Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iTunes 7.1

Wondering what’s new and interesting in today’s release of iTunes 7.1? Here’s the breakdown.

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(1) Full-Screen Cover Flow: Our pictures below show the evolution of Cover Flow from iTunes 7.0 to iTunes 7.1. Previously, Cover Flow appeared only in a pane within the iTunes window, as shown in the first picture below. Now a full-screen mode has been added, accessible during both audio and video browsing, with track and volume controls built in so that your computer’s entire screen can be used to page through songs. It’s not quite as evolved as the Album browser on the upcoming iPhone – perhaps that’s coming next?

 

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(2) Support for Apple TV: iTunes 7.1 is the first version of the software to include support for the upcoming Apple TV, a wireless device that performs iTunes-synced audio, video, and photos through a widescreen TV. Until Apple TV ships, the specifics of the iTunes/Apple TV connectivity won’t be totally clear, but a new Apple TV Preferences tab lets iTunes look for Apple TVs and either accept or deny their access to the computer’s iTunes library. Interestingly, iTunes 7.1 adds an Apple TV Help option to the Help menu, complete with the screen below, but none of the manuals are yet linked to the Help screen. Expect them around the time of Apple TV’s release later this month.

 

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(3) Other Updated Preferences Tabs: The old 7.0 and 7.1 Preferences windows are shown next to each other below. Most of the updates to Preferences are small – we’ll note them here.

 

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In addition to AppleTV’s addition as a new tab, General has seen a small shift: the Play Videos option has been moved to Playback, and the Shared Name for your iTunes library has for some reason been moved to General.

 

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A new “Ratings for” option has been added to Parental Controls, and this one could be a biggie. Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom all have ratings tags for content – could this be a sign that iTunes Store videos are imminent in these five territories? Notably the United Kingdom has no option for TV ratings; our editor in the United Kingdom notes that TV shows aren’t rated there, but movies are.

 

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(4) New Categorization Options: Apple has added a variety of new ways to categorize your content, accessible from the View Options menus for various types of video and audio content.

 

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The old View Music is above, the new one is below. New are the “Sort Album,” “Sport Album Artist,” “Sort Artist,” “Sort Composer,” “Sort Name,” and “Sort Show” options. The same options have been added to View TV Shows.

 

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iTunes 7.1 now defaults with a revised “Album” category – “Album by Artist.”

 

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You can now access a Sorting pane from within iTunes’ Get Info that allows you to add alternate text for the aforementioned categories so that they can be sorted differently than iTunes would normally sort them. If you want The Beatles to be sorted by T rather than B, here’s the place to do it. Then you add Sort Artist to the iTunes library pane and sort by Sort Artist rather than Artist. If this all strikes you as a little too complex for iTunes – wouldn’t a list of rules with checkboxes have been easier? – join the club.

 

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(5) Indications of Unwatched Video Content: If you haven’t watched a video yet – something you might care about if you’re planning to synchronize unwatched videos to your Apple TV – the video is marked with a small blue dot off to its left hand side. You can mark videos as “new” or “not new” by right-clicking on them.

 

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(6) Secrets? Text strings within iTunes 7.1 suggest several previously unknown details about Apple TV. First, there is apparently a limit of five Apple TVs synchronized to one computer with iTunes. Additionally, there’s an unusual iTunes message warning that “All existing games on the Apple TV (name) will be replaced with games from this iTunes library.” Before you get too excited about that discovery, we also noticed similar references to Nike + iPod and Voice Memos on Apple TV as well – strings of text that may never be used by the program, and simply be duplicates of synchronization messages that pop up when an iPod or iPod nano is connected. As always, we’ll have to wait and see what Apple actually does in the future.

 

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(7) Colored iPod shuffle Icons: iTunes now correctly identifies the color of an aluminum second-generation iPod shuffle under the Library and Settings menus.

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