Overview: iTunes 8 with Genius Playlists

In his last column, Damon Brown took a close look at the new iPods Apple rolled out at its "Let's Rock!" event earlier this month. This time around, he focuses on software: specifically, iTunes 8 with its new Grid View and much-hyped Genius playlist feature.

iTunes 8, which you would have been automatically prompted to download by now, has a few subtle differences overall. For instance, the Mini Player option has been switched to the View menu and the Shuffle has been moved to the Controls menu, neatly divided into "Turn Off Shuffle," "By Songs," "By Albums," and "By Groupings."

That said, the biggest hype has been around two additions: Album Grid and Genius. Let's look at the (slightly less cooler) Album Grid first.

Start up iTunes 8 and it will automatically recheck your songs for downloadable album covers. It will then default into Album Grid. All your songs are listed, via the album cover, in a vertical column. At the top the category listing can be reorganized by Album, Artists, Genre and Composer.


You'll see a control bar next to the categories. Move the control bar to adjust the size of the album and, therefore, the amount of album covers shown per row. The search function - located in the upper right hand corner - works exactly the same. Also, as usual, you can use the icons next to the search bar to list or Cover Flow your collection.

Finally, the much-hyped Genius creates on-the-spot playlists based on what you're in the mood to listen to. The Genius Sidebar is available immediately in iTunes 8 - a sidebar will pop up asking you to turn it on. First, it will ask you to log into your Apple Store account so Genius can recommend available songs to you (if you don't have an account, it will ask you to create one).


It will then begin "Gathering information about your library…" (see above) and then sends that info up to Apple (see below)—a process that varies based on size. My personal collection, which is about 17 days of music, technically would take 30 minutes. (See Columnist's Note below.)

After the process is done, click on one of your favorite songs in your library. Notice iTunes will suggest several songs and albums in the same vein. Now click on the Genius icon in the lower right-hand corner (it looks like the nuclear symbol). An original Genius playlist will be created based on your song.

For instance, selecting Nas' "Halftime," a song from the seminal 1994 album Illmatic, will create a playlist with early '90s hip-hop, songs with the same producer and other songs by the artist.


The Genius playlist is modifiable. In the upper right-hand corner you can adjust the number of songs, refresh it with new material and save the playlist - as with the On-The-Go playlists, Genius playlists are not saved.


Columnist's Note: There's an iTunes bug that crashes Genius users with large libraries: <http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?messageID=8129825>. It eventually does work, but people with an unusually large music collections - say, more than 2 days - may have to restart the Genius instillation. Fortunately, it keeps track of your progress. Apple has not addressed this issue publicly.


iPhone, Apple, applications, ipod touch, music