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First Look: iTunes 8, digital media player

updated 01:00 am EDT, Wed September 10, 2008

iTunes 8, media player

Every Mac comes with iTunes, but Windows users can also download and install a free copy of iTunes as well. The new 8.0 version of iTunes coincides with Apple's latest announcement of iPod models, although you don't need an iPod to take advantage of its handful of new features that makes this version even more fun to use for playing music and video.

The most obvious new feature is a Grid View option, which offers another way to organize your music. Grid View works by grouping songs from the same album within the artwork of that particular album. Now if you want to search for a song to play, just skim through your album covers displayed in rows and columns. Double-click on an album cover and you'll see all songs that came from that album. Grid View mimics the old fashion method of browsing through album covers to pick out the songs you want to hear.



While iTunes tries to automatically display album artwork, imported songs from other sources may not include its album artwork. In this case, you may need to edit the audio file's tags and identify the album name so you can download the appropriate album artwork. If you can't know enough information about a song, there's a good chance that you won't be able to download the correct album artwork. As a result, the program just displays a generic music note in place of an actual image.

One unique characteristic of music is that people who like certain songs or recording artists often like similar songs or recording artists. To help you find new music that you might enjoy, you could randomly browse through different albums, music genres, and recording artists and hope that you'll find something that you like. However, a better solution might be asking a friend's recommendation who shares your musical tastes. Since you may not always have access to such friends, do the next best thing and take advantage of the latest Genius Sidebar list.



Just select a song and the Genius Sidebar displays similar songs by the same artist or entirely new artists who you may never have known about. Based on the recommendations of the Genius Sidebar, you'll likely find new music that you'll probably enjoy. Of course, this is Apple's subtle way of getting you to buy more music too, so you might not appreciate the bombardment of Buy buttons filling the screen.

A related feature is the Genius Playlist, which takes advantage of the music you've already collected. You could manually take the time to create different playlists of your favorite songs, but this can get tedious. Instead, just click on a song and let the Genius Playlist create a playlist of related music based on your favorite songs. Apple claims that the more you use this Genius Playlist, the more accurate it will get. As a result, using this feature is more of a good idea that doesn't always work as well in actual practice.

Listening to music can be fun, but with the new Visualizer feature, you can watch it too. Visualizer displays spheres, ribbons, and lights that blink, move, and flash in time to the currently playing song. Now if you're playing music on your computer during a party, guests can watch visual effects while enjoying your music collection.



If you enjoy watching TV shows, you'll be happy to know that the iTunes Store now offers shows in standard definition and high definition (HD). That way you can watch the HD version on your computer monitor and the standard definition version on a video iPod.

For those with accessibility limitations, this new version supports VoiceOver (Mac OS X Leopard) and Window-Eyes (Windows XP/Vista), two programs that allow vision-impaired users to control the program through voice commands and use special reading programs to read any text out loud that's displayed on the screen.

One major missing feature is a music subscription option, which is available in rival services such as
Rhapsody. With Rhapsody, you can listen to different songs for a monthly subscription fee, and then download only those songs you truly enjoy. With iTunes, you're limited to just purchasing and downloading songs.

Since it's a free upgrade, there's little reason not to download and install the latest iTunes 8.0. With its new Grid View and Genius Sidebar and Playlists, the program provides new ways to organize your music collection. With its new Visualizer, you can make iTunes handy for filling a room with music and filling a screen with unusual visual effects. If you're a music or video lover, iTunes 8.0 offers enough new features to make the program worth using.




by MacNN Staff

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Comments

  1. elroth

    Joined: Dec 1969

    -1

    bad article

    This is a really empty review, even for a 'first look.'

    "Since itís a free upgrade, thereís little reason not to download and install the latest iTunes 8.0."

    There are plenty of reasons, the main one for me being that there apparently is no more album view, the only view I use. It's by far the easiest way to organize my library - the other views are just not nearly as useful. Also, I don't want more sidebars, or more buttons for things I would never use (like genius playlists). And I've heard that some of the preferences for managing the iTunes library have been taken away.

    Plenty of reasons not to install iTunes 8. I only hope when I get a new computer (soon) I can transfer iTunes 7.7.1 over to it.

  1. elroth

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +3

    oops

    I'm wrong about one thing - there is a way to get the old album view. There's an arrow in list view that when clicked will add the album art and put separators between albums, just like the old view.

    As Emily Latella would say, "Never mind."

  1. revco

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +3

    itunes store links

    There used to be an option to disable the little grey dots with arrows in your library/playlists that direct you to the iTunes Store. Now it looks like the only way to turn them off is to disable the iTunes Store under the Parental preference. Well, if that's what it takes!

  1. paulc

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Various

    Ah, thanks for the info on the old "album view" it's really a shame it didn't remain as one of the view buttons, it SHOULD have (i.e. there should be 4 buttons).Indeed also bummed those pesky arrows are back.Wanted to check out what they are doing with "HD." Saw the last season of BSG was in HD, went to the list, the first episode was free. BUT, it seems it's NOT HD at all, resolution was 853 x 480. EVEN though it was listed with all the $2.99 shows. Which ALSO means you simply can NOT get that one episode in HD, whatever they mean by HD (my guess is HD is 1280 x 720).One other annoying thing, I have long had an account. Yet now I find having to input my password way too frequently.

  1. paulc

    Joined: Dec 1969

    -1

    Various

    Ah, thanks for the info on the old "album view" it's really a shame it didn't remain as one of the view buttons, it SHOULD have (i.e. there should be 4 buttons).

    Indeed also bummed those pesky arrows are back.

    Wanted to check out what they are doing with "HD." Saw the last season of BSG was in HD, went to the list, the first episode was free. BUT, it seems it's NOT HD at all, resolution was 853 x 480. EVEN though it was listed with all the $2.99 shows. Which ALSO means you simply can NOT get that one episode in HD, whatever they mean by HD (my guess is HD is 1280 x 720).

    One other annoying thing, I have long had an account. Yet now I find having to input my password way too frequently.

  1. bfalchuk

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +1

    Oh Noes! Arrows!

    I hate those damn arrows, and scoured the preferences for what must have been 20 minutes (pathetic, I know) hoping to see something to remove them. iTunes 8, while good, is clearly aimed at driving iTS revenue, and it does so by breaking one of Steve Jobs' guiding rules about simplicity and unobtrusiveness.

  1. elroth

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    bad bad bad

    I totally agree about the arrows. I feel like Apple is sending me contextual ads in my iTunes window. Everybody who's annoyed needs to complain (through iTunes feedback under the iTunes menu?). Good luck, but hey - gotta try.

    Someone posted (on Apple Insider) a terminal command to get rid of the links, but it's not clear if it works for this particular problem, of links coming up for the selected songs (it might just be for the old preference in iTunes 7). I haven't downloaded iTunes 8, so I can't try it.

    defaults write com.apple.iTunes show-store-arrow-links -bool FALSE

  1. elroth

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    re: bad bad bad

    In the above link, there is no space between "-" and "bool" - I don't know why it added a space when pasting it in. The last part should be:

    show-store-arrow-links -bool FALSE

  1. bfalchuk

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Oh Noes! Arrows!

    I hate those damn arrows, and scoured the preferences for what must have been 20 minutes (pathetic, I know) hoping to see something to remove them. iTunes 8, while good, is clearly aimed at driving iTS revenue, and it does so by breaking one of Steve Jobs' guiding rules about simplicity and unobtrusiveness.

  1. Geobunny

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Those arrows

    Quit iTunes, do this in the Terminal, and then launch iTunes again. Hey presto - no more stupid arrows!

    defaults write com.apple.iTunes show-store-arrow-links -bool FALSE

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