iTunes 10: a hit and a miss

Apple is generally consistent with their User Interface (UI) design and mostly follow their Human Interface Guidelines but one application where they continually seem to ignore this and totally throw consistency out the window is iTunes. And no more so than in the latest version: iTunes 10.

Each major version shows off new features and more often than not, UI changes. I'd wager that Apple may be using this as a springboard to test future User Interface concepts on millions of users, as they did with the dreaded Safari 4 Beta. Once in a while, some of iTunes best ideas appear within OS X, for instance the refined, minimalistic sidebar in Finder or in Mail.

1) Previous versions of iTunes featured coloured sidebar items, which without thinking you'd associate certain features with certain colours. Worst case, you could at least differentiate between each item visually. With this mono-chromed sidebar, I now have to think before I click and in my opinion, the usability of the app has been greatly reduced.

2) What's surprising and most irritating is that the close/minimise/zoom buttons are now aligned vertically in full window mode. This was always the case in the mini-player mode. But in full window mode I find this change almost unusable. Our muscle memory isn't trained for this, making it fiddly and slow to use. And not only are the buttons in the wrong place, they are also smaller and therefore harder to hit accurately.

Reverting the buttons to a horizontal layout is easily achieved.

Quit iTunes if it's open, launch the Terminal and run:
To restore the iTunes 10 vertical layout, run:
I don't hate iTunes but I think it's probably Apple's worst piece of software. When iTunes first hit the scene in 2001, it was simply a music player. Almost 10 years later, it plays Music, Movies, TV Shows, Podcasts, Audiobooks, includes the App Store, does all the syncing with your iPhone, iPods and iPad and much more. In fact, I love that on the iPhone/iPad/iPod touch we have a single app to play music 'iPod' or a single app to watch movies, or a dedicated 'App Store' app or an 'iTunes' app to just purchase content. The Tunes in 'i' is almost irrelevant now and it seems the app should be renamed to iMedia or something. But Apple can't do that, as iTunes has almost become it's own brand. It's all in the updated icon: Apple removed the archaic CD but left in the music 'quaver' sign and without blinking, we immediately know it's iTunes.

This time around, lets hope that iTunes isn't the frontrunner for upcoming OS X UI changes, because the iTunes 10 User Interface certainly feels like a patch-work job to me. Hopefully Apple's junior UI designers have been relegated to the iTunes team and the seniors are working on some awesome upcoming product or two!

Side note: Why oh why are more than half of our Dock icons some shade of blue? You'd think that when Apple takes time to re-design an icon like iTunes, they'd come up with something more striking and original. This logo isn't terrible but I find it very boring and bland. Eureka for Candybar
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