Eight feature requests for iTunes 11

30 June, 2011 by Kirk McElhearn, Macworld
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Features

As spring rolls around, as does the time of year when Apple tends to release a new version of iTunes – generally when Apple unveils new iPods and iTunes gets updated with a handful of new features, as well as for compatibility with the new devices. iTunes 10 saw the light on September 1, 2010; iTunes 9 was unveiled on September 9, 2009; and iTunes 8 a year earlier to the day.

This year, we’ll see the release of iOS 5 and iCloud and a new version of iTunes (currently called 10.5 in developer releases, but perhaps iTunes 11 when it rolls out publicly). It will finally offer some Wi-Fi syncing with iOS devices, but here are some small tweaks I’d like to see in a future version of iTunes.

1. Add a label tag
I buy a fair amount of music because of the labels that release it; this is especially the case for indie classical labels. I would like to be able to add label name information to my tracks in iTunes. You can certainly use the Comments field, but many people (including me) use that for other information. iTunes could add a Label tag, which is indirectly part of the ID3 music file tagging specification: you could use the Publisher tag to store the name of a label.

2. Add a Column Browser button
The iTunes Column Browser is a powerful way to manage music in your iTunes library. But in my experience, most iTunes users aren’t aware of this useful tool. It would be practical if there were a button to show or hide the column browser, somewhere at the bottom of the iTunes window. People would click out of curiosity and discover the most powerful way to browse their music.

3. Allow for label searches

The iTunes Store displays label information. Searching for it shouldn’t be too hard.
I would love to be able to search by label in both the iTunes Store and in my iTunes library. If a Label tag were available, then a search by label should be possible. This is especially useful for fans of indie labels in any genre who would like to be able to find music from their favourite labels more easily. The iTunes Store already has the label info, so they simply need to pipe it into a searchable tag.

4. Allow sub-genres and multiple genres
iTunes lets you choose the genre of your music, but some genres are too broad. Is Jazz or Classical really sufficient? You may want to have Jazz – piano trio, or Classical – opera. Sure, you can enter your own genres; just type them in the Genre field. But if iTunes correctly managed sub-genres, you would be able to sort by both the main genre and its children.

Also, some music doesn’t easily fit into a single genre; being able to have multiple genres can be useful for those who have a lot of outlier music and want to be able to find it in more than one way. Is Bob Dylan folk or singer-songwriter? Is Phish a jam band or a rock band? Is Brian Eno’s music alternative, electronic, ambient, or something else? Multiple genres would let you use multiple classifications for each of these artists. Again, you could create a genre that combines several into one, but that’s a poor workaround.

5. Allow ePub reading in iTunes
While I don’t necessarily want to read ebooks on my Mac, I would sometimes like to take a glance at the content of one of the ePub books in my iTunes library. iTunes displays PDFs by sending them to Preview; it should offer a display of ePubs as well, even within iTunes.

6. Allow keyword tagging

iPhoto gives easy keyword tagging; iTunes should have this as well.
Programs such as iPhoto allow you to tag items with keywords. iTunes should offer this same possibility. You might want to enter the names of artists, songwriters, or producers; you might want to add the venue where a live recording was made; or you might want to add other information that you would later use to create smart playlists.

7. Offer smart playlist templates and playlist layout templates
If you make a lot of smart playlists, you’ll find that you often use many of the same conditions, but each time you create a new one, you have to start over from scratch. iTunes should allow you to save smart playlist templates so you can easily use the same conditions with a new playlist. Doug Adams has released a free program called Smarts that does this, but it would be useful if iTunes could manage playlist templates.

Also, I find that for both smart and regular playlists, I tend to want certain columns to display. But I always have to make changes, as each new playlist takes on default display settings that I can’t alter. I’d love to be able to copy the display settings from one playlist and apply them to another, or store default settings, much as you can do in the Finder.

8. Provide more font size settings
With the advent of larger displays, using smaller pixels, I find that iTunes’ font sizes aren’t always ideal. I’d like more flexibility so my aging eyes can see the info in my iTunes library a bit more easily.

Those are my choices for new, minor features. What about you? What do you want to see in the next version of iTunes?

8 Comments

8 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. Andrew says:

    Proper “Release Date” column like the Apple TV, instead of just “Year”. Helps when you have a huge TV show library from EyeTV recordings :)

    As a side note… bring TV Show Genres to the Apple TV’s Computers interface!!! With almost 400 TV show albums, my library is getting hard to browse through.

  2. PierOz says:

    I would add: automatic change of sample rate, so that we don’t have to pass by Audio-midi preferences to play high res files at their native sample rate.

  3. Alan says:

    If you want to select all but one artist to sync with your iPod, there should be a checkbox to ‘select all’. Then you can uncheck one artist – rather than having to check all the other artists. Can be essential if hiding your embarrassing ABBA tracks before passing your device around your peer group.

  4. basic_user says:

    I think a simple cue up function is missing – particularly from iPods/iPhones. I know you can check songs (in iTunes but not iPods), but this also means unchecking them if you don’t want to play them when you open iTunes the next time. Whereas a system like (dare I say it) windows media player where you can cue up songs/albums/artists and make a temporary playlist that suits your mood at that time, which you can also save, would be much easier.

  5. DavidJA says:

    I find right clicking the smart folder I like with many or complicated conditions and selected columns and then click Duplicate. Then I edit one or more of the many conditions and wham-oh – a new smart folder with all I need.

    I would like to have the Comments searchable. I am sure they used to be.

  6. DavidD says:

    In iPhoto, you have always had the option of adding a selected list to an album at the time of creation of a new album. iTunes has never had this option, and it is about time it did. It would make the importing of tracks and organizing into a new album much easier – and more consistent.

  7. Mark says:

    Bring back the ability to adjust the size of the cover art column! Is anyone happy with album art at 125 pixels (which they call “large”!)? And, yes, I know I can click the artwork in the lower-left to get a pop-up, but I don’t want that.

  8. Augure says:

    These shouldn’t even be requests: they should be a compulsory upgrade to iTunes that have been awaited and missing for too long.

    I’ve used iTunes since version one. And the only reason I still use it is because of it’s clear column browsing interface by genre, artist and album.

    But I’m also now using Spotify and Rdio because of the streaming librairies of music, I’m using Google Music when streaming my own library, and I’m using Foobar via Parallel to manage, clean, find or sometimes just listen music because of the advanced tag editing, browsing and searching.

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