Apple has released iTunes 11.0.3 with a number of playback and interface improvements. At its heart, the MiniPlayer remains svelte, but it gains a track progress bar as well as visible volume/AirPlay control icon (previously, you needed to mouse over the MiniPlayer for this to appear). The volume icon appears if you are broadcasting audio to a single source, while the blue AirPlay icon appears if you have multiple audio streams selected.
If you clicked the MiniPlayer’s album cover image in the previous incarnation of iTunes, a second window opened featuring the album cover and playback controls at the bottom, while the MiniPlayer remained visible as well. But with iTunes 11.0.3, clicking the image simply expands the MiniPlayer into a larger album cover view (rather than opening a second window) and playback controls appear only when you mouse over the MiniPlayer. Clicking the three-line Up Next icon while in the expanded album art view now displays the list at the bottom of the window. (Previously, this view was available only from the standalone MiniPlayer, and it was not available from the separate album art window). To exit the Up Next list, click the three-lined icon again. Additionally, clicking the album art box once more returns the MiniPlayer to its miniaturized form.
The update also makes a welcome improvement to the way multi-disc album tracks are displayed in Albums view. Where previously all tracks flowed in succession from one disc to the next without any demarcation, iTunes 11.0.3 separates the tracks according to disc number. (The previous implementation was maddening when trying to sort out our Mozart and Stax/Volt collections with upwards of 14 discs in each set).
If you use the Songs view, you can also now display artwork. Choose View > Show View Options (Command-J) and click the Show Artwork checkbox. This option, on its own, displays the album artwork in the Songs view only if there are several album tracks grouped together — it definitely works better if you’ve sorted Songs view by Artist or Album. However, clicking the Always Show checkbox displays the artwork even for single tracks, and you can use the Artwork Size slider to step down or up a size. (Slider is a bit of a misnomer, as you only get three size options — small, medium, and large).
Finally, Apple promises in its typically brief release notes that iTunes 11.0.3 improves searching and sorting performance for large iTunes libraries. Federico Viticci of MacStories has discovered that iTunes 11.0.3 also adds AppleScript control of AirPlay speakers, which is good news for automation buffs. AppleScript wizard Doug Adams has already created a basic script to select AirPlay speakers. And as Viticci, our own Michael Cohen, and reader Scott Hanson have pointed out, Apple has added some tweaks to iOS app updates, including an Updates tab to view available updates, a new contextual menu for apps that have updates, and display of app updates for all associated Apple IDs.
If you find any other changes to iTunes 11.0.3, please let us know in the comments. It’s available as a direct download from Apple’s iTunes Web page (188 MB), via Software Update on systems prior to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion (194.1 MB), or via the App Store app on Mountain Lion (129 MB).