Despite the jump in version number to 5.0, this latest release of iTunes is actually a relatively minor update, albeit one that still brings with it some useful new features.
The most noticeable change to the program is the visual overhaul Apple has given it: we rather like it, but many are of the opinion that iTunes has been battered hard with an ugly stick.
Whatever your thoughts about the new look, there's no denying that it's more efficient in terms of screen space. It also happens to be more usable. For example, when searching, the new Search Bar you are able to refine the search, and the ability to organise playlists into folders is a long-awaited addition that will please many. However, some users might be annoyed that playlist folders appear above standalone playlists rather than within the overall list.
The display area has also been improved, permanently showing the track name, cycling the artist and album name underneath. Also, both the elapsed and remaining times are shown (the latter of which can be switched to total time).
Some of iTunes' preferences have also been amended: new parental controls enable you to block features and certain media from youngsters; and the new Smart Shuffle settings enable you to determine how likely you are to hear multiple songs in a row from the same artist or album. In essence, you can make shuffling seem more random by making it less random!
Although these new additions are very welcome, some irritations remain. iTunes is still an occasional memory and resources hog, and you'd have thought that, by now, Apple would have figured out how to enable gapless playback (without having to rip a selection of tracks as a single file). That said, you'd still be hard pressed to find a better audio player on the Mac. Craig Grannell