iTunes 11 annoyances

December 1, 2012

I upgraded to iTunes 11 tonight, and I am not impressed. This is not a tech blog, but I know that some people who read this blog also use iTunes.

There are some real annoyances:

Search and filter: Apple has “upgraded” the behaviour of the master search-and-filter box. It now generates a drop-down menu showing songs, albums, and artists matching one’s search term.

  • First problem: it is far too slow. Mine churns away for ten or twenty seconds before showing me results matching the first letter of my search term; it is too slow even to catch the subsequent keystrokes. My library is over 500 GB, so this feature may work better with smaller libraries.
  • Second problem: it shows only results matching songs, albums, and artists, not composers. So the new search function is unable to find all of one’s music written by a particular composer. This is absurd. The “Composer View”, which was present in iTunes 10 and would have allowed one another route to that music, is also gone. The search box has an option to search by composer; it doesn’t work. Apparently no-one at Apple cares about classical music.
  • Third problem: the new search box is a global search, not a filter. If one is viewing a particular playlist, or even just looking at all of one’s songs, entering a search term will not filter those results to show matches, as it used to do. It starts from scratch every time, churning away while it searches through all the music for the first letter of whatever search string one tried. Useless.

Solution: Happily, I found a solution to this problem. If one opens the search box options, one can disable something called “Search Entire Library”. This causes the functionality of the search box to revert to what it was in iTunes 10; namely, a context-specific filter. It becomes possible once again to search the “Composer” field. (And, yes, it is odd that one has to turn off the “Search Entire Library” feature to enable searches of the entire library.)

**

Cover Flow is gone: Cover Flow was a really nice feature of iTunes that allowed one to see both detailed information about tracks and album art in one view. It is gone. It was especially useful when adding new music to one’s library: one could sort the music by date added — so as to conveniently see the new music — and view the artwork while reviewing the other tags associated with the new files.

Now, however, it seems that one can either sort by date (in the list view) or see the artwork (in the grid view), but not both. Annoying.

**

Grid View useless. ‘Grid View’ shows one a view of one’s library by tiling the album art across the screen. It is a nice way to see a lot of albums at once. In iTunes 10 one could click on the album art to drill into the details: to pick a particular track, for instance, or to see what composer’s music was on that album. No more. Now clicking on the album art simply starts playing the album. Annoying.

Overall, I am not very happy with the upgrade.

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19 Responses to “iTunes 11 annoyances”

  1. Joel D Says:

    On my installation of iTunes 11, without changing any settings, a single click on the album in Grid View expands a list of all the tracks and a bit of summary info, where you can pick songs to play or right click for more info, etc. Are you sure you’re not double-clicking the album?

  2. cburrell Says:

    Thanks for that tip, Joel. You are right. It takes a second or two for the album info to appear, which is probably why I didn’t notice last night. (I must be an impatient double-clicker.)

    Still, the information that iTunes shows one is limited: song titles, track numbers, and durations only. No access to any of the other fields (such as composer). This is annoying for those of us who listen mostly to classical music.

    I wish Apple would provide a way to customize the view, showing the data fields of interest (as is possible in List View).

  3. DJPorterNZ Says:

    Media Kind isn’t inherited on conversion…

    I convert my 128Bit+ MP3 podcasts to 64/32Bit AAC to throw them on my space-challenged iPod. Yeah, I know it wasn’t inherited on previous versions as well but now you can’t even change it MANUALLY…

    Downgraded to 10.7 and problem solved.

  4. Joel D Says:

    Speaking as a former developer, it looks to me like two things happened.

    One, it seems very likely that they rebuilt significant portions of the code behind the interface, likely with the approach of starting from scratch and adding elements back in one by one. This approach allows you to clean out cruft and optimize your code, like emptying a whole closet in order to install a new shelving system rather than re-organizing everything in place. The only problem is making sure your new system includes a place for everything that used to fit in there, which is part of what we’re seeing here. The new version does feel faster on my Windows machine, and it’s also very stable; no crashes or glitches, per se; it’s just missing a lot of little touches that non-typical users have gotten used to.

    Two, their schedule slipped by a few months, at which point they promised a release “in November”, releasing only on the last day of the month. So it’s highly likely that they were forced to choose between re-implementing some of these edge-ish features and other things whose get-rightness was the primary need for the delay in the first place…and that even doing so, they were only barely able to make their ship date.

    Well, they at least succeeded in releasing a stable, non-buggy product after a significant rewrite, which is saying something. I can only hope that now they’ve met their November deadline, they can focus on restoring all of this other regressed functionality.

    • Chris Says:

      I don’t mind the interface, or the lack of some of the little features. The deal killer for me is that it is so slow and so sluggish that it’s practically unusable.

      • cburrell Says:

        Yes, it is noticeable slower than the previous version. I get the spinning wheel quite a lot when I am trying to edit tracks. Disappointing.

  5. cburrell Says:

    I didn’t know that background, Joel. It helps a little, I suppose. I also read somewhere that the ‘Cover Flow’ feature, which I found so useful, probably disappeared because of a legal challenge that Apple either lost or was afraid to lose. Too bad.

    Still, I do not have great hope that tweaks or incremental changes will restore the kind of features that are valuable to classical music lovers like myself. Right now the only way to access the composer field in the whole of iTunes 11 is through the ‘List View’, which is also the least attractive way of viewing the collection. It is hard to see how they could work that information back into the other views: in both ‘Grid View’ and ‘Artist View’ the album details (which you helped me find) are presented in a two-column format that limits the available room for showing more track-specific fields. Too bad.

    Apple’s lackadaisical attitide toward classical music seems to have persisted for some time. I was playing around with my wife’s iPhone this weekend, and I noticed that the music player app does not provide a way to browse the music by composer! I was surprised. I almost always browse by composer on my old iPod classic, but I guess the newer, fancier models don’t have that functionality. Too bad.

  6. rrosso Says:

    I agree that iTunes 11 continues to demonstrate Apple’s total lack of interest in us classical music fans, and I share your frustration that the composer view is gone. As it is it’s always frustrated me that you can’t group music by composition (in any version of iTunes). I’d love to select Beethoven, or Baroque, and shuffle complete compositions within those filters. (Hearing the slow movement of Beethoven’s 7th followed by a Mahler song and then the improvisatory middle movement of Bach’s 3rd Brandenburg concerto is rather jarring, rendering the shuffle feature pretty useless.)

    On my iPhone 4 (on iOS 6) I can browse by composer though — it’s under the “more” tab.

  7. cburrell Says:

    Yes, that’s true about the iPhone. I discovered last night that one can access the composer list through the ‘More’ button (and even move it onto the main menu bar if desired).

    I never use shuffle, for the reason you describe. Grouping by composition would be nice, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

    • rrosso Says:

      No, I’m certain iTunes will never allow grouping by composition. There’s a niche market for a classical-centric iTunes alternative. I’m not holding my breath for that either…

    • rrosso Says:

      Shuffle by album would be nice too, and may be slightly more likely to happen than shuffle by composition. Still pretty unlikely. The track is at the center of the iTunes world.

    • DRAD Says:

      I have a classical music collection I ripped from ~1,000 CDs (kept the CDs as a back-up, thank God). Taking my cue from more experienced users, in iTunes 10 I used tagging to split my CDs into “sub-albums”, each corresponding to a work (e.g., overture, symphony). My grouping is nationality/composer/genre (e.g. French/Faure/Chamber). This has made sorting pretty painless, and allows shuffle by work (album), which solves the problem rrosso noted. However, I’m sticking with 10.7 until/unless they add back Album List View. In the Album List View, I have the album picture size set to small, which makes for a nice thumbnail, and providing a nice visual separation between each “album” (work). The new Album view is grid of album art, which is guess is fine if you have a few dozen albums, but terrible if you have a decent size collection that you’ve split into sub-albums (works). I’m afraid I saw this trend coming when I looked at the most recent version of Music player on the iPad. Apple seems obsessed with cover art as an interface. I supposed I could adapt by using the new Artist View, but then I’d have to retag everything by switching the data in the composer field to artist. Why should I spend countless more hours retagging just because Apple decided to drop some useful functionality that wasn’t harming the masses they’re catering to?

      • Anonymous Says:

        Agreed. And if you copy all your composer data into the artist field, you lose the artist info (conductor, soloist, ensemble, orchestra). Using iTunes for classical music will always involve compromises and work arounds. Putting compositions into sub-albums is a neat idea, although I can see that it would make the album view useless in iTunes 11, since each composition from a parent album would have the same picture/album name.

  8. rrosso Says:

    Actually, on the Mac you can shuffle by album, with this AppleScript (haven’t tried it yet): http://dougscripts.com/itunes/2012/11/updated-play-random-album-v3-1/

  9. cburrell Says:

    Neat. I’ve never played around with AppleScripts, but I know you can do some useful things with them.

  10. rrosso Says:

    Played with this some more tonight and was pleasantly surprised. If you click on the arrow by the magnifying glass in the search box, you can set it to search by composer–and as you said if you uncheck “Search entire library” there, it will only search within whatever filter you have set (all albums, a playlist, etc).

    Better yet, you can shuffle by album or “grouping”. In the menu, go to Controls–>Shuffle–>By Albums. Right now I’m listening to my Baroque albums with album shuffle on. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier now, who knows what next! This is awesome!

  11. cburrell Says:

    Congratulations on finding the album shuffle feature. The Well-Tempered Clavier goes on for over four hours, so I hope you are patient!

    • rrosso Says:

      Yes, it is an epic. The album was just book 2 (book 1 is categorized as a separate album). It did successfully shuffle to a Vivaldi cello sonatas disc afterwards.

  12. Aquaria Says:

    My wish list for a music program/player:

    Label (DG) or at least label recording number (DG Duo 123XYZ)
    Recording date, or at least the bleedin’ year!
    Place of recording
    Ensemble Members, for the chamber works

    Is it really so difficult to add those?


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