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iTunes 10.2: More Than Just iPad 2 and iOS 4.3 Support

Apple has released iTunes 10.2, a minor upgrade that hides a number of interesting changes. Apple mentions only support for syncing under iOS 4.3 and improved Home Sharing, although iTunes 10.2 for Windows also receives some security fixes.

But looking closely at iTunes 10.2, there are some noticeable changes to other features as well, though, luckily, nothing that makes my advice in “Take Control of iTunes 10: The FAQ” ebook obsolete. Let’s start with the preferences, where there are a number of changes.

  • The Show section in the General preferences, which lets you decide which types of items to display in the sidebar, includes a new choice: Shared Libraries. In theory this enables you to turn off the display of the Shared category and the shared libraries underneath it, but in back-and-forth testing, it doesn’t seem to work reliably.

  • The Sharing preferences adds a welcome option: “Home Sharing computers and devices update play counts.” I’ve often avoided using sharing to play back iTunes content, because I want play counts, and last played dates, to update when I play something. I’m a bit obsessive about this; I want to know what I’ve played and when, and I use a number of smart playlists with these conditions. Both of these items — plays and last played date — are updated, even though the preference only mentions play counts.

  • The Store preferences has lost one item: “Use full window for iTunes Store.” There is, however, now a View > Use Full Window for iTunes Store command. Does anyone really use that?

  • The Device preferences has lost the “Look for remote speakers connected with AirPlay” setting. This is another change that affects sharing; presumably, iTunes will always look for remote speakers now, as well as iOS devices that they can stream to.

  • The Advanced preferences are now missing the “Use iTunes for Internet playback” setting; I don’t recall iTunes ever nudging its way into the playback of any Internet content on my Macs. It has also removed the Streaming Buffer Size option, which applied to streaming content or the download of previews from the iTunes Store.

  • Gone are the dismal, Soviet-inspired silver-gray icons for the different preference panes, at least for some of them. The General and Advanced icons are still gray, as they generally are in other programs, and the Playback icon is still silvery — imitating the silver sheen of the Play button in the iTunes controls. But the four other icons are blue, green, yellow and black. When iTunes 10 was released, one of the big interface complaints was this loss of color, and Apple seems to have done an about-face here. (Apple has not, however, added color to the sidebar icons.)

One other menu item has a minor change. The Advanced > Open Audio Stream command has become simply Open Stream.

The new Home Sharing system has an interesting feature. If, in the Energy Saver preferences, you check “Wake for network access” on one of your Macs, and have iTunes running with Home Sharing enabled on that Mac, and then put it to sleep, its library will remain visible in iTunes on other Macs. If you then click on that library on another Mac, the sleeping Mac will awaken, and the library will load.

In initial usage, iTunes 10.2 seems a tad snappier, notably when deleting files from a large library. This is something that, with my library of more than 65,000 items, could take a couple of seconds, and present the spinning beachball. While I haven’t had time to test this very much, deletion is nearly instantaneous now.

Importing files from CD seems a bit faster as well; previously, there was a noticeable lag at the end of each track, during which iTunes would display the beachball as it, apparently, was writing the file. While I still see the beachball, when it goes away the next track is well on its way to being imported; in the past, this was not the case.

The main reason for this update is to provide compatibility with the iPad 2 and iOS 4.3, both due on 11 March 2011, but Apple has done some work under the hood. While changing preferences is relatively minor, some apparent minor speed enhancements are certainly a good thing for anyone with a large library. Again, these are first impressions, and I’ll have to test this a bit more to see if these speed increases show up anywhere else.

[Kirk McElhearn is a Senior Contributor to Macworld, an occasional contributor to TidBITS, and writes about more than just Macs on his blog Kirkville. Follow him on Twitter at @mcelhearn. Kirk’s latest book is “Take Control of iTunes 10: The FAQ.”]


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Comments about iTunes 10.2: More Than Just iPad 2 and iOS 4.3 Support
(Comments are closed.)

Michael E. Cohen  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-03-02 23:17
Yes, Kirk, I use the Use Full Window for iTunes Store command. ☺
Rats, there had to be someone... :-)
Nicholas Riley  2011-03-03 01:27
Me too :-) I use it because the store really "wants" to be a certain width, without horizontal scrolling, and it means I can keep the iTunes window narrower overall.
Hmm... I guess my having a large monitor means the width doesn't matter. Perhaps on a 13" you might want to do that.
Tonya Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-03-03 12:45
Actually, I use it too. Guess where I learned about it? Your "iTunes FAQ" ebook. ;-) I tend to run iTunes on my laptop screen while having all the rest of what I'm doing on a larger monitor, and I found that I liked getting rid of the extraneous iTunes clutter while looking at the Store.
"...presumably, iTunes will always look for remote speakers now, as well as iOS devices that they can stream to."

Has Apple said this is how it will work, using iOS devices as Airplay speakers? I thought the new streaming feature had to be initiated from the iOS device itself. Otherwise, I'm excited to send funny songs to my wife when she's playing angry birds in the bathroom.
Nicholas Riley  2011-03-03 02:25
The current Apple TV is an iOS device — I imagine the article was referring to this.
Currently, the Apple TV, technically an iOS device, can be selected as speakers. It's not known yet how this will work with iOS 4.3 - either iOS devices will be able to load libraries, or they will also be able to receive streaming. We'll know on March 11.
Curmudgeon Geographer  2011-03-03 03:31
iTunes Help from the Help menu now looks on par with the change in appearance and organization of the Help found in the new iLife '11 apps.

A very welcome change indeed.
The iTunes Help changed with iTunes 10.
David Chartier  2011-03-04 03:18
FWIW, I usually use the "use full window width for the store" preference, probably because I like to keep my iTunes window as horizontally thin as possible.
Unfortunately, they still haven’t fixed the display of half stars in list view. You can see them in the Get Info dialog, but once you return to list view, ✭✭✭½, for example, will display as ✭✭✭. This is a huge step backwards from iTunes 9.x and earlier. :-(
i still want color on the sidebar...
Dennis B. Swaney  2011-03-12 19:41
I've been using Damien Erambert's "iTunes 109" to fix this bug in iTunes 10. It still worked on 10.2 EXCEPT for changing the application icon back to the one used in iTunes 9. Get it here:

Update: the icon was changed but not in the Dock. Pulling the iTunes 10 icon out of the Dock and then re-launching iTunes put the iTunes 9 icon in the Dock.
Rusty Hodge  2011-03-06 02:28
iTunes 10.2 no longer is the default player for PLS files. You can drag a .pls file onto iTunes to get it to play, but you can't double click a .pls file or open a .pls file from Safari (e.g. from a net radio station).
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-03-07 14:53
What if you select a .pls file, open its Get Info window, and choose iTunes as the app to open? (And make it apply to all .pls files?)
Rusty Hodge  2011-03-11 21:47
That will let you double-click the .pls and it will launch iTunes, but gives an error: ``“file.pls” may be a script application. It was downloaded from the Internet and will be opened by iTunes. Are you sure you want to open it?``
Rusty Hodge  2011-03-11 21:51
Still won't let Safari auto-launch it, however Firefox will. Must be related to the security fix for the pls file security exploit.
Peter Worsley  2011-03-08 18:20
I had a problem yesterday with iTunes 10.1x no longer recognizing my iPad and iPod Touch when attempting to sync. I tried to use Software Update to download and install 10.2, but it just hung. So I downloaded from the Apple website and the install was straight forward. And, now I can see my iPad and iPod once again.
madhatter61  2011-03-14 14:12
As a newbie, iTunes needs a new name. It does a lot more than control music files. My point, has anyone provided a functional list of all the stuff iTunes does, controls, adjusts, etc. A straight forward, simple explanation?

from a book/web learning point of view, moving/sync/sharing files is not intuitive. Mobileme is full of complexities. JailBreakers have offered some interesting things that can simplify. (I would never JB though). It just seems a really straight forward, intuitive interface should be forth coming. Is this a reasonable expectation?
I am getting iPAD2 for by bride.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-03-14 14:45
At this point, I can't see Apple changing the name to be logical when they have so much tied up in the iTunes brand name.

Kirk also wrote about the question of whether iTunes was bloated a while back.