iTunes 7.1: Full-Screen Cover Flow and a Bit More

Posted Thursday, March 08, 2007

iTunes 7.1 is here (download).

The new version brings an enhancement I wished for some time ago: the ability to display a full-screen view of Cover Flow mode. Yay.

My colleague Chris Breen has details on navigating the full-screen Cover Flow view.

Elsewhere, iLounge has a nice visual summary of other, mostly minor, changes in iTunes 7.1. And MacFixit is reporting on problems some users are experiencing with full-screen Cover Flow view on some Mac models.

Happy downloading!

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iTunes 7 and Cover Art: Tips and Speculation

Posted Monday, November 06, 2006

I love iTunes 7's Cover Flow view, which lets you "paw through" your music collection in much the same way you could paw through the albums in a record store. (Kids: If you don't know what the last part of the previous sentence means, ask your parents.) Indeed, I like the Cover Flow view so much that I wish Apple would add an option for viewing it in full-screen mode.

I also like that iTunes 7 can retrieve artwork for songs that are already in your library: just choose Advanced > Get Album Artwork. But there's a big catch: iTunes retrieves artwork for only those songs that Apple sells in the iTunes Store. If your music library is like mine, you're likely to have a lot of generic album covers in your Cover Flow display. There's still a place for third-party artwork utilities or good, old-fashioned Google image searching.

(Tip: You can enlarge the Cover Flow display by dragging the resize area just below the Cover Flow scroll bar. To page through covers, press the arrow keys on your keyboard.)

Beginning with iTunes 7, though, the way cover artwork is stored can differ depending on how and where you got the artwork. The key difference occurs when you retrieve artwork for songs already in your library. Rather than storing the artwork in the music files themselves—which is how iTunes and other music jukebox software have always worked—iTunes 7 stores the art in a separate database.

One complication of this surfaces if you move a song file from one computer to another. When the artwork is embedded in the file—as it still is with purchased music in iTunes 7—the artwork travels along with the file. But with songs whose art you've retrieved using the Get Album Artwork command, the art and the music are two separate beasts: move the song, lose the art.

There's more to this than I've described here, and there are workarounds. The intrepid iTunes investigators over at iLounge have put together an excellent guide.

But this change begs the question: Why? Why divorce art and music? Why diverge from standards that have served the digital music scene well for many years now?

My guess: copyright.

Album artwork is protected by copyright, and Apple's legal brigade may have felt that it isn't appropriate for iTunes to be embedding copyrighted artwork in files that may have originated from, shall we say, other sources.

Anyone have any other ideas? Can there be a good technical reason why retrieved artwork isn't embedded in the music files, where it belongs? Better performance might be a reasonable excuse, but CoverFlow seems to work just fine with artwork that's embedded in the file, too.

I am, as Ross Perot once said, all ears.

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