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.

Blue

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.

How Home Sharing Works in macOS Catalina

For years, iTunes has had a Home Sharing feature, that allowed you to share your library across a network. Users in your home, dorm, or office could listen to your music, and even copy it to their computers. They could stream videos from your library, and this was a good way to maintain a movie and TV show library on a Mac and stream content locally to an Apple TV.

Perusing macOS Catalina I was initially worried that Home Sharing had been removed, because there was nothing about it in the Music app, but I found that they feature had been shunted to a new location: the Sharing pane of System Preferences.

Media sharing2

This makes a lot of sense. With iTunes split into four apps, you wouldn’t want to have to turn it on for each app. But this centralized media sharing has a great advantage: you don’t need to launch any of the apps to be able to share their content. As long as the computer hosting the media is running, you can load its content on another computer, an Apple TV, or on iOS (in the Music or TV apps). And if you have Wake for Network Access checked in the Energy Saver preferences, your library is accessible even if the host Mac is asleep. (On a laptop, this only works if it’s connected to power.)

This is a great change to the Home Sharing feature, and it will make it a lot easier to set up a master library to use on multiple devices.

The Fate of the iTunes Store in macOS Catalina

With the new Music app in macOS Catalina, which retains most of the music functions of iTunes, but sloughs off the other media kinds that the previous app managed, there is a change in the way the iTunes Store is handled. In some cases, users won’t even see the iTunes Store.

In early betas of macOS Catalina, the iTunes Store was visible, but in recent betas it did not show up in the sidebar of the Music app if the user was signed into Apple Music. That seems to be the default now: if a user has an Apple Music account, they won’t see the iTunes Store. You can display it, if you wish, in the Music app’s Preferences, on the General pane, but if you’re a streamer, you won’t see it by default.

You’ll note that in the screenshots on Apple’s macOS Catalina preview pages, the iTunes Store is not visible.

Music app

The iTunes Store is certainly not going away, but Apple is considering that streamers don’t want to buy music. This isn’t the case with the TV app, which retains the tabbed navigation bar of iTunes, to show one tab for Library, and four other tabs to entire users to find new content. Granted, the way we consume music is different from movies and TV shows, but this is a clear sign that Apple is betting on streaming for music, and rentals and purchases for video content.

Tv app

It’s interesting that, while Apple has made the interfaces of the four apps that replace iTunes (Music, TV, Podcasts, and Books) very similar, two of these apps retain the tabbed navigation bar: TV and Books. And these are both apps where there is more content to purchase than to stream. (Obviously, all podcasts are free, so there’s no need to have a marketplace in that app.)

In the Books app, I think the tabs don’t make sense. There is one for your library, which is logical, but there are two store tabs: Book and Audiobooks. I think it would be better to have a single store, because there are a lot of people who buy both ebooks and audiobooks, and splitting them can make it harder to find which options you have.

As for the TV app, that has the potential of quickly becoming bloated. There are tabs for your library, then for Watch Now, Movies, TV Shows, and Kids. The problem with the TV app is that it aggregates not just your own content, but potentially channels, networks, and services that you subscribe to. And that leads too bloat. But the very nature of these disparate services makes it hard to do otherwise.

Update: Commenters have asked about searching with the iTunes Store disabled. When you search in the Music app, the search results show three tabs: Apple Music, Your Library, and iTunes Store. If the iTunes Store is disabled, then you only see the first two tabs; if you don’t have an Apple Music subscription, then you only see Your Library.

You can, however, go from Apple Music to the iTunes Store, even if the latter is disabled, by clicking the … button next to any item and choosing Show in iTunes Store. However, searching only Apple Music will not find items that are for sale in the iTunes Store and not available to stream.

Can’t Stream Music to a HomePod Using the iOS Remote App

My home is set up to stream music locally. In my office, I have a Sonos Amp, which uses AirPlay 2. I stream to it either from my iMac (which is in the office) or from my iPhone or iPad, when I’m sitting in my comfy chair reading. In the bedroom, I have a stereo pair of HomePods, and in the kitchen, I have a Sonos One. All of these devices are available when I stream music from my Mac, or from my iPhone or iPad.

Airplay

But if I’m not in my office, I don’t always stream music from my iOS devices. My iCloud Music Library is only a limited subset of my full library, and not all my music is available on Apple Music. So I often want to stream from my iMac to, say, the bedroom. I would like to be able to do this from one of my iOS devices, using the Remote app, but this isn’t possible: the HomePods don’t show up in its AirPlay target list.

Remote

If I start streaming on my iMac, send the music to my HomePods, then go to the bedroom, I can control the playback with the Remote app, but I cannot initiate a stream to the HomePods using Remote. I’m not alone; this has been the case since the release of the HomePod, and plenty of people who own these devices wonder why this is not possible.

There’s no workaround, but this is really annoying. I don’t know why Apple doesn’t allow this; technically, it should be simple. Or are they really trying to push people toward only using Apple Music and Siri on the HomePod?

The Next Track, Episode #152 – Flogging a Dead App: Is it Really the Death of iTunes?

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400px“iTunes is dead!!!” claim a number of websites and publications. Even on the TV news they were saying that “Apple has discontinued iTunes,” that “it’s the end of an era.” Apple made big announcements at the company’s Worldwide Developer Conference in early June. Did they really kill off iTunes? We look at this subject, yet again, for what will be the last episode about the future of iTunes, at least until the next one.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #152 – Flogging a Dead App: Is it Really the Death of iTunes?
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Find out more at The Next Track website, or follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast.

Locations of Media Files in macOS Catalina

With macOS 10.15 Catalina, and the splitting of iTunes into three apps (Music, Podcasts, and Apple TV), media files will be handled a bit differently. Here’s where the various files will be located.

  • Music: By default, these files will be stored in ~/Music . (~ is a shortcut for your home folder, the one with the house icon and your user name.)
  • Apple TV: For TV shows and movies, the default location is ~/Movies . Music Videos, however, will stay in the Music app.
  • Podcasts: Podcasts are stored in a cache folder in ~/Library/Group Containers/243LU875E5.groups.com.apple.podcasts . This is not designed to be user accessible, and the podcast files do not display the original file names. You can, however, drag podcast files from the Podcasts app to the Desktop or to a folder.
  • Books: Since Apple spun off the Books app, ebooks have been stored in a folder in your Library folder: com.apple.BKAgentService. This folder will contain both ebooks and audiobooks. As with podcasts, you’re not intended to visit this folder, and ebook files do not have their original names, though audiobooks do display their names. However, if you select a file and press the space bar to view it in Quick Look, you will see its cover. (This is not currently the case with podcasts; using Quick Look on a podcast file lets you listen to it, but there is no album artwork attached.)

When you upgrade from macOS Mojave, both the Music and Apple TV apps will remember the location of your existing media, if you are using a different folder than the default. And each of these apps has an Advanced preference allowing you to choose a location for its media folder. This means that you can store your music on one volume and your movies and TV shows on another volume, which can be practical for many people with large libraries.

Note that macOS Catalina is just a beta, and this information is subject to change.

iTunes Doesn’t Look so Dead to Me

So many publications have been publishing articles about how “iTunes is dead,” but it doesn’t look very dead to me. Apple announced, at this week’s Worldwide Developer Conference, that iTunes (on the Mac) would be split into three apps: Music, Podcasts, and Apple TV. As such, iTunes itself isn’t really dead, but just split into a few separate parts.

Apple has published a document outlining the changes, and, well, it doesn’t look very dead to me. Certain media kinds have been moved to new or different apps (for example, audiobooks are now in the Books app), and syncing will be handled by the Finder. (The Finder is bloated, right?)

In essence, nothing much has changed. The iTunes name is still used for the iTunes Store, despite some publications claiming that the iTunes name was being retired, or that Apple was ending its music download service.

I don’t know… For years, people have been kvetching about iTunes, and all it took was for Apple to move a couple of media kinds to different apps, and to change the name of the music player, and everyone’s suddenly happy, but also dancing around the grave of an app that hasn’t really changed that much. You can still buy music from the iTunes Store, rip your CDs, sync your devices, make playlists, and so on.

Macos catalina apple music library

I certainly find that the new approach is a lot cleaner, at least for the music player, which is what I use iTunes for the most. But not using it for other media kinds means you can just ignore them. If anything, the fact that they moved navigation options to the sidebar makes sense. I have always found that the top navigation tabs, combined with the Media Picker, we’re confusing. But the Music app retains pretty much everything of iTunes, just for one media kind. So is it still “bloated?”

I wish Apple had used the same interface for the Apple TV app. Those top tabs are distracting, and now create two different interfaces for different media kinds.

And you now need to go to three different apps to buy content from the iTunes Store: Music, Apple TV, and Books. Currently, you can search for content in the iTunes Store and see what shows up for all the media kinds available. So that’s definitely a step backwards.

Macos catalina tv watch now

In case you’re worried, most AppleScripts for iTunes will continue to work in the new Music app, with some changes. (For example, in AppleScripts, you refer to a specific app name, and all scripts that work with iTunes will need to be revised to use the Music app name.)

Here are the main points in Apple’s document:

  • 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.

The Next Track, Episode #149 – In Which We Discuss the Potential Breakup of iTunes Yet Again Because We Really Didn’t Have Anything Else to Talk About This Week

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxWe discuss the potential breakup of iTunes yet again, because there is some new information about what the future of iTunes will be.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #149 – In Which We Discuss the Potential Breakup of iTunes Yet Again Because We Really Didn’t Have Anything Else to Talk About This Week.

Find out more at The Next Track website, or follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast.

The Next Track, Episode #145 – The Future of iTunes Redux

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxIt’s time to have a brief discussion of the future of iTunes again. Some news has been circulating suggesting that Apple will be including separate apps for music, TV, podcasts, and books later this year. We discuss this, and how we predicted this a few months ago.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #145 – The Future of iTunes Redux.

Find out more at The Next Track website, or follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast.

Is Apple Splitting Up iTunes? Here’s How They’ll Do It

Rumors of Apple dismantling iTunes are almost as old as the software itself. I can remember people clamoring for its destruction back when Apple added video management to the app, claiming that since it’s called iTunes, it shouldn’t manage anything but music.

That’s a fair point, to be honest. But according to that logic, the iPhone should change its name, since it does more than make phone calls; the Apple Watch should be rebranded; and the iPad isn’t even a pad, so what’s that about?

The linguistic argument for the break-up of iTunes is by far the weakest, but there have been others over the years, notably that iTunes is “bloated.” When someone claims that, they essentially mean that iTunes has features that they don’t need. They don’t say the same thing for, say, a photo editor, a text editor, or an email client. (Seriously, who ever “redirects” their email?) I’ve addressed this issue many times, but many people continue to claim that because it has a lot of features, iTunes should be broken up like a monopolistic corporation.

A recent report on 9to5Mac suggests that Apple is, indeed, planning to release standalone apps to replicate some of iTunes’ features. Some people have found “evidence” of this, and others have confirmed this with “sources;” plus, Apple has already announced that there will be a TV app for the Mac in the near future. But does this mean that Apple is going to break up iTunes and placate the bloat-truthers? Probably not.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.