While it’s still cool to poke at Apple a little bit, let me address two issues that I believe have been serious oversights on the part of Apple’s iTunes. Oh, I know there are a lot of complaints (gapless playback, anyone?) but these two items are at the core of music navigation, and it seems that after 5 versions of iTunes these issues could have been resolved.
Artist Order: What, You’re Too Good for Surnames?
I am notoriously anal in the organization of my physical CDs. I organized my collection the way a music store does it: by the artist’s last name or the first letter of the band’s name after “The.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to look for, oh, Ryan Adams on my iPod or in iTunes only to realize after a few seconds that I’m looking in the “A’s” when iTunes is placing him in the “R’s.” Sure, it makes sense to some people, but not to me. Surnames have long been the de facto method of organization for books and music. Could you imagine walking into a music store and not finding Britney Spears in the “S” section? Sweet baby Moses, chaos would surely ensue. So why does my music management software insist on going against the grain?
Album Order: Stuck on Alphabetical.
After artist’s last name or dismissal of prefixed “The’s”, my next tier of organization is—you guessed it—not alphabetical. Granted, this level of organization varies among music stores and personal preference, so I can understand why alphabetical organization is the default. Some stores alphabetize albums by name and some organize albums by order of release. I prefer the latter. Sadly, there is no way to sort albums by order of release. In iTunes, I can sort all of an artist’s songs by year, but the Album pane still remains in alphabetical order. If you’ve only got a couple of albums by one artist, it’s not such a big deal, but if I’ve got 14 albums by Juliana Hatfield it becomes much more appealing to have the option of viewing the albums in the order they were recorded. After all, it’s the order I purchased them in.
Too Simple to Fix?
I know people have been flapping their gums about this stuff. I’ve read the Apple support threads. It really doesn’t seem like this stuff would be that difficult to fix, especially the album sorting. A simple “Sort by date”/”Sort alphabetically” selection would do the trick. As for alphabetizing artists by surname, I can see where that could be a little dicey. Still, there could at least be some sort of override option in the Artist Information where you could specify a value by which to sort the artist (e.g., tell iTunes to use “Juarez” as the sorting value in case it mistakenly uses “Blankenship” from the artist name “Paddy Juarez-Blankenship”).
This is not about nitpicking. It’s about user experience and conforming to user expectations. It could very well be the case that only a very small group of people have voiced these concerns and that Apple is embracing a 37signals-ish feature management system.
At the end of the day, these shortcomings are only occasional thorns in my side. It probably doesn’t matter to the majority of iTunes users. Or does it?