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Apple user interfaces (iTunes)

Apple iTunes is not available for the Windows platform.

http://akamaidownload.apple.com/530x3824/binaries/iTunesSetup.exe (19 MB)

I don't need an MP3 player, however, I was very interested in this, in order to see how Apple designs user interfaces.

I never used a Macintosh (they are not available in my country), and I was very curious to see why so many fans rave madly about iTunes.

It has a nice user interface, but I was a bit disappointed. It's a normal program - I think there are other, equivalent MP3 player programs which already exist on the PC.

So - where is the super-fantastic advantage Apple has in user interfaces? I don't see it.

iTunes has a good interface - but not great, and certainly not above other PC applications.

Maybe what the Mac fans like is the fact that the interface is simple - few controls, etc.

Soft Wars
Friday, October 17, 2003

Its the fact that the user interface is kept uncomplicated (the main app has what, 7 buttons and a search box?), but powerful (multi-state buttons like the shuffle, repeat, play-through) - smart playlists (have you tried this?  Make a playlist out of everything I've played more than 20 times this month... and keep it updated, make a playlist out of all songs I've given a rating of 4 or 5 stars and is produced by Dr. Dre) - the search box (that's probably my favorite, real time searching through all ID tags at the same time). 

Anything I need access to but don't need on a daily basis is kept off the main window in a pref pane.  I can set my import bitrate and preferences in the pref pane, so importing is simply a matter of sticking in a cd and hitting one button (and did you notice that iTunes will tell you politely if you've already ripped this CD?). 

Granted I'm an Apple fan. I like applications that get out of my way, and present an uncomplicated interface but give me access to powerful features when I need them.  That's pretty much Apple's mantra.

Lou
Friday, October 17, 2003

The big disappointment was, of course, no additional file format support. I suppose on Apples, it's okay to say "MP3 and AAC only", but on a Windows machine, you damn well better come to the party with WMA support (and probably OGG support, too).

Shame, as I really liked the UI.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Friday, October 17, 2003

Perhaps WMA, but why OGG.

They don't have additional file types probably due to storage constraints and time constraints.  How long does it take to convert thousands of cuts?

Gregor Brandt
Friday, October 17, 2003

Another big Mac UI thing is consistancy across applications which you dont get just by looking at iTunes but from everything, the Finder, Safari, iTunes etc all working in a similar fashion and using the same appearence guidelines.

bil
Friday, October 17, 2003

Moreover, Apple doesn't violate its own user interface guidelines, as Microsoft does with Office.

(This is not a baseless rant; check Microsoft's UI guidelines and compare them with the behavior of Office.)

The Pedant, Brent P. Newhall
Friday, October 17, 2003

"Moreover, Apple doesn't violate its own user interface guidelines, as Microsoft does with Office."

Like hell it doesn't! See http://fury.com/article/1635.php and do a Google search for countless other examples.

John Topley (www.johntopley.com)
Friday, October 17, 2003

i just installed iTunes for windows, and was unable to connect to the music store.  I'm behind a firewall, and I use a proxy to connect to the internet.  I looked through every menu option trying to find a section I could enter my proxy info, and there was none.  searched the documentation, nothing.  searched the web for user groups, found nothing relevant. 

I was very disappointed in this whole experience, and decided to just uninstall.  Both install & uninstall required reboots of my computer (apparently roxio cd-burning drivers had to be installed then uninstalled). 

well, i hope everyone else enjoys it.  i'm not going to mess around with it anymore.

nathan
Friday, October 17, 2003

Brad,

On the Mac there's a Quicktime plug-in to allow iTunes to play OGG files, presumably someone could code a similar plug-in for Windows (the same plug-in may work, I don't know).

As for WMA support, I don't doubt that Apple will come around and play WMA formatted songs soon enough, and its a shame that they don't play them right now.  Again, a Quicktime plug-in would do the trick, but I'm not sure what, if any, licensing issues surround the WMA format.

Lou
Friday, October 17, 2003

There are no licensing issues for WMA playback. The libraries are provided free of charge, with redistribution rights.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Friday, October 17, 2003

Sure the user interface was nice, but the user interaction was enough to drive me away inside of 2 minutes.

When I started the app, I liked what I saw, but tried to maximize the window every way I knew how... double-clicked the title bar, got the window bigger, but not maximized... hit the middle control button on the title bar, which put the window into compact/skin mode(!)... tried to right-click the title bar to get to maximize that way... no menu.

Well, I was frustrated enough at that point to close the app... I might've been more friendly w/ it if I'd tried it after the 8th inning last night instead of the 5th, who knows.  What I really wonder is if Apple tested this app with anyone that uses Windows as their primary OS...

Greg Hurlman (www.squaretwo.net)
Friday, October 17, 2003

Try importing a CD or burning a playlist.  It's as simple as sticking in a disc and clicking a button.

iTunes has opened up CD burning to my Wife.

Matthew Lee
Friday, October 17, 2003

"Try importing a CD or burning a playlist.  It's as simple as sticking in a disc and clicking a button.

iTunes has opened up CD burning to my Wife. "

You (and your wife) have never tried Windows Media Player, right? Probably because it's "evil"?

Phoenix
Friday, October 17, 2003

My biggest gripe with iTunes for windows is (as Greg Hurlman aludes to above): it uses all the Mac OS idioms for keystrokes, titlebar behavior, etc, and not the windows ones.

Since Apple is so quick to get concerned when people violate *their* UI conventions, you'd think they'd respect those of others ...

Oh well, at the end of the day, it is a nice app.

Michael Kale
Friday, October 17, 2003

Never mind the interface (it's mac-ish, which is livable if it doesn't crash... often). Why the hell doesn't the Radio player display what song/artist is playing (it is supposed to support -buying- music, correct?). I very often research/buy what I hear on the various net radio services I listen to, but I need to know what to research first (artist/tune). Oy.

radio magic 8 ball
Friday, October 17, 2003

I have tried the iTunes over the last 24 hours. I have previously used WMP 9. I think I am sold on iTunes for several reasons, most of all being the music purchasing program. I agree it is completely Mac UI based (with the exception of the global menu bar on the top of the screen). Obviously not a good choice for a company that is trying to produce quality windows software, but I would say their intention is to bring more people to Apple land, so this shouldn't be a big surprise.

m
Friday, October 17, 2003

Windows media player is horribly buggy, and difficult to use.  They tried to make it *cool* with the skins and all, but forgot to make it useable.  When I put in a CD I can't even figure out how to get the track listing.  Plus I hate the fact that MS pretends like MP3 doesn't exist, even though it is the dominate format on the net.


Friday, October 17, 2003

Yes I agree, this was my experience with Windows Media Player... back in 1999. Since using WMP 8 and 9, this has no longer been the case for me.

m
Friday, October 17, 2003

iTunes for Windows is a great example of how not to write software.  I DO NOT want applications installing background processes that run all the time.  I DO NOT want iPodService.exe, nor do I want iTunesHelper.exe or qttask.exe. 

I do want applications that behave like the host OS.  I don't want to click the maximize/restore button and have it change into a miniplayer.  I don't want to double-click the title bar and have the window bizarrely shift down and to the right by ~100 pixels.  Also, it would be nice if they made it smart enough to find 'My Music' when it has been moved from the default location.  This is one API call, not too hard. 

SomeBody
Friday, October 17, 2003

For the original poster:  coincidentally, I posted a (somewhat long and rantish) compare/contrast of iTunes and WinAmp to my blog a few minutes ago.  See http://timestream.net/NonSequitur/comments.asp?PostID=248874026

...the short version of which is that storing song metadata in a database gives you much more flexibility in how you find your music than WinAmp's reliance on the filesystem as its de facto database.

--

I, too, find it rather annoying that the app doesn't maximize.  It's a Windows app; it should behave like one.

Sam Livingston-Gray
Friday, October 17, 2003

Apple may stick to its own user interface guidelines more than Microsoft, but I wish they would have stuck to Microsoft's for iTunes.  If you're going to make an app for Windows, make an app FOR Windows.  Use the Windows style guidelines, even if you disagree with them.  In the case of OS/Application UI, being consistent is more important than being 'Right'.

I hate "skin" apps.  I don't care if they are designed by Apple or designed by hobby programmers.  I want my applications under Windows to look and act in a similar fashion.  iTunes fails miserably at this by not using the Windows controls in most cases (on the main page) and just generally looking & acting UNLIKE a Windows application.  It is not quite as bad as Quicktime for Windows is, but its damn close....

Anyway, I'm going to stick with WMP9.  As was suggested above, I think the people who claim WMP is bloated/buggy/crap must not have used it in a few years.  Both 8 and 9 are great.

Mister Fancypants
Friday, October 17, 2003

iTunes vs. WMP. Well the key thing - at least for now - is the iTunes Music Store. It seems Apple has, so far, done the best job of presenting downloadable music for sale, getting record labels on board etc. iTunes for Windows is all about letting Windows users buy this stuff - that's the point, comparing it to WinAmp or whatever is kind of pointless.

I'm not sure why iTunes/iTunes Music store should support WMP format. 1 - would Microsoft give them the codec?; 2 - iPods don't support WMP and iPod integration is another big selling point.

Re: Apple's "famed" ease of use. I don't really think any version of Mac OS is any easier to use than Win 2K or XP, I put a lot of Microsoft's success down to the fact that, generally speaking, Microsoft does usability better than pretty much everyone 99% of the time. As for consistency - on OS X Apple's applications (Safari, iTunes, etc) has the brushed metal look, while other applications have another look.

I'm more interested in how this thing is implemented. Using iTunes on OS X it looks like they are embedding Safari and relying on a couple of proprietary protocols, so how have they gone about this on Windows. Embedding IE? I wonder how similar the codebases are for the Windows and OS X version too.

Also, why have no Windows alternatives been released yet? Microsoft were supposed to be releasing something around about now. With the precedent of record companies licensing content for iTunes surely that content is open for all similar services.

Top that off with Pepsi giving away 100 million songs and your onto something (I was involved with a similar promotion in Australia a couple of years ago and it got a lot of attention) - that number of free songs is going to attract a lot of users.

Start knocking back the soda pop!

Walter Rumsby
Friday, October 17, 2003

>>
Also, why have no Windows alternatives been released yet?
<<

Though none have the exact same pricing model as iTunes (as far as I know), there are a ton of Windows alternatives that have been around for a much longer time than iTunes.  My guess would be that the companies making the Windows apps did most of the work in paving the way for the record companies providing content. 

Personally, I use Listen.com's Rhapsody service which is subscription based at $9.99/month for unlimited streaming of something like 400,000 albums and $.79/track for burning.  Since I do most of my music listening in front of a PC, I'd much rather pay Listen.com $9.99 for 400,000 albums a month rather than paying Apple $9.99 for one album.  From my brief survey of iTunes, Rhapsody's selection blows it away (at least for the music I listen to).  Unfortunately, they've been purchased by Real Networks.  I can't help but to think that the end is near. 

SomeBody
Friday, October 17, 2003

"Why the hell doesn't the Radio player display what song/artist is playing (it is supposed to support -buying- music, correct?)."
<p>Try clicking on the radio station text in the status window. That should bring up the current artist and track info for radio stations - at least that's how Mac iTunes does it.

Me
Friday, October 17, 2003

This is a bit off-topic, but the biggest thing I hate about WMP is that you can't single-frame-step video back and forth. You can make it look like a disgusting eyeball, but you can't frame-step.

Dan Maas
Saturday, October 18, 2003

"I'm not sure why iTunes/iTunes Music store should support WMP format. 1 - would Microsoft give them the codec?; 2 - iPods don't support WMP and iPod integration is another big selling point."

1. Yes. It's free to everyone.

2. I don't have an iPod.

I don't even care if it told me that I couldn't transfer those files to an iPod, if I had. In point of fact, I wouldn't buy an iPod, precisely because it won't play them. If I'm going to replace Media Player, though, it needs to be with something that respects the fact that I have 44 gigabytes of ripped music already.

Until that point, no, it's not worth using for the store alone.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Saturday, October 18, 2003

>>
This is a bit off-topic, but the biggest thing I hate about WMP is that you can't single-frame-step video back and forth. You can make it look like a disgusting eyeball, but you can't frame-step.
<<

It's there in Play Speed Settings in WMP 9 on XP. 

SomeBody
Saturday, October 18, 2003

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