iTunes Update Adds Ping Sidebar and Evil Ping Buttons

Apple has released a minor update to iTunes, version 10.0.1, which corrects a number of bugs in iTunes 10, but also adds something new: the Ping sidebar.

First, here’s what’s new in this version of iTunes:

iTunes 10.0.1 makes it easier to share your favorite music with your friends on Ping. You can now Like or Post about music right from your iTunes library. You can also easily see the recent activity of a selected artist in your library, or of all artists and friends you follow on Ping using the new Ping Sidebar.

This release also provides a number of important bug fixes, including:

• Addresses an issue where the picture quality of a video changes depending on whether the on-screen controls are visible.
• Resolves an issue where iTunes may unexpectedly quit while interacting with album artwork viewed in a separate window.
• Fixes a problem that affects the performance of some third-party visualizers.
• Addresses an issue where the iTunes library and playlists appear empty.
• Resolves an issue that created an incompatibility with some third-party shared libraries.

So what about this Ping sidebar? How does it work?

Well, if you remember the Genius sidebar, that you could display by clicking a button at the bottom-right of the iTunes window, or by choosing View > Show Genius Sidebar (or Command-Shift-G), the Ping sidebar has taken its place.

The Ping sidebar shows you activity by friends and artists you follow. You can click a link to go to the full Ping page, but the sidebar – if you choose to use up your screen real estate by displaying it – can make it easier to see what your friends and favorite artists are up to.

The Ping sidebar is a combination of the Genius sidebar and the new Ping features. If you don’t select anything in your library, it only shows Ping activity. If you select something, however, it will show you Ping-related activity relevant to that selection. This could be, for example, links to an artist’s page, if any exists, to posts they’ve made, but also to content available from that artist. In some cases, the album or song you have selected will display at the top of the sidebar so you can like it or post about it.

In addition to the sidebar, there are now Ping buttons in iTunes lists as well. Click a track to select it and you’ll see a new button in the Name column.

Click that button to access Ping functions:

A similar button displays for the currently playing item, whether or not it’s selected.

So Apple has clearly addressed some of the complaints that were made initially about Ping, especially that of not being able to like or post about items without searching for them in the iTunes Store.

If you don’t want to use Ping at all? You still can’t hide it from the iTunes sidebar under the STORE section. Want to get rid of the Ping buttons in your library? Run this command in Terminal:

defaults write hide-ping-dropdown -bool YES

Even if you hide these buttons, you can still access the Ping functions – Like, Post and Show Artist Profile – by right-clicking on a track.

Doug needs to make a script to get rid of these buttons right away.

I have a feeling that Apple is going to get a lot of grief for these evil buttons.

Update: Doug Adams has posted his Toggle Ping Buttons AppleScript that will do the above change for those who don’t want to use Terminal.

Learn more about iTunes 10 in my ebook Take Control of iTunes 10: The FAQ.