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March 16, 2006

Browse by Album Art in iTunes

Categories Apple iTunes 

Album artwork has been largely peripheral to the experience of using iTunes, and it's time for this to change. Simply being able to browse artists and albums by CD covers would begin to restore what has long been a big part of enjoying music and artists, and is still largely lacking in digital music.

Of all the things I miss about listening to my CDs, album art is easily number one. Just a few glances when I open a jewel case, or flipped through my CD binder is all I need to bring back memories about the music and when it was released. And on a lazy Sunday I’ll flip through the liner notes of new CD as I listen to it. iTunes has largely removed this interaction I previously had with the music, and offers little in it’s place. Currently iTunes will display artwork associated with a song in the corner of the player, and some new music on iTunes comes with interactive booklets but that's about it. Also iTunes offers no way to easily fetch and import album art, although there are many plug-ins and tiny apps that do this (although somewhat unreliably).

Just the simple features of importing album art and browsing the iTunes library by album cover would be huge improvements to the experience of using iTunes and listening to music.


Transitioning from the iTunes music store to the iTunes Library is like going from a stunning boutique to the stock room

The experience of browsing the iTunes store is lush, attractive and extremely visual. CD cover art is prominently displayed and featured artists have stunning banners with their names and photos. However, the iTunes library (i.e. your music) is just a list. Why can't the experience of browsing my own music be as rich and visual as the iTunes store? iTunes could pull in artist and album information and trivia about my music and display it as I select a song, and truly enhance the listening experience.

What I find troubling about the absence of artwork in iTunes, marginalizes its importance. I have countless CDs with stunningly designed liner notes that include exceptionally photography, illustrations and typography; a few are even printed on exotic papers. I love to see an artist's sound and image interpreted visually, and that is exactly what liner notes do. Without artwork as it is now in iTunes I always feel I'm missing out. And I'm worried that over time interest (and budgets) for creating CD covers and liner notes will erode because it isn't a central part of listening to music on a computer.


I absolutely agree!

In fact, I was in the process of googling around for some sort of add-on or alternate interface that would provide for this sorely missing functionality when I stumbled on this site.

Your first graphic is marvelous, and I would give anything if iTunes had a browse mode like this.

It would go a long way in recapturing the experience of old... flipping through your record/CD collection trying to figure out what to pop on. 90% of the time when using iTunes I pay no attention to the individual songs at all... I just look at the cover art in deciding what to play next. They really need to design a browse interface for people like you and me. The 3D album flip thing is a classic example of Apple putting bling before functionality.

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