As one of the most popular programs for managing music and video content on a personal computer, Apple's iTunes software has become an indispensable part of our digital life. Version 9 of iTunes brings a handful of enhancements to Apple's ubiquitous media software, including an improved storefront, tools for sharing media between multiple computers, a new Genius Mixes music experience, and a more flexible system for syncing media to the iPod or iPhone.
The look of iTunes 9 is a little more polished than that of iTunes 8, but the layout is basically identical. A source menu runs as a column down the left side, offering quick access to your media library, the iTunes Store, Genius features, and playlists. Once a selection is chosen in the source menu, all the relevant content spills out into the large main window, where it can be organized and sorted using an arsenal of sophisticated, spreadsheet-like options or switched into a cover-flow view that hearkens back to the days of flipping through record crates.
One feature that received a substantial overhaul is the iTunes store. Store navigation links now run horizontally across the top of the window and include drop-down menus to quickly drill down into specific sections, such as Jazz. Front page content is more attractively arranged and allows you to launch music and video previews directly, without jumping in and out of specific album and video listings. Another welcome design change seen throughout the iTunes store is an option menu next to every purchase button, allowing you to copy the item's URL, add to your Wish List, gift the purchase, or share the link on Facebook or Twitter.
What started out as a basic jukebox program for ripping and burning CDs and transferring music to your iPod has evolved over the years into a multimedia behemoth capable of handling everything from HD-movie rentals to syncing appointments with your iPhone. In spite of all the bells and whistles that have been tacked-on to iTunes over the years, at its core, iTunes still remains an excellent tool for managing your music and video collections.
Several new features have been introduced in iTunes 9, including a new iTunes LP media format, Home Sharing, Genius Mixes, and new device-syncing options. As a throwback to a bygone era when people purchased and revered full-length albums, the iTunes LP format treats music fans to an immersive album experience, filled with liner notes, lyrics, interactive menus, and bonus videos. Like any album or single purchased using iTunes, the songs included with an iTunes LP are delivered as DRM-free AAC music files that can be transferred to any iPod, iPhone, or AAC-compatible device. All of the extra stuff included with an iTunes LP--the special menus, photos, videos, and interactive elements--are only available to view directly on your computer. In spite of its limitations, the iTunes LP format should find a home with music fans looking for a richer album experience from their favorite bands.