How I Would fix iTunes, Part 3: Multiple Windows

(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.)

Until iTunes 11 was released in 2012, the app let you open multiple windows. You could have, say, one window showing your Music library, and another displaying the iTunes Store. Or you could open two windows when you were creating playlists: one you’d use to browse your music, and another with your new playlist, allowing you to drag and drop items from one to the other, and re-order them easily.

While most iTunes users didn’t use multiple windows – and probably didn’t know they existed – many of us miss this feature. It is most obvious when I visit the iTunes Store. If I’m in my Music library, I need to click the iTunes Store button, then click the type of content I want to browse. If I’m in the iTunes Store and want to get back to my library, it’s often two clicks to do this.

I know why Apple did this, at least in iTunes 12: every time you leave the iTunes Store, clicking a media kind (in the navigation bar at the top left) takes you to another section of the iTunes Store. So, before you leave the store, you may see more things to buy.

Unfortunately, this just makes using the iTunes Store more annoying. I used to always have a window open for the iTunes Store. I could check music, movies, or apps, and not lose my place in my Music library. I could quickly get back to exactly where I was in one of me media libraries, instead of having to click several times to get back to the same library, and the same content I was looking at before.

It’s not complicated to bring back multiple windows in iTunes; they could even do it with tabs, as in Safari and other web browsers. It’s one of the main features I’d like to see fixed.

10 thoughts on “How I Would fix iTunes, Part 3: Multiple Windows

  1. Kirk, why hasn’t someone created an better alternative to iTunes for music management? Or perhaps such a thing does exist and I haven’t stumbled onto it? Something like MediaMonkey, but for OSX? And not a hardware/software solution like 3beez — way too expensive for me!
    I have a 2014 MacBookPro, but I still maintain an older Mac just to be able to continue using iTunes 10.7. I tend to not be a “first adopter” of the latest and greatest upgrades of anything. I like to wait a bit and see what the reports are like. I’m so glad I kept my iTunes 10.7, but I wish there was an good alternative.

    • I don’t think an app that only manages music – i.e., that doesn’t sync to iOS devices – has a chance. And Apple won’t let other apps sync to iOS devices.

      • Are you sure? I thought sync was handled by another process altogether and any app should be able to read and update the iTunes database. That is what controls what gets synced. I’d say there is an option for a third party to create an alternative interface.

        • No, no apps can update iTunes’ database. Any app can read the iTunes Library.xml file, on a computer, getting access to the media files that are in an iTunes library, but no apps can sync to iOS devices; Apple does not allow that. There are ways to get files onto an iOS device, other than an actual sync: you can use iTunes File Sharing, with certain apps, and Waltr has figured out how to get files onto a device, but it’s not a true sync.

  2. Yes. Yes. Absolutely agree. I miss multiple windows. They were so useful. Using iTunes has become so frustrating now. You can’t leave a location and return to it quickly anymore. It’s quite simply maddening as you click, click, click, click. Before version 11 you could compare songs you own in a playlist with an iTunes Store list by an artist to see what songs you were missing. Not anymore. Extra windows were invoked with a triple click so it was hardly a feature that a novice might be confused by. They were unlikely to know it existed.

    When you listen to Tim Cook recently being interviewed by the U.K.’s Telegraph you’d be forgiven for thinking that they truly are customer focussed. But the changes after version 10 (like removing the sidebar) are all about keeping people in the store rather than enabling them to enjoy the music they already own. Apple’s new goal is to move us all towards subscribing to a music service. The latest versions are intended to incrementally train / habituate us to this new paradigm.

    I have nearly 130GB of music and I have no desire to subscribe to music that I’ve already paid for. And why would I want to pay every month for music that I can’t access unless I have a net connection? There are plenty of situations where I may not have reliable internet. Part of my music experience is creating unique playlists, rating music, noting how many times I’ve listened to a song and so forth. Why should I have to give up the hard work I’ve put in to create those playlists to spend time that I don’t have each month finding and creating new but temporary playlists? Perhaps Apple’s final goal is that we store our playlists in their subscription cloud and pay them a modest monthly amount to access them? Perhaps then, they’ll kindly offer us multiple windows. Well, if this right then I reject their vision. It’s utterly cynical.

    For nearly 30 years I’ve used Apple computers. I’ve never owned any other kind. During that time I’ve defended Apple against the charge that their user experience is too narrow. Where people have complained that Apple forces users into a narrow path, I’ve defended them on the basis that they’ve carefully thought through that path and they’ve made it easier for the customer to find the best path. But how do you defend the more recent changes to iTunes? Can anyone remember Steve Jobs parodying user interfaces that bombarded you with ads? Yet the new iTunes is all about the store.

    Listening to music is an important part of my life. Surely there are others like me who are similarly frustrated? I’ve gone looking for an iTunes replacement a few times but so far haven’t found anything. If anyone knows of a competent replacement then please mention it and post a link. Or perhaps it’s time for a new Kickstarter project??

    • I completely agree with Kirk about multiple windows and also what Malby is saying here. I’ve been a very long time Mac user but am dismayed by the direction being taken for so many of their products these days which are clearly all about trying to force us to buy more stuff from them. They should be making us WANT to buy more products simply because they’re GREAT, not because we’re being railroaded into it.

  3. I have checked out most alternatives to itunes and none of the seem to open multiple windows. I need this feature but I just can’t get it. I might have to dig out my PC laptop and use Media Monkey so that I can still DJ effectively. If anyone knows of a program for Mac…I am dying to know it.

  4. My fix is to have Amazon music open in my web browser and my iTunes library in another window so I can see both at the same time when buying new music. Of course this means that Apple is loosing my money to Amazon, but Amazon mp3s offer more flexible and no multiple-copy restraints.

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