iTunes 7

OK, so iTunes 7 was unleashed today. I’ve played with it for a couple of hours now, and my top feature picks are CoverFlow and gapless playback (with a caveat).

CoverFlow started out as an alternative viewer for iTunes, decidedly album-centric and looking very much like how Front Row should show your music collection. It shows you all the album covers from your music collection and lets you flip through them as if all the CDs were on a large flip rack. Very cool. From what I read, Apple purchased the technology/code and incorporated it into iTunes. It’s very intuitive and nice.

Even better, if you use your compilation flags correctly, your mix CDs and “various artists” only show as one album, for example, the Kill Bill 1 soundtrack shows as 1 album rather than about 17 in CoverFlow. To make this work, all the songs in the album must have the “Part of a compilation” flag set. Generally, if an album has multiple artists, you should set the compilation flag.

The other big feature in my book is gapless playback. As I’ve probably said nine times before, I like DJ sets and those especially from hybridized.org. To play them, I split the single track into smaller tracks using Cue-Splitter, then import the individual songs into iTunes.

Only one problem, the songs have a perceptible gap - not the seamless mix the 60-minute single MP3 provides. This isn’t bothersome in the car, since you can burn an audio CD with no gap between the tracks. But for iTunes and iPod playback, the illusion is shattered.

Enter iTunes’ gapless playback. When you run iTunes 7 the first time, it analyzes your music library to find those songs which should be played without gaps. (I haven’t read how this works yet.) This works great in iTunes, but…

…You have to have the new, just released iPod for gapless playback on the iPod (thanks, Steve). Now I’m not 100% certain about this, but my 4G clickwheel iPod did not experience gapless playback after syncing with iTunes 7. Maybe (hope hope) Apple will release a firmware upgrade for this, but probably not…

I don’t watch TV shows or movies through iTunes (and no iPod with video), so those features are less useful for me. Although, I do watch video podcasts through Front Row.

There’s lot of new things to play with in iTunes 7. The segregated Library, integrated iPod management, group by album view, all worth a look.