iTunes Features That Have Been Retired

ITunes iconiTunes has been around for just over 14 years, and has seen its share of improvements, enhancements, and added features. But some of the features added to iTunes don’t last. I took a look at iTunes’ history to find those marquee features that were added to the app, but that didn’t last very long. Some lasted for many years, other just a couple, but these features were considered to be big deals when they were introduced. And now they are gone.

iMix: Added to iTunes in version 4.5 (April, 2004), iMixes were playlists that users could publish on blogs or websites. They were limited, however, to music available on the iTunes Store, which made them useless, given the amount of music available on the iTunes Store at the time. There was also a 100-track limit. iMixes were phased out in iTunes 11.

Party Shuffle: Also added to iTunes with version 4.5, the feature allowed users to have a permanent queue of songs, and add music to it whenever they wanted. Party Shuffle could pick all songs at random, or users could add songs to it as they wished. Other users could also add music to the Party Shuffle using Apple’s Remote app on iOS devices.This was supplanted when Apple brought out Up Next, in iTunes 11, which not only does not offer the same flexibility as Party Shuffle, but can also be a bit confusing to use. Apple later changed the name of this feature to iTunes DJ. I, and many other iTunes users, miss the Party Shuffle / iTunes DJ feature.

Smart Shuffle: I don’t know if you remember this, but there was a lot of speculation back in the day about iTunes’ and the iPod’s shuffle feature not being completely random. In iTunes 5, released in September, 2005, Apple added Smart Shuffle, which let you adjust the randomness of shuffled playback. A slider let you choose whether you wanted iTunes to be “more likely” or “less likely” to play songs by the same artist or from the same album sequentially. This was removed in iTunes 8, in September, 2008.

The iTunes MiniStore: iTunes 6.0.2, released in January, 2006, added the iTunes MiniStore, which was a pane in the iTunes app that give you permanent access to the iTunes Store. There was a bit of a kerfuffle, when it was discovered that the MiniStore sent user information to Apple, such as your Apple ID, non-encrypted, as well as to a tracking company. I couldn’t find exactly when this was retired, but I think it was gone when iTunes 7 come out later in the year.

Cover Flow view: Added to iTunes 7 in September, 2006, Cover Flow, which is still available in the Finder, is a way of viewing your content in a combination list and carrousel. You scroll horizontally and see album covers, then you choose something from the list below the cover display. It’s not a great way to browse an iTunes library if you have a lot of content; I don’t find it very useful in the Finder, but it’s still there. It was removed in iTunes 11.

Genius Sidebar: Apple’s Genius features were added in iTunes 8, in September, 2008, but one part of the Genius feature – the Genius Sidebar – didn’t last long. This bar displayed at the right of the iTunes window, and its goal was essentially to get you to buy music from the iTunes Store. It was intrusive, and pretty useless. It morphed into…

Ping: Ah, Ping, we hardly remember you. This “social network for music” was one of Apple’s biggest failures with iTunes. It was added in September, 2010, to iTunes 10, and was pretty much universally derided. The Ping sidebar replaced the Genius sidebar, which had been added to iTunes two years earlier. I wrote about why it failed, in June, 2012, shortly before it was killed off, which occurred in September of that year. As I said then, the reason it failed was because “Ping was designed to be nothing more than a marketing tool, and it was wrapped within a proprietary application: iTunes on the Mac and iOS.”

Multiple Windows: For as long as I can remember, iTunes allowed you to open multiple windows. You could have one with your music library, another with a playlist, and another with the iTunes Store. This feature was very practical. It made it easy to create a complex playlist, dragging tracks from one window to another, and it allowed you to switch to the iTunes Store without losing your place in your library. When iTunes 11 was released, in late 2012, this ability to open more than one window disappeared.

The Sidebar: One of the biggest missing features is the sidebar, that used to display at the left of the iTunes window, and that gave you quick access to all your media libraries (Music, Movies, Podcasts, etc.) and all your playlists. This was removed in iTunes 12. You can bring it back, but it’s not quite the same.

What’s next? The core iTunes features will be around for a long time. However, iTunes Match is problematic for many users, and I wonder if it will last very long. iTunes Radio, which is only available in a couple of countries, will probably not get extended worldwide, as Apple is most likely planning to morph the Beats Music streaming service into iTunes, though probably not branded as such. Aside from those two features, I can’t imagine any other features of iTunes that would be scrapped.

Can you, dear reader, think of any features that I’ve missed? Feel free to post comments if you can.

47 thoughts on “iTunes Features That Have Been Retired

  1. Not exactly part of iTiunes but part of the iTunes store are alerts when an artist has new music. I really liked this feature, but I believe sadly it is no more.

    • I miss iTunes DJ too. It’s unhealthy, I suppose, for your life to revolve around a software feature but mine does. It’s become increasingly difficult to sustain as software updates march ever onward. Sure wish I knew of a replacement.

  2. Multiple windows are not available in iTunes 11, either. I don’t recall about iTunes 10…

    It is a thoroughly irritating loss that greatly handicaps my ability to manage media.

    iTunes has become a loathsome experience.

  3. Top 25 Most Played no longer updates for new music. Not that it was essential but a nice way to quickly access your current favorite tunes. 12 is a terrible version of iTunes- nothing just works! You have to figure out where they have hidden the features.

    • It should; it’s just a smart playlist. Right-click the playlist, choose Edit Smart Playlist, and make sure that Live Updating is checked.

    • I’m only looking at the iTunes app, rather than the store. But, yes, that’s a recent disappearance.

  4. The list of streaming radio stations (“Internet Radio”, not iTunes Radio) will probably be axed at some point. It’s been around pretty much as long as iTunes, but the feature is buried in the latest iTunes and has to be enabled in an options menu. I don’t think many people use it.

      • I was extremely irritated that after being forced to turn it up to 11, so many functions like the Internet radio were hidden or removed. I try to hang on to earlier versions as long as possible for the very reason that functions one comes to rely on are removed, retarded or inconveniently hidden.

  5. I am still using a version 10 iTunes because I cannot bear to lose Cover Flow and the ability to shuffle and see what the shuffled playlist contains in which order. Cover Flow is awesome and Steve Jobs loved to show it off. I will never understand why iTunes was changed to be much less user friendly and unique.

    • Do you mean streaming from the cloud? I haven’t heard anyone else say that. Do you have the equalizer or sound check turned on?

  6. I may just be getting old (I was in my 30’s when iTunes debuted), but I find iTunes (and much of Apple’s software) increasingly unintuitive. A feature of iTunes that I really liked was being able to uncheck a songs you didn’t like on an album so they wouldn’t play. Simple. Easy. But apparently, not hip enough to retain. For me, simplicity is no longer at the core of Apple’s brand.

  7. How about the move of iBooks to a separate Mac app, in which you can no longer edit the tag data? I like separate apps for each type of content on iOS devices, where I mostly consume content. But on the Mac, where I more likely will add / edit content and tag data, I like all the content in a single database – iTunes!

  8. Tooltips, unless they’ve come back in iTunes 12 – I have no idea what a button will do, and the consequences of that action, until I press it.

  9. When editing track info with the newest iTunes, I discovered that they’ve removed keyboard shortcuts for navigating, other than Tab. This is a pain now when fixing multiple tracks one-by-one, involving multiple clicks rather than doing it all with the keyboard (next/prev track).

  10. Smart playlist boolean operators. I miss those. The only way to do that now is make multiple playlists and merge them.

    • Have you tried the “All/Any of the following are true” predicate group which you can get when you use alt to change the (+) button into (…)?

      Because by default, a smart playlist will AND the predicates but with this option, it can OR the predicates embedded in the “Any of the following are true” predicate group.

  11. iTunes is probably the most hated Apple software of all time. Yet, people always find something to dislike but are not able to provide a proper replacement solution… this is a very complex software and rethinking iTunes is not a simple task…

    • Disliking software does not mean you must provide a proper replacement solution. I know if someone’s a bad golfer without having to be a better golfer myself.

      However, here is the proper replacement solution: a) Separate general iOS management from media management. Leave iTunes to be the latter, and integrate iOS management into a separate app or deeper OS layer. b) Address the (increasingly confusing) relationship between your personal media library and the store. There is a notable lack of clarity in several places in the app as to what’s in your library on your local machine, what you’ve purchased but not downloaded from the store, and what additional content is in the store for purchase. c) Provide UX consistency for common actions. There are far too many inconsistencies in searching, managing different views of your media (notably music), and adding metadata to media–inconsistencies both within the app, and inconsistencies in the app in comparison to de facto standards in other apps.

  12. iTunes used to have an item in the sidebar called “Library” that included everything in your entire iTunes library. It was a quick and easy way to see all of your contents in one list. I have worked around it’s removal with a smart playlist, but the original way was much nicer.

    • If you click on the Playlists tab in iTunes 12, you will see a Library section in the top of the sidebar on the left. On mine, this includes Music and Music Videos.

      • You can click Playlists in the header bar from any media library, but it only displays that library (as well as all your playlists).

  13. Wide area Home sharing – I don’t remember the name… I used to be able to play music from my itunes library at home from any computer on the internet using the same Apple ID.

    • Yes, but that actually didn’t last very long. There are some third-party apps that can do this, but Apple would suggest that iTunes Match replicates that pretty well.

  14. I *really* don’t think iTunes Match will be going anywhere – it’s a pretty major feature now.

    It works fantastically well for me and has never given me any problems – I’d be terribly upset if it went away.

  15. Early versions of iTunes had a plugin feature where you could sync with other MP3 players, like Rio’s. This was before the iPod, but also for a time after it. Not sure when they pulled support for any other MP3 player.

  16. The Ringtone editor was excellent. The way it worked was, you paid for a song to be used to make one ringtone. You edited a 30 second section, listened to repeat looping, added fade in/out, and if you wanted another part of the same song, you paid again.

    Instead of killing it, I wish they had kept it and opened it up to any song in your library. Apple’s answer instead was, go use Garageband. Dang.

  17. …knowing how anything worked in iTunes. Seriously, the mental model has changed so often and so arbitrarily that I haven’t had the time to figure out (or read about) how its design is supposed to provide easy access to desired content, rather than encourage random playback.
    It’s a debacle.

  18. I miss the ‘Burn’ button for writing a CD. It was black and yellow and rotated when the disk was being written. Now the burn feature is in a dropdown menu.

  19. Kirk I wanted to ask you: in iTunes 10 preferences > playback you could choose the default Audio and Subtitle Language. I’ve recently upgraded to Yosemite and iTunes 12 and I can’t find those settings anymore. Are they gone or hidden? Thanks!

    • It’s not there any more. I hadn’t noticed; I don’t have much that’s subtitled. You can easily change the subtitles and audio when playing a movie though: I wrote about that recently for Macworld.

      • I understand. The problem is with my folks: I rip a lot of DVD foreign movies for them. They don’t have an Apple TV so they could use the remote. I’ve trained them to use Apple’s Remote app for iPhone, which apparently does not have a track and or subtitle button. Perhaps I could configure some iTunes’ plist files? Would it even be possible?

          • I thought about it, but I can’t deface the video like that. I’ve sent a request to add that feature back to Apple. Who knows… Thank you anyway!

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