macOS Catalina and DJs: Yes, It’s a Problem, but There’s a Workaround, and Developers Can Solve It

A number of publications have been reporting about issues the macOS Catalina and DJ software. One example is this article in The Verge, which points out that the XML file – a readable version of the Music library file – is no longer generated automatically. (And lots of other publications picked this up without checking.) However, this article incorrectly states that it is not possible to generate this file manually. In the Music app, choose File > Library > Export Library, name the file, and save it.

Xml file

If necessary, a DJ can dump an XML file of their library before they begin a set and use it with existing software. Granted, it’s not as smooth a process, but it’s not rocket science.

DJs don’t use iTunes to play music, but they do use its powerful organizational tools to manage and find music, which is then played by specific apps for DJing. Those apps accessed the XML file simply to find the locations of files and play them; with the ability to dump an XML file, nothing much should change, other than the need to do this manually.

The Verge article says:

According to Apple, along with Catalina’s removal of iTunes, users are also losing XML file support as all native music playback on Macs moves over to the official Music app, which has a new library format. XML file support is a popular organizational feature for DJs who use it to sort tracks into playlists and utilize the “Share iTunes Library XML with other applications” option to seamlessly transmit data between apps.

I don’t know what “According to Apple” means; there’s no link, no any suggestion that this was an explicit statement. Because the library format is not new.

The big problem here is that developers, aware of this change since the initial beta release of macOS Catalina, have not done the necessary work to update their software. Apple provides an iTunesLibrary framework, available since iTunes 11, which allows developers to directly access the .itl file used to store information about the Music app’s library. Some developers of DJ apps have already made the transition. It’s not that hard to learn how to use this instead of using the XML file.

The Verge article frames this as Apple doing something bad, rather than a bunch of lazy developers not doing the essential work of supporting their apps.

Learn more about the new media apps that replace iTunes in macOS Catalina in my new book, Take Control of macOS Media Apps.

6 thoughts on “macOS Catalina and DJs: Yes, It’s a Problem, but There’s a Workaround, and Developers Can Solve It

  1. It’s just one more example of less than enthusiastic support by many development houses too used to Windows’ own ‘Win32 API until forever’ approach.

    Apple’s regular actual deprecation of APIs throws a big wrench in this calculation (see also: end of 32bit support) and forces developers to keep up and not just increase some preprocessor value to support the new version number, to many developers’ chagrin.

    It’s staggering how many companies are posting advisories not to update to Catalina because neither their software nor their drivers are ready.

    In essence that’s what years of using private APIs, circumventing Apple’s rules and relying on quirks leads you to.

    Maybe Apple might also be partially blamed for this, as their ability to listen and acknowledge developers’ concerns and frustrations leaves lots of room for improvement.

    • Um, no, I don’t think Apple is partly to blame. This API is not new, and developers should have been aware of it. They’re lazy.

      To be fair, using the XML file was not circumventing anything; that’s what it was intended for. But Apple clearly warned developers that it would be deprecated, and they didn’t listen.

      What bothers me more is scanner manufacturers who aren’t updating software to 64-bit so they can sell new hardware. I have a 7 year old ScanSnap, which I don’t need to replace, and will probably set up a virtual machine with Mojave so I can continue using it.

        • I’ve looked at it and another app; they’re both expensive, and I’m not sure they replicate all the features available. I’m not really interested in paying that much for software for a device that old, which, if it breaks down, would mean I don’t need the software any more.

      • You’re right, in this case they don’t circumvent anything, but in my line of work I have to deal with mobile app developers that seem to put an unhealthy amount of time and effort to “work around” Apple’s intentions instead of just doing things the way they are supposed to be done.

        Deprecated API usage is rarely replaced and the only way to get them to update are AppStore rejections.

        But it’s the same procedure as every year: DJ apps aren’t ready and they haven’t been able to keep up for years. Too many AV vendors aren’t ready which means that in corporate land many people will update to Catalina maybe in July 2020, if at all. HP doesn’t have Catalina drivers available on their website (it’s not even selectable in the dropdown) and while I haven’t checked other periphery vendors, I don’t expect anything different.

        There are so many apps, open source tools, libraries and such that seem to be hit by Catalina completely unprepared. If you check out issue trackers (if they have one), the Catalina issues can be anything from not even yet started, to abandoned, to stuck with some weird issue that will likely be due to Apple having changed something that was relied upon.

        And apps that are cross platform and open source are hit hardest by this, as they have to balance a massive Windows user base against a very frustrated, but small, macOS user base while having Apple remove APIs or functionalities that they can provide on Linux or Windows (see also: OBS not being able to capture desktop audio or record an application’s output).

        And Apple hasn’t even started enforcing notarization and hardened runtimes yet.

  2. The iTunesLibrary Framework has been there since at least High Sierra 10.13 and I’ve had it written but not implemented for Radiologik for a couple years so I’ve been ready for Catalina since beta 1. I keep using the XML for pre-Catalina because it is slightly faster. Apple gave me the clue when they made the default for XML to be off in iTunes. Likewise we had a good amount of time and proper warnings to make everything 64-bit.

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