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What's to be done about iTunes? Tweak? Strip? Split?

Christopher Breen | Nov. 10, 2014
Each iteration of iTunes invites the question: How else might this be done? Chris Breen ponders the possibilities.

But if this contextual approach isn't the entire answer, what might be? Let's ponder the possibilities.

Tweak it
Filed under "do the least damage," this approach acknowledges that Apple's on the right track with its contextual vision. The majority of iTunes users are simply interested in browsing their limited media libraries and having different media types clearly separated.

But it also accepts that some of Yosemite's interface elements are inappropriate for iTunes. Editable fields must be obviously so. Likewise, buttons. And an Info window, which is mostly the purview of power users, should better reflect the needs of those users.

And there might be a recognition that some attempts to unclutter the interface have made iTunes more difficult to use than it once was. As I've pointed out, dual-purpose buttons can lead to confusion. And ungainly though a sidebar may appear to someone interested in a minimal interface, it's a straightforward way to navigate a media library.

Strip mauled
And then there's the "Well, if too many features are the problem..." strategy. If iTunes has become unwieldy because of its many talents, why not simply remove some of them and create a few rich third-party opportunities? And by this I mean cut out the power user. To a greater or lesser extent, remove features that the majority of people don't use. This might include media tagging, CD ripping, app management, data syncing, media conversion, iTunes Match, and so on.

Or, present iTunes in two views--normal and advanced. The features I mentioned are hidden from normal users and they use iTunes to do little more than organize and play their media. Those who switch on the advanced mode gain all these features and more.

Do the splits
And then there's the iOS approach: Scatter iTunes' many functions into separate apps. Movies and TV shows go into a Videos app. Podcasts and iTunes U get their own apps too. Your tracks and albums are managed and played in an iOS-like Music app, which also provides access to iTunes Match content. iBooks takes on audiobooks. And App Store and iTunes Store apps earn their place in the Dock as well. While longtime iTunes users may find such single-purpose apps more than they care to manage, there's something to be said for the simplicity of this approach under iOS.

At least until you factor in practicality.

Unless you're reading these uncredited words on a site based somewhere in the Near East, you're a Mac-using so-and-so visiting And because you are, you may forget that the vast majority of people experience iTunes on their Windows PCs. After all, our friends in Cupertino don't require that you expose your Apple tattoo before being allowed to purchase an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. PC users' money spends just as well as ours.


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