The Itunes Software Application Computer Science Essay

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This report contains review and analysis of iTunes software application based on system design perspective. This report contains the review of iTunes 10 application software in PC and will contain data on the features, functionalities of the software as well as critique on some of the new features integrated into iTunes 10 software.

User interface is one of the most important features of system design. Without a proper user interface the software doesn't appeal to the user and will die if the user rejects the application. iTunes does really well in this area in such a way it appeals both to the common user as well as an advanced user in streamlining its user interface and being consistent in its design, though there has been a significant change in the design of the latest version 10 and few new features are added to the application.

iTunes uses a pattern to recognize the songs by album and artist and then sort them into a common music library. It also catalogues the music in iTunes music store according to the popularity of the songs and latest trends in music. It is explained more in the report as it is also a part of system design.

iTunes uses persistent data to store the playlists, the songs are saved by iTunes in a xml file in the users My music folder. This data is used to sort the songs by album, artist and year and numbering of the songs. This report expands on this patterns which are an essential part of system design.

Table of contents

Introduction 4

Software review 5

System design perspective 6

Cons and improvements 8

Screens 9

Conclusion 11

Bibliography 12

Introduction

iTunes is a digital media player application used for playing and organizing digital music and video files. The application is also an interface to access and manage the contents on apple's products like iPod, iPhone and iPad. [i] 

There are many features to iTunes application software apart from just playing media files and cataloguing music. Some of its features include:

Media management

iTunes store

podcasting

synchronizing iPod and MP3 players

iPhone activation

internet radio

ping social network for music fans

plugins

Some of the most important features of iTunes application are its Media management software and iTunes store. The Media management software contains services like File format support, File metadata, Genius, Library sharing, Library viewing modes, Playlists, sound processing, video support, and Books/PDF support. iTunes store is an inbuilt module in iTunes software from which the users can buy and download songs for use on a limited number of computers and unlimited number of iPods. Some of the new features of iTunes software include iTunes ping, TV show rentals, Airplay, support for Apple TV, Improved syncing.

Software review

The latest version of iTunes is version 10 released by Apple Inc. First and foremost change you see is the change of the iTunes logo, Apple removed the disc which was located on the iTunes logo in the before versions. Next is the vertical alignment of minimize, maximize and zoom buttons on iTunes application.

One of the new and major features to be introduced in iTunes 10 is Ping. Ping is a social network for music that Apple built into iTunes 10. Users can follow, view and comment on each other's new purchases and songs they like, and stay on top of upcoming concerts. Artists can create their own store pages; interact with fans, and post photos and videos. [ii] 

Some lesser new features are TV shows rentals for 99 cents, this TV shows can be viewed in iTunes 10, iPod or iPod touch with an iOS 4.1.

Airplay is also an interesting new feature that will let iTunes stream music and video to new Airplay enabled speakers, receivers and iPod accessories. Mostly this feature will benefit the users with the new Apple TV.

Some of the old features like Album listing are improved in iTunes 10. In this version the list view displays music album artwork more intelligently and new preferences allow the user to hide some features like the checkboxes next to media in list view and the icons next to the items in the sidebar of the application.

Apart from these new features the performance of iTunes application was improved in version 10. The overall verdict is that it is still a mediocre player at best and not an overall media software as Apple Inc. would like the users to believe.

System design perspective

System design is an essential part of any project, whether it is in computers, mechanical, electric or manufacturing streams. In this report we review the system design principles followed by iTunes software application and how it influences the user.

User interface:

Some of the components of User Interface used commonly in almost all the applications are:

GUI (Graphical User Interface) or CUI (Character user interface)

Consistency

Simplicity

Visibility

GUI (Graphical User Interface):

iTunes is an graphical user interface application. It doesn't have any character user interface in any of its previous versions.

Consistency:

This is one of the areas which is very important to the users to accept the application over a period of time. iTunes 10 is a fairly consistent application since minor UI changes were made to the application which received heavy criticism from users using the application like no colors in the sidebar, changing the position of minimize, maximize, zoom buttons vertically, washed out grey look of the overall application etc.

Simplicity:

iTunes does very well in this regard as it is very simple to add, edit, remove songs and buy media from its iTunes store. It is simple to use with iPod, iPhone which need iTunes software to sync media files into them.

Visibility:

iTunes 10 has decreased visibility than its predecessors. iTunes 10 has an washed out look with complete plain grey all over the application instead of any color and liveliness to the application unlike its previous versions.

Patterns:

Many of the media application software's follow a pattern in recognizing the media files (songs or video) and iTunes is no exception to it. iTunes catalogs the songs and music by album name, artist names and the number of songs in the album. This is repeated in all its versions and hence it is a pattern which iTunes software follows to show the music in a playlist and the user has the ability to change the way in which the songs or playlists are shown.

Persistent data:

iTunes uses persistent data to store the data of songs and music stored in a playlists in an xml file which is under c:\user\My music\iTunes\iTunesplaylists.xml which contains the data of the filenames of songs present in iTunes library. iTunes also changes the settings changed by the user on the system in an xml file. These are the examples of persistent data stored by iTunes application.

Cons and Improvements

Though the application is itself streamlined and overall is very user friendly, according to me, it still has some glitches in its design which should be sorted out in the next version to be much more appealing to the users. The interface should be lively like the previous version of iTunes (iTunes 9) instead of complete grey which gives a washed out look. Aside from the sidebar changes the checkboxes have become lighter, no vertical dividers between columns, very faint dividers between column titles. [iii] 

Apple also violated its own consistent interface design guidelines by removing the title bar on iTunes application and moving the minimize, maximize and zoom buttons vertically on the left top side of the window.

The new preferences icons are also monotonous grey icons which don't even give any subtle clue to which icon is highlighted like in the previous versions of iTunes when a user moves the mouse pointer over the icons to click on them. I feel that iTunes should be consistent in their UI instead of experimenting with the basic user design since most of the users expect new improvements in the software but with the same interface.

Screens

iTunes main window

iTunes window with a view of the uncolored sidebar and the bottom icons

iTunes songs and music auto add feature after installing the application

Conclusion

After reviewing the iTunes 10 application software I say that the software satisfies most of the design principles except minor changes like changes in UI and a couple of cosmetic changes. Despite the cons there are more pros and I felt it is a very good application developed by Apple Inc.

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