Flipping through iTunes 7's 3-D covers

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The new 3-D cover browser (it’s the rightmost button of the three wedged between the song info window and the search box at the top of the iTunes window) in iTunes 7 is a great way to work with your music collection. There’s just something soothing about flipping through virtual CDs, much as the older amongst us in the crowd used to flip through our 33-rpm album covers to find the next record to toss on the (snap-crackle-pop) turntable.

As you might expect, there are a number of ways to use the cover browser to flip through your music. There’s the obvious one, of course—you can click on or drag the slider below the cover art. You can also click on a cover in the display area, and iTunes will jump to that cover—and automatically select the first track of that album in the song display area below the cover browser. If you then double-click that cover, the selected song starts to play. You can also use the left and right arrow keys to move from cover to cover, though this can be tedious for large collections.

So here’s the nifty way to browse your covers—use your scroll wheel mouse. You don’t even need a fancy horizontal-scrolling-capable Mighty Mouse; any old mouse with a scroll wheel will work. Just position the mouse somewhere in the cover browser area and roll the mouse’s wheel. Down will move the cover view slider to the right; up moves it to the left.

This trick also works on the new MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops via two-finger scrolling, although it’s even more intuitive—you can two-finger-scroll horizontally, so just drag your fingers right or left across the trackpad to scroll in those directions.

I find the scroll wheel gives the best balance of speed and control while flipping through my moderate (3,500 song) iTunes collection. The only possible gotcha has to do with third-party software that controls your mouse’s scrolling speed. If you have it set to a faster-than-normal speed, you may find that the cover scroll feature jumps multiple albums for each single movement of your scroll wheel.

If you find this to be a problem, most mouse control software, such as the Microsoft Mouse software that came with my Wireless Laser Mouse, will let you create application-specific settings. Create a setting for iTunes and set the scroll speed to the slowest setting that will let you move one cover at a time.

Note that if you’re using a Microsoft mouse, there’s an even better solution available—just enable accelerated vertical scrolling via the labeled checkbox. Now small scroll wheel motions will move one cover at a time, but faster, larger motions will make speedy jumps through your cover collection.

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