How I Would Fix iTunes, Part 1: The Info Window

(This is one of a series of articles looking at elements of iTunes that I think need fixing. I’ll choose one element for each article, and offer a solution. See all articles in this series. If you have any particular gripes about what needs to be fixed in iTunes, drop me a line.)

Update: Apple has fixed the Info window, in an update released on April 9, 2014.

iTunes 12 changed the Info window, the window that displays when you select one or more tracks and press Command-I. You use this window to tag files; to edit the metadata, such as the track name, artist, album name, and more. But this window is poorly designed, for several reasons.

First, take a minute to think about how you tag files in iTunes. For most users, the tags you want to edit are the Name (song or track name), Artist, Album, Genre, and perhaps a couple of others. In the previous iTunes Info window, these tags were all grouped in the same area at the top of the window.

Info single

But the new Info window separates these tags. The Name field has become Song Name, which is perhaps clearer. The Artist field comes next. But then comes Composer, which you mostly use if you’re tagging jazz or classical music. The Album tag is near the bottom of the window, followed by Album Artist.

Itunes new info single

This means that, for most users, tagging will no longer involve typing and pressing the Tab key a few times, but looking closely at the window to find where the fields are, and manually clicking in different locations.

Why would Apple decide to put the Album tag near the bottom of the window? This is one of the most important tags for music. And why would they promote the Composer, and even the BPM tags? This design was clearly made by people who don’t tag music in iTunes.

In addition, they’ve stacked some of the shorter tags vertically, using up a lot of space, rather than, say, putting two per line.

Here’s a mock-up of what would be a much better layout for this window.

Info window copy

It not only puts the tags in a more logical order, but it is more economic. It’s perhaps a bit dense, but it’s a lot more useful.

Since the Info window is an essential part of iTunes, at least for those people who either rip CDs, or change tags for music that they’ve purchased or downloaded, it needs to be user-friendly and logically designed. That’s not the case with the current version of iTunes.

22 thoughts on “How I Would Fix iTunes, Part 1: The Info Window

  1. I like your layout. I assume the Genre could be a free-form entry box and not solely a pull down? It’s often faster to type “Classical” then to find it in a pull down list of a thousand genres.
    Have you estimated how many parts this “How I’d fix Tunes” series will consist of? It might go into the triple digits.

    • You can type in that field. Just double click to select everything, then start typing. as for the series, I already have a list of a dozen items that I want to cover. There may be more.

  2. I like your layout. I assume the Genre could be a free-form entry box and not solely a pull down? It’s often faster to type “Classical” then to find it in a pull down list of a thousand genres.
    Have you estimated how many parts this “How I’d fix Tunes” series will consist of? It might go into the triple digits.

    • You can type in that field. Just double click to select everything, then start typing. as for the series, I already have a list of a dozen items that I want to cover. There may be more.

  3. Much better that what we currently are forced to use. I look forward to the rest of your series. I believe I know some of the upcoming topics. iTunes 12 is totally maddening. If this is from the mind of Jony, I don’t want to see anymore.

  4. Much better that what we currently are forced to use. I look forward to the rest of your series. I believe I know some of the upcoming topics. iTunes 12 is totally maddening. If this is from the mind of Jony, I don’t want to see anymore.

  5. iTunes seems to be designed for people with very small collections of music, TV Shows, movies, etc. and gets harder to manage large collections with every “update.” Most notably, list view have been seriously demoted in favor of “visual” methods of navigating.

    Anyway, one addition I’d love to see in the Info widow: multiple genres. Being forces into just one main genre is near useless.

    P.S. I have to agree with Will Petty; Ive is great at case design, but absolutely terrible at software design. (i.e. minimalism is great for cases, but needlessly crippling in software interfaces.)

  6. iTunes seems to be designed for people with very small collections of music, TV Shows, movies, etc. and gets harder to manage large collections with every “update.” Most notably, list view have been seriously demoted in favor of “visual” methods of navigating.

    Anyway, one addition I’d love to see in the Info widow: multiple genres. Being forces into just one main genre is near useless.

    P.S. I have to agree with Will Petty; Ive is great at case design, but absolutely terrible at software design. (i.e. minimalism is great for cases, but needlessly crippling in software interfaces.)

  7. Yes, your redo does make a lot more sense, especially since I would rather burn my CDs with XLD. For the composer field, I am surprised that Apple put it that high in the list. I have long complained that Apple doesn’t include composer information on all its music and other media sold on iTunes. I also wish they could get rid of the lines.

  8. Yes, your redo does make a lot more sense, especially since I would rather burn my CDs with XLD. For the composer field, I am surprised that Apple put it that high in the list. I have long complained that Apple doesn’t include composer information on all its music and other media sold on iTunes. I also wish they could get rid of the lines.

  9. There is a lot still missing that one would like to see for Classical music: conductor, orchestra, soloist(s), etc.

    For all music I would like better management of collateral material: photos, sleeve notes, translations. Yes, thumbnail pictures are important, but why should we be restricted to one little thumbnail picture — it’s archaic. If there is a full set of pictures with an album why can’t we store it in iTunes and bring it up for browsing, reading, following, while listening to the music?

    • You used to be able to view multiple artwork graphics in a small window in the bottom-left corner of the iTunes window. You could click arrow buttons to cycle through the graphics. I agree that it would be useful to have something like that, but I suspect its attraction is very limited. This said, I think it would be great to be able to view additional texts more easily than now.

  10. There is a lot still missing that one would like to see for Classical music: conductor, orchestra, soloist(s), etc.

    For all music I would like better management of collateral material: photos, sleeve notes, translations. Yes, thumbnail pictures are important, but why should we be restricted to one little thumbnail picture — it’s archaic. If there is a full set of pictures with an album why can’t we store it in iTunes and bring it up for browsing, reading, following, while listening to the music?

    • You used to be able to view multiple artwork graphics in a small window in the bottom-left corner of the iTunes window. You could click arrow buttons to cycle through the graphics. I agree that it would be useful to have something like that, but I suspect its attraction is very limited. This said, I think it would be great to be able to view additional texts more easily than now.

  11. Yes–to all of this.

    Also, the very latest version of iTunes 12 has added bugs to the Get Info box.

    For example, long entries literally break the confines of the field window and even out of the Get Info box rather than scrolling. Clicking in the Track and Disc boxes has become balky. And artwork has become harder to edit in ways that I can’t articulate well.

    Please, Apple, restore justice and order to the Get Info universe. Follow Kirk’s suggestions and stomp out the bugs.

  12. Yes–to all of this.

    Also, the very latest version of iTunes 12 has added bugs to the Get Info box.

    For example, long entries literally break the confines of the field window and even out of the Get Info box rather than scrolling. Clicking in the Track and Disc boxes has become balky. And artwork has become harder to edit in ways that I can’t articulate well.

    Please, Apple, restore justice and order to the Get Info universe. Follow Kirk’s suggestions and stomp out the bugs.

  13. And you haven’t even looked at “Get Info” for audiobooks. That’s an absolute disaster, designed by someone who doesn’t listen to audio books. For example, there is “release date” where they think I should know the exact day when an audio book was released! And for audio books, there is a huge difference between the date the original book was released, and the date the audio book was released. If someone recorded War and Peace or Homer’s Ilias in 2012, what is a reasonable date? There isn’t one, there are two.

    One thing the software doesn’t handle at all is “Audiobooks” made of 100 little files and “Audiobooks” made of 1 or 2 or 3 huge files with 100 chapters. And it doesn’t handle the difference between an Audiobook containing _one_ book, or compilations of different works.

    • For audiobooks with multiple files, set each one to a different track number; iTunes knows to keep them together when it’s the same title and author.

      As for release date, you can put, say, the first of January for whichever year it was released. But it’s true that there are two dates: the book’s release date, and the audio recording’s release date. That’s why there are two fields: Year and Release Date.

  14. And you haven’t even looked at “Get Info” for audiobooks. That’s an absolute disaster, designed by someone who doesn’t listen to audio books. For example, there is “release date” where they think I should know the exact day when an audio book was released! And for audio books, there is a huge difference between the date the original book was released, and the date the audio book was released. If someone recorded War and Peace or Homer’s Ilias in 2012, what is a reasonable date? There isn’t one, there are two.

    One thing the software doesn’t handle at all is “Audiobooks” made of 100 little files and “Audiobooks” made of 1 or 2 or 3 huge files with 100 chapters. And it doesn’t handle the difference between an Audiobook containing _one_ book, or compilations of different works.

    • For audiobooks with multiple files, set each one to a different track number; iTunes knows to keep them together when it’s the same title and author.

      As for release date, you can put, say, the first of January for whichever year it was released. But it’s true that there are two dates: the book’s release date, and the audio recording’s release date. That’s why there are two fields: Year and Release Date.

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