iTunes, save me from my metadata!
Hey everybody, there’s a new iTunes out! The venerable music app is now 11 versions old and this marks the biggest departure in its interface since it was introduced back in the fuzzy days of 2001. iTunes 1.0 originally started out as an application called SoundJam MP and for a fascinating tour down memory lane, check out this article at MacILife.com.
There is a new emphasis on easily playing music in iTunes 11. The “Up Next” feature is probably what most people have wanted for a very long time. No longer will you have the problem of stopped music while browsing around in your collection because you weren’t looking at the thing that was playing. Up Next keeps a running queue of music you can add to on the fly and its easily-accessible from most locations of the app via the little “Fly-out arrows” next to an album, artist or track.
And now The Bad
I started writing this last night while struggling to compare albums in my collection. I’ve been in the process of converting nearly 2000 albums to Apple’s Lossless Encoding format. I am not a typical user and I get that this puts me into a category of people you might want to avoid on the street.
The only way I can deal with a large collection of music like this is to have full access to it. When I want to know if I’ve ripped a given album as Lossless or not, I need to be able to see the columns that say “Kind” and “Bitrate”.
Another common thing I do is check to see when I encoded something. Or sort based on when a track was last played or added to my collection. In the new iTunes, this information is quite a bit harder to get to. Searching via the entry field in the top right now brings you to the album view. Selecting an artist or album in this view presents a fly-out arrow and allows you to go to the Artist or Show in Store, but gone is the option to show this entry in the library (up until iTunes 11, it was a writeable pref).
The new emphasis on this “Album View” means you have to manually scroll through all your music in the browser to find what you’re looking for. This is tedious.
The other unintended side-effect is that if you have a lot of items in your collection that are album fragments or bits of albums that for some reason aren’t identified as part of the same album, you’ll get multiple entries for the same thing.
I have large swaths in my library that look like this in “Album” view. Other chunks will have large gaps of empty album covers. If I expand any of these partial albums, I see individual tracks from the same album that are separated from the others. To say that I am somewhat particular about my metadata is not a stretch. Just looking at the above picture, it occurs to me that the two album covers for The Campfire Headphase are slightly off color-wise. Does iTunes hash albums based on cover art? Quite likely! Strangely, I have tried to combine the cover art from that very album in the past and have not had any luck in forcing iTunes to consolidate the album. And these are from discs that I have ripped myself.
The only way I can play albums that are split apart like this is by viewing them in the old browser view which does the right thing and displays them all as part of the same artist and album. Yes, I can use the new Up Next feature (which is quite nice!) and manually arrange the tracks in the correct order but that doesn’t sound like a lot of fun when I just want to play a single album in order.
Is there anything we can do? One thing which helps ease the pain somewhat (besides drink) is restoring the old sidebar. This gets rid of the dinky drop-down in the top left used for selecting Music, Podcasts and whatever else. To get it back, go to the View menu and select Show Sidebar.
This may be small consolation, but it helps a bit.
Some features are just gone. The iTunes DJ for example. And what’s all this “cloud” shit all over my iTunes window?
If anyone can figure out how to make the Songs view with Browser the default when searching or otherwise, I will take them out for dinner and drinks at the venue of their choosing.