How I Would Fix iTunes, Part 10: Album Artwork

(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.)

If you’re familiar with the artwork for an album, there is a permanent connection between music and artwork. Remember, if you’re old enough, the LP album sleeves you used to peruse when listening to music. Or the CD inserts you used to check out. You probably chose your music visually, looking for a specific album not by the name on the spine, but by the artwork on the cover.

The same is the case with digital music. Adding artwork to music makes it much easier to find it in your iTunes library, without having to search for it. You may browse all the albums you have by an artist, looking for a specific album. You’re unlikely to actually read the names, but you can instantly zero in on the cover of the album you’re looking for.

iTunes stores and displays album artwork for music (and other types of media), in several ways. There are a number of different views in iTunes, some of which (Albums view) only show artwork, and others (Artists or Genres views) show artwork with other information.

But when you’re playing music, the artwork isn’t very visible. It shows as a tiny thumbnail in the iTunes LCD (that’s the top section of the window):

Itunes lcd

And it displays in the MiniPlayer, at the same size. If you click the thumbnail in the MiniPlayer, that window expands to become what I call the Artwork Player. It shows the album artwork, and, if you haver your cursor over the window, gives you access to controls.

Artwork player

But iTunes used to have another artwork pane; it was at the bottom left of the iTunes window, at the bottom of the sidebar. Not only did this always display the artwork of the currently playing track, but it had arrow buttons that allowed you to cycle through artwork, if you had stored more than one graphic for certain tracks or albums. I was never interested in storing multiple graphics, but many people do this. The problem with iTunes now is that, while you can still store multiple graphics, you can’t view them.

iTunes should return to offering some kind of artwork viewer other than the expanded MiniPlayer (or Artwork Player). It should also provide a way to view multiple graphics that are added as artwork; or not allow users to add multiple graphics.