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iTunes: What's great, what's not, and how Apple might fix it

Dan Frakes | June 13, 2014
Among they smorgasbord of new software and features Apple announced at last week's WWDC keynote, there were a few notable absences. Improvements to Maps, for example. Or a new version of iTunes.

Among they smorgasbord of new software and features Apple announced at last week's WWDC keynote, there were a few notable absences. Improvements to Maps, for example. Or a new version of iTunes.

Of course, this being a developer conference, few informed observers expected a new iTune — that's something Apple traditionally announces at fall events for music, media, and iOS devices. But given how much criticism iTunes regularly receives, more than a few people were at least hoping this year would be the exception. Instead, we're left to speculate on the future of what is likely Apple's most-used desktop app. So let's speculate.

Fair warning: I come here not to bury iTunes, but to praise it. Well, I'll bury it a little. But instead of simply bashing the app, I'd like to also praise the good parts, and to talk about how Apple might again make iTunes great. Because, I admit it, I like iTunes — at least the core of it, the music and media player and manager. And I want to love it again.

Still a lot to like

The old saw "familiarity breeds contempt" rings just as true for software as it does for people. The longer we use a particular app, the more familiar we become with it; the more we master it, the more we find things we wish it could do, or could do differently or more easily. After nearly 13 years as Apple's media-playing and -management tool, most of us know iTunes well, and we've each got a list of complaints.

Yet despite (or perhaps partly because of) the frequent criticism it receives, many of us have forgotten that iTunes is a powerful and — still — eminently usable app. Thanks to its familiar interface and layout, regularly updated over the years to match the current trend in Apple UI, it's easy enough to figure out for a beginner. When it comes to playing music, creating playlists, ripping CDs (some people actually still do that), and basic management of media, few casual users have problems with it.

But iTunes also packs an impressive amount of advanced functionality, including a good number of features aimed squarely at power users. Smart Playlists, extensive support for tags, and lots of sorting and viewing options let you easily browse, search for, and organize your media— as finely as all but the most persnickety media-phile would like (unless you're a big classical fan, but that's fodder for another article). Though audiophiles balk at the lack of support for FLAC and other third-party lossless formats, iTunes lets you play and convert to and from many different audio formats, including the lossless ALAC.

 

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