iTunes 11 represents a much-needed improvement to Apple's catch-all media suite, with an update that cleans up the interface, improves performance and enhances features.
Right off the bat, Apple greets new users with instructions on how to navigate the new software, which ditches the dedicated (and numerous) menu options on the left side. Now, a user's library is navigated via a drop-down menu featuring options for Music, Movies and TV Shows.
Under the "Movies" section, Apple has dedicated lists to help users sort their content, including an "Unwatched" tab, and a section devoted entirely to the "Home Videos" category.
For those who prefer the classic look of their music in iTunes, the "Songs" view will be a welcome inclusion, with default sorting options of "Genres," "Artists" and "Albums" presented above the available collection.
The "Albums" tab offers a user's entire collection of albums, presented in the form of nice large album art. Content that is not stored locally but is available through iCloud, whether purchased from iTunes or made available through an iTunes Match subscription, is identified with an iCloud logo in the upper right of the album cover.
Selecting al album opens it like a folder in iOS. A background color is also selected automatically by iTunes, matched up from the color of the album art.
In the "Artists" tab, the artist name is presented on the left with one square album cover. On the right, songs are sorted by album with album covers, names and dates presented by default. Content available through iCloud is identified with a link to download on the right side.
The "Albums" and "Artists" views also feature Apple's new "In the Store" link, which makes it easy to find more content from your favorite artists. The available content is presented in the same window, without whisking users away to a separate store link, as previous versions of iTunes have done.
Users can access the iTunes MiniPlayer with a link in the upper right of the window, just to the left of the fullscreen icon. The MiniPlayer loads quickly and offers an impressive set of options despite its small size, including options for searching, editing playlists, and streaming content through AirPlay.
Clicking the album art opens a larger window that just displays the album cover along with the iTunes controls. Users can return to the full-size player by clicking an icon in the upper left corner of the MiniPlayer.
A dedicated link to the iTunes Store also exists in the upper right section of iTunes 11. Those who have accessed the iTunes Store on the iPad will find the new layout instantly familiar, as the latest iTunes further blurs the lines between Apple's iPad and Mac platforms.