iTunes 4, by Apple Computers
Posted: 30-Dec-2003

5 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Apple Type: FREEWARE

Reviewer: Bob Kenyon Class: MULTIMEDIA
     
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One of Steve Jobs's main ideas in resurrecting Apple and the Macintosh was the desgination of the Macintosh as the center of the Digital Hub. The Mac would serve to pull together all the other creative digital devices like the digital video camera and digital still camera, the Personal Digital Assistant and the cell phone, and last but not least, the digital music collection which is now represented in hardware by the iPod. However, even before the iPod came out, the music collection was anchored by iTunes.

Now after a few iterations, we have iTunes 4. In it's newest incarnation, iTunes is quite the Swiss Army knife of a program. It rips, catalogs, burns and shops. When the program is first started, it presents you with a metalized window much like the new Panther Finder windows. On the left side of the window are various entry points into data, including Library, where your music is stored, Radio, where you can access streaming music sources provided by Apple, plus any that you add on your own, iPod, if it's plugged in, Music Store, and various playlists that are both supplied by Apple and created by you. Some of the playlists are "smart", in that they work like filters for various things you can configure.

So how do we get the tunes into iTunes? Basically, iTunes will import all of your CD's, ripping each one at a default of 128kbps in the AAC format. You can select any number of ripping rates from 16 all the way up to 320kbps. You can also select from AAC, AIFF, MP3 and WAV formats. To import your CD's, you just insert the CD into the Mac and select the import command, or just set iTunes to import automatically when the CD is inserted. Note, if you want to play your songs in Mac OS 9, you will need to rip using a format other than AAC (such as MP3), because iTunes 3 does not recognize the AAC format (and iTunes 4 does not run on OS 9).

After your CD is ripped, iTunes can then go on the internet and download all the info about the CD from CDDB, the internet CD DataBase. The CDDB is made up of user submitted artist, album, and song names, which means most of the time they are correct, but there are still a surprising number of misspellings and inaccuracies. Fortunately, if you see a problem, there is a command for submitting corrections.

Now that you have some music imported into iTunes, what can you do with it? Well, the main window shows you all the tunes that have been imported when you have Library selected. You can sort them by artist, album, genre, and time. There are other categories that can be selected as well. You can create playlists either by just selecting a new playlist and dragging tunes to it, or make a smart playlist by filling out the dialog box that allows you to select songs based on frequency of play, rating, name genre and numerous other parameters.

In addition to ripping your own CD's, you can select streaming MP3's from Apple's supplied Radio collection, or any others you may find on the Internet.

Probably the biggest feature is actually buying your own music from the Apple Music Store. At 99 cents a tune, or 9.99 for an album, you can't beat it. It's as easy to find tunes in the music store as it is to find anything on Amazon (if not easier). If you want to play those songs on OS 9, it's a little bit tricky, as iTunes does not provide a direct AAC to MP3 conversion. However, you can burn a CD with the AAC music, and then rip the songs into MP3 format (which then can be accessed from within OS 9).

Finally, now that you have all your playlists set up, you can listen to them on your computer, or burn a CD and put it in your CD player. You can also copy songs to your iPod, all simply by connecting the iPod to your computer and dragging the tunes to the iPod icon. In addition, there is an equalizer with presets you can use to change the music to match your tastes. Also included is a visualizer which produces beautiful graphics that dance with your music.

Summary
From ripping CDs, managing your music library, providing playback with playlists or shuffle, burning CDs, displaying visual effects synced with your music, or buying music over the internet, iTunes 4 is the complete solution for your digital audio lifestyle. What's more, iTunes is a free software title that comes with Mac OS X. It's an amazing product that will be the envy of all your PC friends.


Pros

  • With regards to audio, it does it all
  • Perfectly integrated with Mac OS X


Cons

  • Doesn't run on OS 9
  • Tricky to convert AAC to MP3 format


Overall Rating

5 out of 5 Mice