iTunes 11: Clean Design & Beautiful Presentation

iTunes 11 has arrived, and now we see what Apple was up to. This version is cleaner, simpler, more logical and looks great.

To be honest, I had some anxiety about iTunes 11. Would Apple deliver? Would the upgrade hose up the beloved iTunes? Would it deliver some kind of agenda, take away beloved features, introduce more bugs than it extinguished? I was prepared to be unhappy.

And the verdict is: I like iTunes 11. A lot.

This will be a quick look review of the app itself, not the new iTunes store. We'll all spend months and months exploring the ins and outs of iTunes 11, but for now the questions are: how does it look? Is it fun and usable? Should I upgrade?

It looks great. Yes. And yes.

As with any software, one of the keys to appreciating a new version is to establish a baseline. How does one get back to familiar territory and then expand from there? I'll start there.


The first thing you'll see when you install iTunes 11 is a splash screen that points out some of the key buttons at the top. Then, there's a short video tutorial. Even though iTunes 11 isn't all that different from iTunes 10.7, it's still refreshing to see Apple taking a humble, helpful approach.

An opening tutorial takes nothing for granted. Thanks Apple.

Let's start with Music and assume that you've selected Music in the popup on the top left. If you'd like to bring up the traditional side bar instead, do that first. The first thing you'll notice is a bar along the top that determines how the Music content will be displayed. If you click on Songs, you're about back to where you were -- a global view of your entire music library in list mode.

You can further tweak that in View -> View Options.

Getting back to familiar territory, learning the lay of the land, helps a lot when it comes to further productive exploration. It eliminates the angst.


The next thing you'll notice is that the User Interface (UI) is a bit cleaner, "flatter" and more organized. By flatter, I mean that the traditional skeuomorphism is disappearing. Compare iTunes controls in iTunes 10.x ...

to that of iTunes 11.

The next, previous and play buttons no longer look like real buttons, and the progress window no longer has that faded fluorescent yellow that tries to look like some ancient electronic device. It's cleaner and better. It cleans out the accumulated cruft of 10 previous versions.

Next, let's look at a playlist. Here's one of my playlists from iTunes 10.7.

iTunes 10.7

Instead, we have a different presentation. The tiny icons in the tool bar are gone, and instead there's one icon on the right that controls the presentation.

iTunes 11

Choices there are List, Grid, and Artist List. These are nice looking presentations and appear to be designed to help the customer better appreciate the music in a visual way. Music isn't just a text list.

You'll note that Cover Flow is gone from the list. Even though, I believe, Apple won its appeal in a huge Cover Flow lawsuit, Cover Flow is gone. It could be that Apple found that it wasn't used very often, or perhaps there were lingering legal reasons. In any case, it was a pretty but somewhat awkward way to step through music. I surmise most of us will miss it at first, then forget about it after a time.

Here's the Grid view.

Presentation is everything

The point here is that iTunes 11 introduced a lot of new, fun, interesting ways to view your music collection.

Other Improvements

The MiniPlayer, called up from the Windows menu is more powerful. A lot of criticism had been leveled at Apple for the MiniPlayer's deficiencies, and that produced a cottage industry in alternative MiniPlayers. The new one has just about everything you need.

The List icon in the tool bar at the top shows what's coming up next, a welcome addition.

What's Next?

This isn't an exploration of the new iTunes store, but I'll mention that search has been prettied up quite a bit. Instead of drilling down to a specific category with Power Search, like music, TV Shows or apps, then entering a key word, you just enter that word directly in the search field on the top right. Then you'll be shown where the key words shows up in every category. I'll admit, it may just be a ploy to get you to buy things in other categories, but it does look a lot better. Everything in iTunes 11 is about an attractive presentation.

Finally, for now anyway, Apple has added a history feature so that you can go back an see what you've previewed -- in case you change your mind about buying something. Melissa Holt has explained that new feature: "iTunes 11: Viewing (and Clearing!) Your History."

Apple has a beautiful layout of the interesting new features in iTunes 11. Check it out.


We're going to be spending the next few months exploring the myriads of details of iTunes 11. It has a lot of new, tasty tidbits, reorganizes the UI somewhat, and simplifies things without taking away, from what I've seen so far, what we love about iTunes.

My initial reaction is that Apple took its time and got it right. There's no reason that I know of not to upgrade and enjoy the fun.

Product: iTunes 11

Company: Apple. Inc..

List Price: Free



Cleaner, simpler, more logical user interface. Better presentation. Better MiniPlayer.  What's next. History of previews.


Nothing initially, but full exploration is yet to be done.