iTunes 8 – Not quite a Genius but shows potential

September 10, 2008 at 11:02 pm | Posted in iTunes | 2 Comments

Against my better judgement I downloaded and installed iTunes 8 today. I have this theory that any major new release of iTunes, especially one that coincides with new iPod or iPhone hardware is going to be a lot less stable than the previous version. Therefore I tend to wait for a couple of dot release to appear, usually in the same week before doing an upgrade.

Today however I threw caution to the wind and was pleasantly surprised. The download and install proceeded smoothly and I was up and running again in no time.

The most innovative new feature is the ‘Genius’ feature. This uses information in your current music library to do two things.
iTunes 8 Genius sidebar

  1. When you click on any song in your library, a list of recommended albums and songs that are similar to your selection are displayed in the Genius sidebar. These can then be purchased from the iTunes store. You can preview recommended songs in the sidebar by clicking on the music symbol next to each song. Playback is instant and seamless, although not with high quality audio. The selection pictured is for Jack Johnson’s ‘If I Had Eyes’. You can see it’s recommended a couple of albums I don’t have, including their ratings. This is nice but not truly revolutionary. The more interesting selection is the songs from other artist that it recommends. For this particular song, it’s worked really well. When I listened to the previews, they all had a very similar sound, falling into an easy listening, tuneful, predominately acoustic style. This feature promises to be a very easy way of growing your music library.
  2. The other feature of Genius, which won’t cost you anything to use is it’s ability to create a Genius playlist. Again you start by clicking on a song in your library but this time if you click on the ‘Genius’ button located in the status bar at the bottom right of iTunes, it will create a playlist containing a selection of similar sounding songs from your own music collection. Again it does quite a good job of picking similar songs. One thing that wasn’t obvious was how to transfer the Genius playlist to your iPod. It turns out that you don’t. Instead you can save the current contents into a new playlist (using the ‘Save Playlist’ button in the Genius playlist titlebar). By default it’s given the name of the song used to seed the playlist. Once created, sync your iPod and it will appear just like any other.

According to Apple, the Genius feature will learn over time as more and more people start using the feature and it collects more information about the makeup of everyones music collections.

The other major change in iTunes 8 is a visual one. The album display has been revamped to remove the wasted space that was present in the previous version of iTunes. One thing that caught my eye was the flashy new genre display.

Nice, but what does it do when it encounters an unknown genre, like the Text2Go genre that Text2Go uses to classify all the text to speech tracks that it produces. Of course, it just displays the standard grey music symbol, as it does when an album doesn’t have any associated album art.

I wasn’t very happy about this, so I thought I’d look under the covers and see if I could add my own graphics to iTunes genre display. As you can see from the screenshot, you can and it’s not very difficult.

First you need to create a 256 x 256 pixel jpg image and save it into the following folder.

C:\Program Files\iTunes\iTunes.Resources

The existing genre image files are present in this folder and are named as follows:

 e.g.

genre-dance.jpg
genre-hiphop.jpg
genre-pop.jpg
genre-vocal.jpg

etc.

The final step is to add an entry to the file genres.plist, also found in this folder. The file is in xml format, so it’s very easy to understand and edit. Here is the entry I added for the Text2Go genre. The matchString is used to specify the genre name and the resourceFile specifies the image file to use.

<dict>
   <key>matchString</key><string>Text2Go</string>
   <key>resourceFile</key><string>genre-Text2Go.jpg</string>
</dict>

Save your changes, restart iTunes and your image will be used for the genre.

Overall I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the new features in iTunes 8, especially the ability of Genius to create a playlist to match any song in your music library.

Text2Go users can download an image for the Text2Go genre and follow the above instructions now. I’ll add an extra step to the installation script in the next version of Text2Go to do this automatically.

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2 Comments

  1. Hi,

    Text2go has a bug. I was trying to convert 2-3 large files and had them all in the queue, when it crashed. now each time i start it, it has the ‘Stop speaking’ option enabled which means it still thinks it is converting the files it was while it crashed. If i try to stop speaking or select any option it just exits without saying anything.

  2. Any thoughts, can you help?


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