Despite being a month late, iTunes 11 didn’t disappoint. Version 11 has been completely overhauled, reimagined from the ground up, and we love the new features. It’s fully integrated with iCloud to make it easy to find all your purchased music and videos, and all the music you have stored in iTunes Match. The new interface is a huge change from the old iTunes look and feel, but we can help you get comfortable in no time. Kick off your shoes and settle into your new digital living room. And don’t forget to turn your speakers up.
Last year, Apple unveiled that iTunes would benefit from the move to iCloud by getting iTunes in the Cloud and iTunes Match integration. These two features changed the way people sync and share their music with the myriad of devices they own.
iTunes in the Cloud, and iTunes Match, changed the way people sync their music between the myriad devices they own. iTunes 11 has full iCloud integration, allowing your entire iTunes in the Cloud library (i.e., everything you’ve ever bought from the iTunes Store) right alongside the media files stored in your library. All those previous purchases are ready to play, without you needing to re-download them first: just click one to select it, and then click the Play icon. If you’d like to download it, click the button with the cloud and downward-facing arrow instead.
The little cloud icon means that’s a previous iTunes Store purchase that’s available to me anytime from iTunes in the Cloud.
iCloud can also now remember and sync your play position in movies and TV shows; so, you can now pick up where you left off in movies and TV shows on your Mac, Apple TV, or iOS devices. If for some reason you don’t want to see your iTunes in the Cloud purchases in your library, you can turn that off in iTunes > Preferences > Store. Or you can exclude single purchases from showing up by selecting it in your library and pressing the Delete button. You’ll see a warning dialog asking if you’re sure you want to hide the song from your iTunes in the Cloud purchases. Click Delete Song, but you better be sure, because if you change your mind later, you’ll have to shell out for it again.
The MiniPlayer has been around for a long time, but in iTunes 11 it’s got some great new features that make it more useful than ever. To open the MiniPlayer, click the small MiniPlayer button (beside the full-screen button) in the top-right corner of the iTunes 11 window. The player will open and the full iTunes interface will close, allowing access to the most-used features of iTunes in a smaller space.
You’ll see currently playing song, artist, and album artwork. Mouse over for playback controls and the AirPlay button (which also has the master volume control). The other buttons open a Search field or the Up Next queue, and the right-facing arrow you’ll see when you mouse over also opens up the contextual menu with more options for the song (rating it, adding it to a playlist, finding that artist in the iTunes Store, and so on). When you’re ready to go back to the full iTunes 11 interface, click the full-screen button below the X. To keep the MiniPlayer on top of all your windows, check the box in iTunes > Preferences > Advanced.
iTunes 11 has done away with the iTunes DJ feature from versions past, introducing a better and more useful feature called Up Next. It lets you build out a queue of songs that will be played in succession, just like having your own instant playlist.
There are a few ways to start an Up Next queue. The easiest is by dragging and dropping songs, albums, and artists from the Music library into the Now Playing marquee at the top of the iTunes 11 window. You can also right-click on songs and albums and select Add to Up Next, or click the arrow button that appears when mousing over items and selecting Add to Up Next there.
Adding a song to your Up Next queue is simple when in your Music library.
To view your Up Next playlist, click on the three lines on the right side of the Now Playing marquee. To remove a song, click the X that appears to the left of a track when you mouse over it. You can also re-order your queue by clicking and dragging tracks to a new spot.
Click the Up Next button to view, reorder, and prune your queue.
If you want a new track to be the next song played (instead of just adding it to the end of the queue, that should be played (instead of just adding it to the end of the Up Next queue), then right-click on the track and select “Play Next.” The track (or album) will then be added to the top of your Up Next queue.
The iTunes Store got a fresh new look in iTunes 11 too, matching the design of the iTunes Store and App Store apps in iOS 6. But when you launch iTunes 11 into the new unified interface, where to find the iTunes Store isn’t immediately obvious. If you have the sidebar open, you can select it there, but from the unified view, you need to click the iTunes Store button in the top-right corner. When you’re in the store, click the Library button in the same location to get back.
One of our favorite new Store features is the ability to redeem an iTunes gift card with your Mac’s camera. No more carefully typing out a 16-digit alphanumeric code! Just open the iTunes Store, click Redeem in the right-hand sidebar, and on the Redeem screen, click the Use Camera button to activate your Mac’s FaceTime camera. Hold up your gift card, keep it still, and be prepared to try more than once: In our test, it took a few tries for iTunes to recognize the code, and then…it was wrong, and we had to correct one character before it would go through.
When it works, it’s cool.
iTunes isn’t just a media player. It’s also how you can manage your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch using your Mac.
Find Your Device: When you connect a device, it appears in a drop-down menu at the top-right of the iTunes window (or in the sidebar, if you have the sidebar open in View > Show Sidebar). This connection doesn’t even require a cable; if your device is running iOS 5 or later and you have “Sync with this iPhone over Wi-Fi” checked in the Summary screen, then your device will show up in iTunes when it’s on the same Wi-Fi network as your Mac.
Back Up Now: In previous versions of iTunes, making a local backup of your device when you were backing up with iCloud was a somewhat hidden feature, but with iTunes 11 the feature is more prominently located: Back up to iCloud all the time, and still initiate a local backup anytime you like with the Back Up Now button in the device’s Summary tab. Local backups restore more quickly than iCloud backups, and can provide an extra safeguard when updating iOS or taking your device in for service.
You can now have the best of both worlds: Back up your device to both iCloud and locally on your computer.
Better App Management: Previously, syncing apps with iTunes was all or nothing: there was a checkbox for Sync Apps, and if you clicked it, you got a scary warning about iTunes erasing all the apps on your iPhone and replacing them with the apps in your iTunes library. With iTunes 11, the Apps tab shows a list of all the apps you own. If one is on your Mac but not your phone, you’ll see an Install button. Click it to install that app, obviously. If the app is on your phone already and you want to take it off, click Remove to mark it for removal, then click Apply at the bottom-right to sync all those changes to your phone.
You can also delete apps from your device by clicking the X when you mouse over their icons in the home screen manager.
On This Phone: In old versions of iTunes, you could click the arrow next to your device in the sidebar to get a quick view of all the content on it. If you’re still using the sidebar in iTunes 11, that works the same way. But from the unified interface, you’d first select your device, and then click the last tab, labeled On This Phone. You’ll see a sidebar to the left with Music, Movies, TV Shows, Podcasts, iTunes U, Books, and Tones, and then the content in each category on the right, in sortable columns. As in older versions of iTunes, this is just a list; you can’t actually make any changes here. To do that, click the other tabs below the Now Playing Marquee.