individual tune, and also the option to delete an individual tune, I don't think that that's asking for too much.

  • Reply 5 of 70
    oomuoomu Posts: 128member
    "I want the option to either stream or download an individual tune, and also the option to delete an individual tune, I don't think that that's asking for too much.
    "

    YES !

    "Another 20,000 word count mini-novel from DED... Maybe he should just become a full time fan-fiction writer. :D"

    they are the best articles : interesting and bold.
  • Reply 6 of 70
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    "Apple wrote:
    [" url="/t/153598/revamped-new-itunes-11-user-interface-hints-at-future-of-os-x#post_2215638"]I hope that they change their iCloud/iTunes Match back to the way it was on iOS.

    I want the option to either stream or download an individual tune, and also the option to delete an individual tune, I don't think that that's asking for too much.

    I just bought iTunes Match when I switched from the 64GB to 16GB iPhone 5. Since I really only listen to music on the go I had assumed that I could see all the pointless tracks in my Music library as greyed out and then DL or delete them as needed. It turns out that's not possible so, if I'm on WiFi, I'll have to DL a track I dislike (not hard because it seems to want to DL all tracks by an artist when I only want one) and then rate them as 1 start so I can then later delete from iTunes Library on my Mac. That seems like a huge work around to deal with my library. Hopefully someone has a better way.
  • Reply 7 of 70
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,650member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post



    Hopefully someone has a better way.


    Apple had a better way, but somebody there decided to go and change it.


     


    I've read a ton of complaints about this issue, so I'm fairly certain that Apple is aware of the blunder which they made, and I can only hope that they fix it sometime in the near future.

  • Reply 8 of 70
    The moment iTunes for Mac mimics the horrendous iPad Music app is the moment I will stop upgrading to its latest version - and it's more than clear that iTunes 11 is that version.

    The pathetic trend towards using iOS metaphors into OS X continues unabated - guys, anyone with an extensive library does NOT want to navigate through album pictures; the traditional list view MUST remain there, unchanged.

    And what's all this hoopla about eliminating the source sidebar? Where are we gonna find the same elements, then? It definitely seems like it's time for Forstall to get out of Apple...bring Tevanian and Serlet back, please!
  • Reply 9 of 70
    zandroszandros Posts: 537member
    [quote] The title bar still makes sense for document-centric apps (including the Finder, where it plays a navigational role), but for other apps that don't need it, the title bar convention is increasingly likely to be dropped, just as window scroll bars with fixed gutters disappeared in OS X 10.7 Lion.[/quote]

    There are other functions the title bar serves, such as providing a suitably large target for moving the window. Less necessary with unified toolbars, of course, but in apps like Safari where the toolbar has lots of other clickable targets it is crucial (as we saw with the attempt to introduce tabs-on-top).

    I hope we will still be able to disable the ridiculous levels of iTunes Store integration that serves little purpose for the user.
  • Reply 10 of 70


    Originally Posted by brlawyer View Post

    The pathetic trend towards using iOS metaphors into OS X continues unabated…


     


    Holy cow. It's just like 1984 all over again. How horrible.


     



    …the traditional list view MUST remain there, unchanged.


     


    No.


     



    And what's all this hoopla about eliminating the source sidebar? Where are we gonna find the same elements, then? 


     


    Are you looking at the images of it?






    It definitely seems like it's time for Forstall to get out of Apple...bring Tevanian and Serlet back, please!



     


    It definitely seems like it's time for you to stop making things up.

  • Reply 11 of 70
    v5vv5v Posts: 1,357member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post





    I just bought iTunes Match when I switched from the 64GB to 16GB iPhone 5. Since I really only listen to music on the go I had assumed that I could see all the pointless tracks in my Music library as greyed out and then DL or delete them as needed. It turns out that's not possible so, if I'm on WiFi, I'll have to DL a track I dislike (not hard because it seems to want to DL all tracks by an artist when I only want one) and then rate them as 1 start so I can then later delete from iTunes Library on my Mac. That seems like a huge work around to deal with my library. Hopefully someone has a better way.


     


    This is part of why I'm not at all a fan of the cloud model and prefer to have lots of local storage. Listening "on the go" means I almost never have WiFi access when I want to listen.


     


    I also DON'T want my devices to "help" me manage my content. Apple's deliberate efforts to obfuscate file systems are becoming increasingly frustrating to those who use the Mac for more than a media consumption device.

  • Reply 12 of 70

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post



    Another 20,000 word count mini-novel from DED... Maybe he should just become a full time fan-fiction writer. image


     


    I enjoyed the history lesson. Not to mention seeing some old title bars I hadn't seen in a very long time. I remember how "good lookin'" some seemed when they were first introduced. Thanks to the writer for this article. 

  • Reply 13 of 70

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post





    I just bought iTunes Match when I switched from the 64GB to 16GB iPhone 5. Since I really only listen to music on the go I had assumed that I could see all the pointless tracks in my Music library as greyed out and then DL or delete them as needed. It turns out that's not possible so, if I'm on WiFi, I'll have to DL a track I dislike (not hard because it seems to want to DL all tracks by an artist when I only want one) and then rate them as 1 start so I can then later delete from iTunes Library on my Mac. That seems like a huge work around to deal with my library. Hopefully someone has a better way.


     


    Can you make up playlists and download a specific playlist to your iPhone??

  • Reply 14 of 70
    v5vv5v Posts: 1,357member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by brlawyer View Post



    [...] anyone with an extensive library does NOT want to navigate through album pictures;


     


    I don't even get why Apple (and the music industry as a whole) clings so desperately to the "album" model. My interest is in the individual track. Who CARES which album the song came from? The beauty of the a la carte system brought about by iTunes is the ability to separate the wheat from the chaff -- no more buying a whole album just to get a particular track or two. Many pop artists are now releasing their works as singles, not waiting to release complete albums. The whole notion just seems like clinging to an outdated concept.


     


    Building an update to iTunes around an album-centric model *seems* (without having tried it yet) like putting an additional, unnecessary layer between me and what I'm after, which is a particular track.


     


     


     




    Quote:

    Originally Posted by brlawyer View Post



    [...] the traditional list view MUST remain there, unchanged.


     


    I don't know if I'd insist on "unchanged" but a way to quickly access individual tracks without pointless fluff is important to my daily use of at least one of the Macs I use every day.


     


     


     


    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    No.



     


    Why not? Why would you object to an interface that puts function over frilly window dressing? Particularly if it's an "option?"

  • Reply 15 of 70


    Originally Posted by v5v View Post


    Why not? Why would you object to an interface that puts function over frilly window dressing? Particularly if it's an "option?"



     


    My objection's more to the "must… …unchanged" bit. No problem leaving it in, problem demanding it left in if better options are available.

  • Reply 16 of 70


    Hopefully the windows version still runs on XP to save me having to update my wife... I prefer to wait for haswell.

  • Reply 17 of 70
    jonyojonyo Posts: 115member


    I think I'll first test out the new version of itunes on my non-music computer to see if it's workable for my main computer that has my itunes library. My itunes library has a little under 25000 tracks, around 1500 artists, and about 2800 albums, so some giant grid view with album artwork is not going to be workable for me at all. As boring as it is, a giant library needs text lists in some form or another to remain usable. If the source list on the left is somewhat replaced by some buttons at the top, that'll probably be ok. If it proves unworkable for my large library, I guess I'll be holding off on updating for as long as possible, until I have no choice but to update in order to use some piece of future hardware, like a new phone or ipod or whatever comes up that I'm interested in. The whole thing is bit irritating though, because it feels like trying to fix something that's not broken, just to serve a larger agenda of converging UI elements within ios and osx. I don't care much about that larger goal to be honest, I just want to use itunes the way I want to use it.

  • Reply 18 of 70


    Originally Posted by jonyo View Post

    As boring as it is, a giant library needs text lists in some form or another to remain usable.



     


    Why?

  • Reply 19 of 70
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    v5v wrote: »
    This is part of why I'm not at all a fan of the cloud model and prefer to have lots of local storage. Listening "on the go" means I almost never have WiFi access when I want to listen.

    I also DON'T want my devices to "help" me manage my content. Apple's deliberate efforts to obfuscate file systems are becoming increasingly frustrating to those who use the Mac for more than a media consumption device.

    1) Nothing you stated is what I described. iTunes Match doesn't mean you can't have your tracks on your device. I wanted a certain usage so I could perform a certain task. It's my fault for not understanding the tech properly before I bought it but it was only $25 so I'm not going to lose sleep over it.

    2) You don't want the device to help you manage your content? How the hell will you organize your music? You want Finder for iPhone and then play tracks one at a time?

    Can you make up playlists and download a specific playlist to your iPhone??

    You can but I assume the only playlists you can make on the device will contain tracks that are already DLed, which puts me back in the same situation.
  • Reply 20 of 70
    jonyo wrote: »
    I think I'll first test out the new version of itunes on my non-music computer to see if it's workable for my main computer that has my itunes library. My itunes library has a little under 25000 tracks, around 1500 artists, and about 2800 albums, so some giant grid view with album artwork is not going to be workable for me at all. As boring as it is, a giant library needs text lists in some form or another to remain usable. If the source list on the left is somewhat replaced by some buttons at the top, that'll probably be ok. If it proves unworkable for my large library, I guess I'll be holding off on updating for as long as possible, until I have no choice but to update in order to use some piece of future hardware, like a new phone or ipod or whatever comes up that I'm interested in. The whole thing is bit irritating though, because it feels like trying to fix something that's not broken, just to serve a larger agenda of converging UI elements within ios and osx. I don't care much about that larger goal to be honest, I just want to use itunes the way I want to use it.

    iTunes 11 does not lose its song listings for an album only display. You can see in the above Playlist screenshots from the iPhone 5 event that you can also browse by Song, which presents the historical view, just without a sidebar. So you get more of it, not less.

    What's broken and being fixed is the overlapping role of the sidebar (music movies tv podcasts etc) and the top menu bar of stores (music movies tv podcasts etc) which is confusing. Now there is one ui bar. It's not a goal of convergence as much as improvement.
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