Some Thoughts on The App Formerly Known as iTunes and macOS Catalina

Many iTunes users on Mac are aware that TAFKAI (The App Formerly Known as iTunes) is undergoing big changes next month, with the release of macOS Catalina. While iTunes isn’t really “dead,” there are a number of changes coming, notably the following:

  • Music that you’ve imported or purchased will be in the new Apple Music app.
  • Music playlists and smart playlists that you’ve created in iTunes will be in the new Apple Music app.
  • The iTunes Store will still be available to buy music on Mac, iOS, PC, and Apple TV.
  • iTunes Gift Cards and iTunes credits will be maintained and can be used with the new apps and the App Store.
  • iPhone, iPad, and iPod backup, restore, and syncing will move to Finder.
  • Movies and TV shows that you purchased or rented from iTunes will be in the new Apple TV app.
  • Use the Apple TV app for Mac for future movie and TV purchases or rentals.
  • Podcasts that you subscribed to or added to iTunes will now be in the new Apple Podcasts app.
  • Audiobooks that you purchased from iTunes will now be in the updated Apple Books app.
  • Use the Apple Books app for Mac for future audiobook purchases.

There are some other changes to note. Media files will be stored in different locations, with music and videos stored in easily accessible folders, and audiobooks and podcasts hidden. If you store your media library on an external drive, you should be aware of this.

There are also changes to the iTunes Store that are worth noting, though, in essence, all that really happens is that it has been split by media kind, which can make it more difficult to find things across different types of media.

And there is a very good change to the way Home Sharing works; it is now turned on globally on the Mac, and works even if the Music and TV apps aren’t running.

I’m currently going through the manuscript of my Take Control of iTunes book, preparing a new book covering the new app landscape, and, as I do this, I have been looking at the details of the Music app in particular. I find a lot of the changes to be positive, notably the simplification of navigation. I was never a fan of the multiple navigational tools in iTunes 12: the Media Picker above the sidebar, then the tabs at the top of the window, which changed by media kind. In some ways, having music on its own makes the Music app a much better tool for those who only used iTunes for managing and playing music.

As I dig deeper, I find that a lot has been simplified. There are tasks I had described in my book that had multiple steps that are simpler, and there were often several ways to do something, whereas, now, there is generally just one. I find myself cutting large sections of my book’s content because of this simplification.

I will miss the column browser; I used this tool constantly to navigate my library by Genre, then Artist, then Album. With Artist, Album, and Genres view, it’s hard to get the big picture. If you have, say, 135 Grateful Dead albums, you need to scroll through the Grateful Dead entry to find the one you want, whereas in the column browser, I could quickly scan a concise list. Or when I wanted to listen to Kind of Blue, it took a few clicks, a quick scan, and I found the album.

Blue itunes

The other feature I’ll miss is that in Songs view – that’s the one where you see items in a list – you can no longer display album artwork. I used that extensively, together with the column browser, as you can see above, because it’s a quick way to scan content to find what I want.

The “replacement” for these tools is search; but search has always been a problem. Sure, when I looked for Kind of Blue this morning on my Mac running Catalina, it was easy to find, but what if I want to quickly scan my 1973 Grateful Dead recordings, my Schubert lieder albums, or my shakuhachi recording collection? Without these tools that give you the big picture, you won’t be able to navigate a large library as easily. The display is certainly attractive, but it took me more than one minute to narrow down Kind of Blue starting from the Genres view.


Naturally, I can search for an album when I know what I want to listen to, but iTunes with the column browser was great for when I didn’t know what I wanted to listen to, but had a vague idea. Say I wanted to listen to a Bill Evans album; there are dozens. It’s not easy to choose, and I could scan my collection to find the one that suited my mood.

So as with all changes, some are good and some not so good. I think many people will find the changes to the Music app – and the other fragments of the late iTunes – to be positive. But I think users with large media collections will be a bit disappointed in what’s coming.

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