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Redesigned iTunes 11 Brings iCloud Streaming and New MiniPlayer

After missing its promised October ship date and nearly missing the revised promise of a November ship date, Apple has finally released iTunes 11 with a redesigned interface that attempts to get rid of the clutter that had bogged down previous versions. In addition to its streamlined good looks, iTunes 11 also introduces the Up Next song queuing feature, unified search across all your media, and the capability to stream previous purchases from iCloud (without requiring a $24.99 subscription to the iTunes Match service).

You can download iTunes 11 for free via the App Store (in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion), Software Update (in 10.7 Lion or 10.6 Snow Leopard), or directly from Apple, and it requires Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later.

Stripped-Down Interface (That Can Dial Back to 10) -- On its initial launch, iTunes 11 looks quite spare in comparison to the busy user interface of version 10.7. Reminiscent of the iOS Music app on the iPad, you’re greeted with an edge-to-edge grid display of album covers from your music library along with the familiar playback controls in the top left corner, a display of what’s playing in the center, and a search field in the top right.

Rounding up several view elements that were previously sprinkled hither and thither, iTunes 11 consolidates its music view options in the bar directly under the toolbar, adding Videos, Radio, and Playlists to the standard Songs, Albums, Artists, and Genres (iTunes 11 drops the Composers and Cover Flow views). Switch among different media types such as movies, as well as shared iTunes libraries on your network, using the pop-up menu below the playback controls. Click the buttons on the right side to access available iOS devices and the iTunes Store.

Single-clicking an album displays an expanded view of the album’s individual songs below the thumbnail, tastefully rendering this view using the primary hue of the cover as the background color as well as using secondary colors for text. Similarly, clicking the thumbnail in Movies displays the title’s details (such as cast, genre, and running time), while a TV Show expanded view displays a list of episodes. (If you double-click a thumbnail, iTunes starts playing the first song of an album, the first episode of a TV show, or the movie.)

If the rejiggered interface of iTunes 11 feels like a push over the cliff, you can bring back many of the interface elements of iTunes 10 without much hassle. Head to the View menu to choose Show Sidebar (Command-Option-S) to bring back the familiar view of media libraries, connected iOS devices, shared libraries, and playlists. Additionally, choosing Show Status Bar (Command-/) displays a selected file’s size and play time at the bottom of the iTunes window.

One under-the-hood change to the interface takes place in the search field, which now features unified searching across all your media types — music, movies, and TV shows, as well as apps, podcasts, and books. In iTunes 10, you could search only within the contents of a selected media type (such as music). If you want to return to that more-focused method of searching, click the search field’s magnifying glass menu and then deselect Search Entire Library. Your searches then return queries pulled from just the media type you are currently viewing.

Up Next Feature and Revamped MiniPlayer -- Exclusive to music playback, the new Up Next feature enables you to view the songs that are slated to be played next. To view upcoming tracks, click the three-line Up Next icon at the right of the “now playing” area to view a popover showing a list of tracks (or press Command-Option-U). What appears in the Up Next popover depends on where you start playing music. If you start playing a song within the Albums view, you’ll see just the remaining tracks from that specific album. However, if you start playing a song in either the Songs or Playlists view and then check what’s Up Next, you’ll see a list of the next 20 songs listed in the current sort order.

The magic of the Up Next feature is the capability to add tracks to the play queue on the fly. To do so, click the circular arrow icon next to a song (either in Songs view or in the expanded area underneath a thumbnail in Albums view) to bring up a popover. Clicking Add to Up Next places the song ahead of the previous play order, and any additional songs added to Up Next are subsequently placed in the order that they were selected. If you want to ensure a song is played directly after the current song ends, click Play Next in the popover and that song floats to the top of the Up Next list. This trick also works within the Up Next popover to shift songs to the top. At the top of the Up Next popover, you can clear the entire list or go back to previously played songs by clicking the clock icon.

The Up Next feature is also fully accessible from the new MiniPlayer, which you activate by clicking the small rectangular icon next to the Full Screen icon in the top right corner of iTunes. Pressing Command-Option-3 reveals the MiniPlayer; pressing Command-Option-M reveals it and hides the main iTunes window. As you’d expect, the MiniPlayer displays title and artist information about the currently playing song, along with playback controls when positioning the pointer over the MiniPlayer. You can also access the Up Next list, search field, and AirPlay controls from the MiniPlayer.

The iCloud Streameth -- As you explore your media library, you may notice that it has been bulked up with albums, movies, and TV shows that you don’t actually have stored on your Mac’s hard drive. This is because iTunes displays all purchases you’ve made from iTunes (from the account that you’re currently signed into) and enables you to stream them from iCloud. To determine which music, movie, and TV show files are stored in iCloud, look for a cloud icon in the top right corner of a thumbnail.


You can stream songs without having to download them first, enabling an iTunes Match-like functionality that’s limited to media purchased from the iTunes Store. It’s mostly useful for avoiding storing files locally, which is handy for those with Macs with limited space, such as a MacBook Air with only 64 GB of flash storage. To preserve a local copy of an album or song on your hard drive, click the iCloud icon (on the album thumbnail or next to a song) to download it. Additionally, you can use the Up Next feature just as easily with streamed tracks as you can with local music files (but you’ll need an Internet connection for this to work).

To start streaming a movie or TV show, double-click the thumbnail to start the movie or the first episode of a TV show (or click an episode from the expanded view underneath the thumbnail). You can save the video file to your hard drive by clicking the iCloud icon in the thumbnail (or expanded view). If you decide to view a video at a later date, you’ll have to re-stream the video unless you downloaded the file to your hard drive.

Note that if you stop watching a video file that’s streaming, the digital bits continue to download in the background (you’ll be able to see the progress of the download in the “now playing” area). It seems the only way to stop the stream from downloading is to start playing another item from iCloud (whether it be a song or another video).

Finally, if you don’t care to see your iCloud music purchases mingled with the files residing on your hard drive, you can turn off this option by selecting Hide Music in the Cloud in the View menu. To hide videos as well, switch to Movies and TV Shows and choose Hide from the View menu for each of those media libraries.


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Comments about Redesigned iTunes 11 Brings iCloud Streaming and New MiniPlayer
(Comments are closed.)

Peter G Trinder  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2012-11-30 09:59
Clicking on the Green button no longer toggles the window, instead you have to click on the little icon at the top right of the main window next to the full screen arrows. It driving me nuts but there is a keyboard shortcut opt/command 3. This actually does not toggle but leaves the main window open. Sorry if I am repeating what you have already told us but I only read the article quickly.
Ted Peters  2012-11-30 11:39
There is also a keyboard shortcut for Switch to MiniPlayer: Opt+Cmd+M
Ted Peters  2012-11-30 11:44
In iTunes 11, it seems that it is only possible to view the full-size artwork for the currntly playing album/song.

In previous versions, you could view full-size artwork for any selected album/song.
Now I have to actually play it, then click the thumbnail in the now playing area to bring up the now playing window, and then maximize that window.

Is there another way?
Peter Hillman  2012-11-30 16:56
You forgot to mention no CoverFlow. What were they thinking? No one wants to look at Album art while they are listening to music? The new global search is slow as hell unless you can type really fast for what you want. Sticking with 10.7. Many are upset about the removal of iTunes DJ, because Up Next is not a satisfactory replacement.
Nathanael Holt  2012-12-02 01:36
I agree that Up Next is not an improvement on iTunes DJ. Maybe time and updates will help.
Kathy Baxter  2012-12-01 07:39
Sorting by album sorts by artist. When the major percentage of your albums are original cast, this is a nightmare. I HATE this. Please fix this.
You unfortunately don't say how you would like your albums to be sorted. However iTunes does offer a few choices. While in Album view, in the menu bar choose View -> View Options (⌘J) and a small window will pop-up with some choices of sorting order - Artist, Title, Year, Rating etc. If one of those is what you are looking for you can select it.
What about syncing podcasts (and your position in them) wirelessly. I was hoping for this so I could resume one in iTunes that I didn't finish on my iPhone. If this exists, I haven't been able to find it yet. It works between my iPhone and iPad but not in iTunes on my Mac.
Nathanael Holt  2012-12-02 01:34
Play Count not working for me - amongst other glitches. Makes my 'Never Heard' playlist rather redundant.
Nathanael Holt  2012-12-02 08:20
Correction - a song bought on my account by my daughter and played from the cloud shows up as played, but none of the other songs. Tried setting up a new Last Played playlist ( Last Played in the last 2 Days) still not showing songs played.
Update: Apple discussions led to solution. Turn off 'Crossfade songs' and Clear UpNext. That seems to have got it counting again.
Doug Chalmers  2012-12-03 06:33
Things about 11 I do not like:
The mimiplayer no longer shows where you are in time in the track
The player no longer provides an option to list tracks randomly (only play them randomly as far as I can figure out - I like to select and play from a randomized groups from a playlist.
You can no longer select a group of tracks from a playlist and find out how much time they will take.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-12-03 09:29
With regard to your final point, if you choose View > Show Status Bar, it will show the time of an arbitrary selection.
eccparis  2012-12-03 17:57
Argh!!!!! I'm a classical musician and have always sorted everything by composer - including all my own recordings. Now that the composer view is gone, iTunes is utterly useless for me and my colleagues. Any workaround or would I have to downgrade?
hjtromp  2012-12-04 04:29
In Songs view bring up the column Composer (by crtl-clicking on any column header) and Sort by that column. Just like in iTunes 10.
One may also add a Composer column in the Column browser, in the same way.
Gary Coyne  2012-12-03 20:31
As I read through all of the features and removal of features, I see absolutely no benefit of upgrading to 11. It really looks like Apple is channeling Microsoft V. 8 on this one. Dumb dumb dumb.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-12-07 06:22
Do check my full article on what has actually been removed. Most of the things people are thinking are gone are really just relocated.
Jeff Holtzman  2013-01-02 15:57
I agree. There is no benefit for me to upgrade. I have gone back to v.10.7. The article is informative but glosses over a particularly bad design change. The mini-player has been rendered useless for listening to streaming radio. The song titles do not update and when you do get the title, the window is too small to show long titles. It requires tabbing through to even get the display up. Very, very frustrating and not user friendly. A big misstep for Apple.
Dennis B. Swaney  2012-12-03 21:15
Only one good thing in iTunes 11: color icons are back in the sidebar. Other than that, it is an abortion. Not even Spinal Tap can make it any good.
hjtromp  2012-12-04 04:18
What's been taken out of iTunes in 11 is the graphical representation of the left and right channel sound when clicking the progress bar of a track. I used that a lot.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-12-07 06:23
Good catch - I made sure to cover that in the full article about what's missing.
hjtromp  2012-12-04 04:47
The Column browser commands in the View menu are grayed out as long as the sidebar shows. I don't see the rationale behind this, since the Column browser stays after bringing the sidebar up again.
In iTunes 10 cmd-B worked all the time.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-12-07 06:29
I think I saw this for a while, but then it stopped happening and now I can't reproduce it. The Column Browser isn't available in some of the views (like Albums), though, which adds to the confusion.
Jan Tews  2012-12-04 14:32
I can't seem to find a way to find duplicate song without scrolling through my entire list of songs alphabetically. It used to highlight them for me. am I missing something?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-12-04 16:30
That feature is gone - see my article about missing features. Luckily, there are lots of utilities that will help.
Helen of Trout  2012-12-06 18:15
I can't seem to be able to search my ipod anymore in the search bar...I'm not sure if I'm doing something wrong but I've tried clicking on my ipod then typing in the search bar, clicking on the playlists then typing in the search bar. Everything comes up zilch and I'm sitting here looking at a title I just typed in to search for and it still wont bring it up! Help anyone??
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-12-07 06:32
Hmm... I'm not able to do this either, but I'm not quite sure why I'm doing it - what are you trying to achieve by searching an iPod? In theory, what is on the iPod matches what's being synced, so you'd want to search the library and make sure the found items are being synced.
Helen of Trout  2012-12-10 15:46
sorry, my question probably wasn't very clear...I'm trying to search for items ON my ipod but am having no luck. I make sure my ipod is highlighted (so the search is done with the ipod in mind) and so I search for a song and nothing comes up! Weird! I then search for a book and nothing comes up. But when I go to my ipod and manually search it, I can find it.
Helen of Trout  2012-12-10 15:52
Oh, and what you said about in theory what you've synced with your ipod should be in the library. Well true, but when I want to know if I've put a song already on my ipod, or to see if I've already deleted a book I rented from the library and put onto my ipod, I can't do that...frustrating, especially cause I used to use this feature constantly to edit what's on my ipdo. Oh, and another thing, I don't synch my ipod with my library cause I have found that to be devastating to my playlists. So I do everything manually and I don't have to worry about songs being deleted. I have a tendency to remove stuff from my library and put it on an external drive so my computer isn't so bogged down with media files.
Sarah C  2012-12-09 12:18
Is it possible to see what the total size of the library is? I only have an 8gb ipod and am almost at the limit - was watching the size carefully, but now can't see where to find it...
Agen Schmitz  2012-12-09 12:54
Be sure you have the Status Bar shown at the bottom of iTunes. Turn this on by selecting Show Status Bar from the View menu (or pressing Command-/). Then, go to the Songs view in Music and see the number of items and total size at the bottom of iTunes. (You can also see these stats from the Albums view, but make sure you don't have any album or song selected to see the stats for your whole library.)
Ralph B  2012-12-30 11:36
I have my music organized into Genres and in the past have used album covers from the genre as the genre icon. I can't seem to change the icon artwork anymore and am stuck with whatever iTunes generates. Am I missing something?