Overall, I find that programs running in the Windows environment these days
respect the look and feel guidelines pretty closely, making the experience
really pleasant. However, there is a whole class of software that has
resisted this trend and persists in not only offering skins to its user, but
also coming by default with a look that will baffle the most seasoned Windows
users. I am referring of course to MP3 players.
Whether it be MusicMatch Jukebox, WinAmp (probably the worst offender) or
even Microsoft’s very own Windows Media Player, all these programs sport a UI
that is meant to look sexy and "real-world like" but only manages to be annoying
and often littered with graphic bugs causing me to close and reopen windows on a
regular basis, when it’s not the entire application itself.
So imagine my surprise when I tried iTunes and discovered that it is a very
well-behaved Windows application with one single window and with menus and fonts
that blend nicely with the rest of my desktop… Okay, they couldn’t
totally drop the Apple way and the scrollbars have the Aqua cerulean look, but I
can live with that.
Apple is doing a better job at honoring the Windows look and feel than
Microsoft itself. Oh, the irony.
There are two more things I like about iTunes so far:
- How easy it is to create play-lists and switch from one to the other.
- How songs fade into each other. This is something that has always
bugged me in pretty much all the MP3 players I have tried on Windows:
they never pre-buffer the next song, which means that when a song reaches
its end, there is a blank in the stream while the software is busy loading
the 5-10 megs of the next song. Really dumb. Not only does
iTunes do prefetching, but it also fades a song when it ends then slowly
goes crescendo on the next one. And this is configurable (actually, I
take back what I said: if you disable crossfade altogether, then there
is a gap between each song. Too bad, because sometimes you don’t want
the songs to fade into each other but just carry on without any volume
alteration such as in
iTunes is also pretty revolutionary on the sharing side. As soon as you
launch it, it will broadcast its presence on your LAN and it will display all
the other instances it finds on the network. If their owner has decided to
share their library, you will have access to it right away, otherwise you will
only see their name (Macs seem to come with the firewall on by default, so Mac
users will have to open a particular port to enable this feature). Note
also that you cannot copy the songs of your friends, only listen to them (and
only when they are online), so Apple is being very obedient of the copyright
laws. It is however very easy to buy a certain song if you like it (I
haven’t tried that yet).
What I would like to see in future versions of iTunes:
- The album and song title of the song currently playing when I hover over
the tray icon.
- When I minimize the iTunes window, I want it to disappear from the task
bar and be only present in the tray.
- More flexibility in the naming of the MP3 files that get created, such
as "Track number – Song name". Right now, the format is not
configurable, which makes iTunes not an option for me for ripping songs.
- A lot of the buttons don’t have tooltips.
Hopefully in the next version…