iTunes 9 gets some worthy additions

Apple gives iTunes a spit and polish with iTunes 9

Hardware wasn’t the only thing getting attention at Apple’s Rock and Roll event. Apple has also shown its all-conquering iTunes software some love with a slight makeover and a few new features. The iTunes 9 interface now includes a persistent navigation menu for improved store navigation, a full window iTunes store for people who think the sidebar takes up too much room, and the ability to access previews from anywhere in the store instead of having to drill down through many pages.

The rise of digital music has threatened to produce a generation that hasn’t known the joys of album art, liner notes and band photos that were often included with the purchase of an LP. Apple is looking to bring back that experience in iTunes 9 with the unveiling of the iTunes LP feature, which lets artists share art, lyrics, liner notes, photos and videos to give music-lovers the ‘feeling of being immersed in an entire album’. The iTunes LP content will launch on a number of new albums such as Pearl Jam’s upcoming Backspacer, as well as reissues of classic albums including Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, American Beauty by the Grateful Dead, and The Doors: 40th Anniversary Mixes.

A similar feature called iTunes Extras will also offer a DVD-style interface with extra features such as documentaries, deleted scenes, interviews and interactive galleries for select movies. iTunes Extras launches with supplementary content for movies including Twilight, Batman Begins, WALL-E, Iron Man and The Da Vinci Code. Of course the iTunes LP and Extras content will attract a premium, so the cynical among us could be forgiven for thinking it’s just another method Apple has devised to separate us from our cash.

iTunes 9 also adds an application management feature that lets users organize their apps within iTunes. They will automatically appear on a synced iPhone or iPod touch with the same layout. Syncing has also been refined to allow music to be synced by artist and genre, and photos to be synced by events and faces. Unsurprisingly, iTunes 9 has also broken the Palm Pre’s ability to natively sync as well, so the ball is back in Palm's court on that front.

Meanwhile, a new Home Sharing feature lets users transfer music, audiobooks, movies, TV shows and applications between up to five authorized computers in the home, enabling family members to view up to five iTunes libraries on their home network. Users will be able to see only the portion of these libraries they don’t already have and import content directly to their own library. They will also be able to automatically add new purchases from other libraries from other computers into their library.

The Genius feature has been expanded with the addition of Genius Mixes that Apple likens to having your own personal ‘Genius DJ’, which can generate up to 12 endless mixes of songs.

iTunes 9 is available now for free download for PC and Mac.

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