(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.)
In iTunes, whenever you play any music — unless you are playing a playlist which contains just one song — there is a song queue. It may be all the songs of an album, all the songs of a playlist, or all the tracks in your library. You can see the song queue at any time by clicking the Up Next? icon in the iTunes LCD or MiniPlayer.
The Up Next icon is the one with the three lines at the right of the Mini Player window above, and there’s a similar icon in the iTunes LCD, the part of the iTunes window that shows you what is playing.
The problem is that you may have music in the Up Next queue without realizing it, and when you go to play something else, you may see what I call “the pesky Up Next dialog.”
This dialog displays when you have explicitly added music to the Up Next queue (the Up Next icon in the iTunes LCD is blue), and you then try to play something else without first adding it to Up Next. For example, you might have double-clicked an album or playlist. (The dialog is slightly different if you double-click a single track.)
If you click Clear Songs, iTunes replaces your Up Next queue with the tracks in the item you just double-clicked. Or, if you click Don’t Clear, iTunes adds what you just double-clicked to the beginning of the Up Next queue; this is the same as if you had Control-clicked the item and chosen Play Next. Of course, you can click Cancel to keep listening to what’s currently playing.
Up Next also gets in the way when you select an album to play using the Remote app in iOS. Sometimes I’m listening to music in my bedroom, where I have an AirPlay speaker. I choose an album to listen to, and, when it’s finished, I hear the next album in my iTunes library. The Remote app doesn’t show that album in the queue, yet, once the album has finished, it starts playing, and the queue is full of everything from that album to the end of my library.
Confused? So am I. I’ve gotten lots of queries about Up Next, and it’s very hard to explain; it’s even hard for me to understand what exactly is supposed to happen.
Up Next is confusing, especially because users will find that it gets in their way when they do something as simple as wanting to play some music. Apple could fix this by allowing users to turn off Up Next if they want. This is a simple change that would make playing music in iTunes a lot less confusing.