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Thursday 8 September 2005

iTunes 5.0 [Spiny]

Along with the white elephant iTunes phone & the oh so sexxxy iPod Nano, Apple released iTunes 5.0 yesterday.

There's quite a good features list on iLounge (Which seems to have buckled inder the strain of hits), but here's the view from t'death. Well me anyway.

The first thing that strikes you is "where have the borders gone!". The borders on the window have all been reduced to one pixel & the menu has been incorporated into the title bar. Some may like this look. I don't particularly, just seems like a cheap way to gain a bit of screen real estate. In practice it just reduces usability. I can just hear Mac users saying "Why would anyone want to resize a window from somewhere other than the bottom right corner?". Shame

The rest is all good thankfully. It'll now sync your Outlook contacts and calendar onto your pod so there's no need to frig about with vCards or buy shareware. At long last they've added folders into the playlist structure so you can organise your lists, rather than have one monolithic block. Just a shame that the structure isn't taken over to the ipod on sync. You still have to put up with one big list of playlists there. One very nice feature is the search bar that appears just above the track listing. Type a search string into the search box & if you get too many tracks, you can narrow the search with a single click buy selecting an item from the search bar. Either by media type or Artist/Album/Name. They seem to have removed the drop down menu on the seach field too. MS would have left it as they're typically very good at giving you umpteen ways of doing the same thing. Apple however seem to force you to do things one way which they deem to be the easiest. I guess they're trying not to confuse novice users, but I'd rather have choice. Parental controls have been added. Fff. The last cute addition is smart shuffle which lets you control how likeley you are to hear songs by the same artist/album grouped together in a random playlist.

As for the bad, my one problem is that the UI performance is still rather sluggish. I'd rather they just didn't try to keep breaking the Windows user interface model with custom window drawing. I seem to remember that early versions wouldn't even let you resize from anywhere by bottom right for example.

As for the future, I'd like to see two additions:

  1. Better smart playlist construction: You still have to frig about nesting playlists if you want to do anything remotely complex with ANDing and ORing conditions for including songs in a smart playlist.
  2. Just play tracks from any connected iPod option: Sometimes I like to plug my ipod in at work & listen through iTunes there. But to play the tracks, I need to turn off auto sync on the work PC. This setting seems to be persisted onto the iPod, so I have to turn it back on when I dock at home. I'd like to recommend Winamp & ml_pod for that but it suffers from a serious bug where it won't let you undock the iPod, even when you shut down Winamp.

All in all a few nice additions but still a few issues with the UI. Oh and of course the MP3 encoder is still dreadful. MAC users can get a (slow) LAME plugin but Windows users still have to stick with something like CDex. No, don't you dare ask about AAC! :)


  1. There's a nice blog here about why the iPod is the dominant player. It's precisely the reason I bought one.

  2. Sheesh, just installed iTunes 5.0 and it's clear that Apple shouldn't be allowed to develop for Windows XP, they just throw the styleguide out the window. And the scrolling horizontal frames in the iTunes store (with the four circle oooo navigation) are just naff.
    At least in QT 7 they got rid of the ridiculous settings window with the drop-down, and have replaced it with something normal.

  3. I've been holding off upgrading to iTunes 5.0 because of the hundreds of problems that have been reported on the apple support site and fan sites like ipodlounge.
    I think the 5.0.1 release fixes a lot of the reported problems but I'm going to have a proper check before I upgrade.