Here it is. A month after it was originally to be released, and barely scraping into the newly scheduled November release date, the new and improved iTunes slides in with surprisingly little of the fanfare which typically comes along with anything Apple do.

I've always had a strained relationship with the software as a Windows user. A few years back, iTunes was ultra crash-happy and fond of slowing mid-range computers to a crawl. Although, over time this has improved to a point where it seems that it's no longer an issue, the basic interface had remained fundamentally the same until now. The thing that made the various little problems with iTunes so annoying was that there were numerous superior media players around, but iTunes had a way of bringing you back.

An iteration or two ago, Microsoft seemed to stumble onto the perfect music organizer with WMP 11. It looked nice, was relatively stable, was intuitive, and had a couple of nice features - my favorite of which was the click to 'add to now playing' function. Other superior options included the likes of the highly customizable, zippy, and stable Mediamonkey and Winamp. However, if you owned an iPod, the easiest option to get the most out of it was to simply use iTunes. In recent years, this has become more entrenched if you own an iPhone/Pad/Touch. Sure, it's possible to get by without ever plugging these things into your computer, but for most of us, the traditional way of syncing these things is the most convenient. So until quite recently, I had always used iTunes rather begrudgingly.

I'll get the only negative I've found about the new iTunes out of the way first. For the most part, it's still rather bland to look at. Staring at the the various shades of grey is like staring at the ultra-sterile interior of  a hospital while you're waiting for a particularly invasive operation. But the key phrase there was 'for the most part'. Apple seems to have taken more than a little inspiration from Microsoft's Windows 8 music app and made the focus of the main window the album. Clicking once on an album cover will expand the the view and display it in a rather pretty manner.


Nice. The background color even changes depending on the album.

If you check out the above screenshot a little closer you'll notice that the side bar has been kicked to the curb. iTunes was always pretty minimalist (as is the way of the Apple), and that's been taken a step further in the most recent release. Type of media is selected via the small button in the top left, with playlists and various sorting options selectable from the bar under the now playing window. Device icons are displayed in the top right. Clicking one of these will reveal a sync screen which remains largely unchanged from previous versions.

Transferring things to your device or various playlists can be performed by drag and drop; just drag something over to the right side of the screen and a side bar will appear in which you can choose where you want to send the item.

Another great feature is the inclusion of a 'up next' system. Click the list icon in the 'now playing' window and your shown a list of upcoming songs. Right click on a song in your library and you can choose 'play next' or 'add to up next'. It's been available in other music managers for years (although Microsoft completely ruined WMP by making it add albums to the 'playing next' playlist instead of single songs), but it would be churlish to complain now that it's here.

However, all of this is just window dressing, it's how the program performs that's most important, and from what I've experienced so far, there really isn't anything to complain about. No freezing. No lag. My iPad suddenly disappeared from the devices list this morning, but I've long since given up any hope of Apple doing anything to improve wifi syncing and sharing (a note to rabid Apple fans - unlike my Android, PS3 and every other thing that syncs and shares with my computer, it doesn't 'just work').

It's quite hard writing a concluding paragraph when everything before it is mostly positive. So I guess there's no need to. Go! Go! Download the new version without delay. It looks like PC users can finally download a new iTunes without having to worry about getting a whole heap of migraines coming along with it.
 


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