Review: hands on with iTunes 11

By Dan Moren,Lex Friedman, Macworld |  Software, itunes 11

What's more, Apple says that iTunes will now sync your place in movies and TV shows: If you start playing them on your Mac and pause playback, you can then switch to your iPad and pick up the video from right where you left off. In our early testing, that doesn't seem to work yet.

By the way, if you're looking for your music videos in iTunes 11, you'll need to check the Music section, and then click on the Videos tab therein.

Store

As with iOS 6, Apple's given the iTunes Store a bit of a makeover in iTunes 11. The category bar has been rearranged, and there's a new Preview History feature, which lets you browse through all the media which you've previewed in the iTunes Store. That way, you can quickly re-preview any media again, or even buy that song that you previewed three days ago. You can also clear the list at any time, if you like.

The storefront itself now more closely resembles what you'll see on the iPad, with an automatically cycling Cover Flow-style carousel of highlighted items.

Syncing

You'll still use iTunes 11 for syncing your iOS devices (and traditional iPods). While the process remains the same, the visuals involved have scored a bit of an overhaul. The Summary and Info tabs get noticeable layout tweaks, and the Apps tab gives the app organization process a small redesign. Again, there's no real usability difference, but Apple's designers have done some redecorating.

When your iOS device or iPod is connected, you'll either see it in the iTunes sidebar (if you reenable it), or as a button on the upper right of the iTunes window, next to the Store button. Bizarrely, there's a second button--a button on the button, if you will--for ejecting the connected device.

With your device connected, you'll see an "On this [iPad/iPhone/iPod]" tab as you look at it in iTunes. Clicking that device shows a breakdown of all the data on your device, and even lets you play the music or videos stored on it. If you click on the Add To button, iTunes 11 switches you back to a view of your library; you can drag music, videos, and other content onto your connected device, which appears in a new pane along the right side. (This won't work properly if you have iTunes Match enabled. You can drag, but nothing happens--not even an error message explaining what's wrong.)

Miscellaneous notes

One clever new addition that might go unnoticed is the ability to redeem iTunes gift cards using the camera on your computer. Click on your account name in the iTunes Store, choose Redeem, and click the Use Camera button. Hold your card up to the camera, and it'll automatically detect the code from it, in a sort of Terminator-style camera mode.

The search window's gotten a bit of revamp as well. Unlike the previous version, which limited your search to whichever type of media you were currently viewing, the new search gives you results from across your library. So, for example, you could be viewing movies, type the name of a song in, and it would display the match from your music collection. You can also move the cursor to the search field by using Command-F, which in iTunes 10 activated full-screen mode. (To use full-screen mode in iTunes 11, Command-Control-F or click the full-screen button in the top right corner.)

If you turn on Full Keyboard Access in System Preferences (under Keyboard), note that you can now switch through the previous, play/pause, next, AirPlay, and other buttons with the tab key. In our experience, that occasionally meant that we accidentally ended up restarting a track when we tried to use the spacebar to pause, because that button had become tab-selected.

There's been a slight overhaul to the Books section of iTunes in the new version. At the top you'll now see categories for Audiobooks, Books, PDFs, and Authors. This lets you quickly toggle between these various types of media, and also seems to provide an easier way to view PDFs synced from iTunes to your iOS devices.

Some views in iTunes 11 seem oddly truncated. The Videos list under the Music section, for example, lists all the music videos available in our libraries, but with all of their titles abruptly cut off to fit on one line.

We'll have our full review of iTunes 11 coming soon.

Updated at 5:02 p.m. ET to correct information about which content iTunes 11 syncs play location for.

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