For many people, music is a very important part of their lives. It's so important that Apple's iTunes should be the finest example of what Apple developers can build. It should be up to Apple's standards as best-in-class software. Unfortunately, iTunes 12 has a subpar user interface, and in a panel discussion, three TMO staff members judged judged it to be the worst software Apple has ever produced. It should be withdrawn from the market.
The User Interface - Presentation
iTunes started out as an application that allowed Apple customers to play music extracted from their CDs. However, as soon as the iTunes store opened, iTunes became a vehicle for the sale of music. That's fine so long as painstaking care is taken to ensure that the music player portion is the very best, most intuitive software that Apple engineers can devise. iTunes 12 fails in this regard.
For example, let's take a look at a collections of objects. Just as a library is a collection of books, a music library is a collection of songs. A playlist is also a collection of songs, but it has a special nature. Think of it as a small library of your favorite things. And so, a library is a collection and a playlist is a collection.
iTunes 11 respected that metaphor by using the sidebar (though the sidebar had to be turned on) to organize and display collections: both libraries and playlists. It looked like this:
iTunes 11: libraries in sidebar, labelled.
One can see at a glance all of one's libraries (Music, Movies, TV Shows and so on). Further down, one can also see one's collections in the form of playlists. One can expect with confidence that clicking on a named library will focus on that library because of where it's located visually and because the icon is accompanied by text.
With iTunes 12, in contrast, a shorted series of icons is now shown horizontally, and the text is removed. One's first reaction may well be: Why is this list so short? Where's the text? What happens if I click on one of these icons? And, oh, by the way, where's my sidebar, my collections of things, my music and playlists?
iTunes 12: library list is barren.
This is a two-fold attack on the user's psyche. First, one is visually confused. Then one immediately wonders if there's a way to make things right again because, in Tunes 12, the default is Album view. That divorces the user from the immediate contact with songs as items in a list. One is forced to start tinkering. Eventually, one finds that it's possible to display both one's music and the playlists. See, for example, "iTunes 12: Bringing Back the Library and Playlist Sidebar."
With some experimentation, one finds that clicking on the three dots (...) brings up the list of libraries and text accompaniments. But that's only for editing, not selection. If one clicks on a library there, it's added to the horizontal list but then one finds it's not checked in the edit box. Confusion ensues. Worse, de-selecting an item in the edit box doesn't always delete the display of the library in the horizontal row of libraries. I found that I had to quit and restart the app or click on another library to make it go away. It's a veritable dizzying roller coaster ride in this part of the GUI.
In order to focus on functions within a library, there are tab-like options spread across the top of the window. They are familiar and traditional. For example, in the Music library, we have My Music, Playlists, Match, Radio, and so on. While I have no problems in general with using these tabs, I have a quibble about how they work. First, if you select the Movie library, there's a playlist tab. If you select it, you still see your song playlists. That's unexpected. Second, the tab metaphor, which we are accustomed to, disappears when we connect an iOS device. More on that below.
Which mode are we in? Movies or music?
Next - More on the User Interface Issues.