Apple released an update to iTunes yesterday and, for the most part, it appears to exist largely in order for iTunes to be ready for the release of the Apple TV. Specifically, Apple tells us:
What’s New in this Version Using iTunes 7.1, you can now enjoy your favorite iTunes movies, TV shows, music, and more from the comfort of your living room with Apple TV. iTunes 7.1 also supports a new full screen Cover Flow and improved sorting options to let you decide how iTunes should sort your favorite artists, albums, and songs.
iTunes preferences have been slightly reorganized and a few new option, other than Apple TV, appear within. Inside the General preference you find that the Play Videos pop-up menu (which includes In the Main Window, In a Separate Window, Full Screen, and Full Screen With Visuals) has disappeared. It now appears in the Playback preference. In its place you find the Shared Name field, which was once in the Sharing preference.
In the Parental preference the Disable Shared Music option has been renamed to Disable Shared Libraries. This same preference now includes a Ratings For pop-up menu that includes Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and United States. When you select one of these countries, the restriction options below—the ones that restrict explicit content as well as movies and TV shows based on their rating— change to reflect the rating system of that country. For example, choose Ireland and you can restrict movies to G, PG, 12. 15, and 16. The restriction options for Irish TV show GA, Ch, YA, and PS ratings.
The biggest change in iTunes preferences is, of course, the addition of an Apple TV preference. It tells us very little, showing simply a Look for Apple TVs checkbox and then a field where the names of Apple TVs within range of your network will appear. You can presumably select one and make it disappear from the list by clicking the Remove Apple TV button at the bottom of the preference window.
iTunes Help menu contains a new Apple TV Help item at the bottom. Select it and you find About Apple TV, Service and Support, and Open Manuals links. They take you to Apple’s Apple TV page, a generic “I’m sorry, were you looking for something?” page at Apple.com, and Apple Product Documentation page (with no Apple TV document in sight), respectively. In all likelihood these links will become more useful (and the Help window expanded with more information) when the Apple TV is released.
As Apple states, Cover Flow view now enjoys full screen. It looks great. I’ve pulled some fairly low-resolution album covers from Amazon and other Web sources into iTunes when the iTunes Store hasn’t carried the album and I expected them to look awful when blown up. They don’t. Apple has put its graphics rendering to good use, making beautiful looking album covers out of even marginal source material. Now that I can see the front cover in such detail naturally I’d love to turn the cover around and see what’s on the back—or at least flip it around so I can view the tracks on the album and choose the one I want to play while in full-screen Cover Flow view. What better use of Apple’s famed Cube effect? Someday, maybe….
In earlier versions of iTunes 7, small blue dots appeared next to podcasts you hadn’t listened to. Those dots now also appear next to TV episodes you haven’t watched. They’re not entirely accurate, however. I’ve certainly watched The Best of Christopher Walken Saturday Night Live collection, yet iTunes 7.1’s little blue dot claims I haven’t. All I had to do to make the dot disappear was to select that show, click Play, and then immediately stop playing it. As far as iTunes was concerned, I’d watched it.
And then there’s sorting. Apple provides little information about it, but it appears to be a way to impose nicknames on content when it could be filed in a couple of different ways. For example, suppose you have a collection of both Robert Fripp and Brian Eno’s work. What do you do about No Pussyfooting and Evening Star , two Fripp and Eno collaborations? File under Fripp because he gets first billing? Or Eno because you feel he was the driving force behind the projects? The new sorting feature allows you to make that decision more easily. It works like this:
Choose one track of an album you want to impose sorting upon. Choose File -> Get Info. Click the Sorting tab and enter a “nickname” for your artist in the Sort Artist field and click OK. Right-click (Control-click on the Mac) on that track name and choose Apply Sort Field -> Same Artist. All tracks that bear the original artist’s name (or group of names) will gain the Artist sorting tag you applied to the selected track.
So, using our Fripp and Eno example, select Wind On Water from Evening Star, choose Get Info, click Sorting, enter Brian Eno in the Sort Artist file, and click OK to dismiss the Info window. Right-click on the selected track and choose Apply Sort Field -> Same Artist. Click OK in the Are You Sure dialog box that appears and all the tracks on Evening Star (and No Pussyfooting , if the artist field reads Fripp & Eno) will now bear the Brian Eno name in the Sort Artist field.
The Sorting tab contains sort fields for Name, Artist, Album Artist, Album, Composer, and Show. Choose View -> Show View Options and you’ll discover that you can add column headings for the sorting categories in iTunes main window. Click one of these sort headings to sort by the nicknames you’ve imposed.
Updated 3/7/07 to remove the suggestion that the current version of iTunes sorts “The Beach Boys” and “Beach Boys” separately.