iTunes 7

With the release of iTunes 7, Apple made it very clear that its music management application was now a full-fledged multimedia manager. It now manages movies and TV shows with the same style that itis been handling music for some time. Along with that movie support, iTunes 7 now sports a familiar, yet different, interface.

As iTunes has evolved from a simple music jukebox application into a multimedia manager and computer-to-iPod interface, the database that stores all of your favorite songs has evolved, too. iTunes 7 is no different, and it updates your music database to a new format. The moral of this story: Although I had no problems converting my music database to the iTunes 7 format, your mileage may vary. Be sure to backup your music library - just in case.

The new, yet familiar, iTunes interface.

The new iTunes interface - which looks strikingly similar to the iTunes 6 interface - does a better job of organizing your media in the source list. The Library section breaks out music, movies, TV shows, podcasts and audio books into their own groupings. Playlists and your iPod collection have their own groupings, too.

When selecting your iPod, now found in the Devices section in the source list, iTunes displays information about your iPod. At a glance, you can see your iPodis serial number, software version, capacity and available space, and more. You also use this view to manage your music, podcast, photo, iCal and Address Book upload settings. If a new iPod software update is available, the Update button manages the installation for you. This all-in-one control center for your iPod is a great addition, and long overdue.

The iPod control center.

Just like iTunes 6, you can create Playlists and Smart Playlists, and group them into folders. But viewing the music in your playlists gets an update. In addition to viewing your songs as a list, you can also view lists with album art, and flip through album art in the cover browser mode.

If you are familiar with the shareware application Cover Flow, the cover browser feature should look familiar. Apple purchased Cover Flow and integrated its features into iTunes 7. The good news: Cover Flow is now built into iTunes. The bad news: Cover Flow rocked as a stand-alone application, and it will be sorely missed.

iTunes 7 also adds Gapless Playback, or the ability to play multiple music tracks without any break in between them. This is a fantastic addition, since many albums are designed to be listened to without gaps between the songs. For example, many classical music albums rely on this feature, as does Pink Floydis Dark Side of the Moon.

And herein lies a problem: iTunes 7 tells you it scans your music library for albums that should play back gapless, but in my experience, it found exactly none of them. Ironically, the album that Steve Jobs used to demo the gapless playback feature, Dark Side of the Moon, was one that I had to manually change to gapless. If you need to change any of your albums, check out this TMO Quick Tip to learn how.

Unfortunately, gapless playback works on an album-by-album basis. If you have an album that should play only some tracks as gapless, you are out of luck. Again, classical albums are a perfect example. Some tracks should play gapless, but others denote changes in movements and need a gap for effect.

iTunes 7 can also hunt down missing album artwork for you. It does require that you have an account set up at the iTunes Store. Accounts are free, even if you donit plan on purchasing any music, so it isnit a big deal to set one up. And here comes another unfortunately: Unfortunately, it can find album artwork only for music that is available from the iTunes Store (even if the music in your library came from CD instead of the online store), and sometimes iTunes gets it wrong.

Going back to Dark Side of the Moon as an example, iTunes downloaded art for me, but itis the wrong version of the album cover. iTunes grabbed the 30th Anniversary instead of the more traditional black background cover.

iTunes downloaded the wrong album art (left) instead of the correct album art (right).

Before iTunes 7, backing up your music library could be difficult if you didnit know exactly where iTunes kept all of your songs, or if you didnit have a backup application handling that for you. With iTunes 7, Apple added the ability to backup your library from within the application. You even get the option to backup everything, or just the music that has changed since your last backup.

The Bottom Line
iTunes 7 adds some great new features to an already powerful media manager. Even at version 7.0.1, however, it still has a few rough edges. Even so, I think iTunes 7 is a worthwhile upgrade, and Iim glad I installed it on my Mac.

But Iim still really looking forward to iTunes 7.0.2.

Product: iTunes 7

Company: Apple Computer

List Price: Free


Pros: Gapless playback, library backup support, new album viewing features, better file organization.
Cons: Some issues downloading album art, gapless playback is album wide only, not very good at locating gapless albums in your library.