Apple's iTunes is the 800-pound gorilla in the music and video jukebox world. The industry standard for more than five years, it has remained the trend-setter because of its connection to Apple's iPods and iPhone. This latest version sports one major new feature and several smaller ones.
In addition to the left sidebar, which was cleaned up in version 7, there's now an optional sidebar on the right. Called the Genius Bar, if you have an iTunes Store account it will offer up song and album recommendations for purchase. The Genius Bar, however, is only a derivative of the Genius Playlist, and that's the real biggie of version 8. To activate the playlist, hit the atomic symbol on the bottom right of the iTunes window while you're playing a song. The Genius algorithm will then create a playlist from the music already existing in your collection, made up of songs that it thinks have some connection to the first track. Since it's not limited solely by genre or other criteria, it can come up with some interesting choices.
Just as version 7 introduced the Cover Flow view, this update sees the introduction of a new art-based Grid view that can be used to look at your collection sorted by artist or album. Mouse over the art to reveal a play-it-now link. Other new features include a new visualization scheme called Magnetosphere, based on the iTunes plug-in of the same name, support for HD video, and the return of NBC to the iTunes Store.
For those unfamiliar with iTunes' base features, it makes video and music playback virtually identical. The iTunes Store replicates this experience, although be warned: it costs more to buy tracks that are DRM-free. Synchronization with iPods can be set to automatic or manual, and right-clicking a video clip lets you render it iPod-compatible. There are also smart playlists, CD burning, label printing, the ability to rip files in multiple formats except WMA, and network sharing. Rounding out the feature set are parental controls, integrated podcasts, and a smart-shuffle option. iTunes is sometimes clunky on Windows, and can cause significant processor slowdowns. Still, it remains a top-notch player and iTunes 8 should find a home on any media junkie's computer.
iTunes, the award-winning digital-jukebox software, is now available for Mac and Windows. The iTunes Music Store offers Windows users the same online music store as Mac users, with the same music catalog, the same personal-use rights, and the same 99-cents-per-song pricing. With music from all five major music companies and more than 600 independent labels, the iTunes Music Store catalog now offers more than 1,000,000 songs. Features include a free download with no hidden charges for extra features, MP3 and pristine-quality AAC-encoding from audio CDs, smart playlists, more than 250 free Internet-radio stations, and the ability to burn custom playlists to CDs and MP3 CDs, to burn content to DVDs to back up an entire music collection, and to share music via Rendezvous over any network, cross-platform.
Version 8 adds genius playlists, a tile view, and HD TV-show support. Version 188.8.131.52 fixes a bug that caused blue-screen crashes on Windows Vista.
Please note that downloading this program takes you to a third-party Web site.
What's new in this version:
Version 184.108.40.206 fixes a bug that caused blue-screen crashes on Windows Vista.