I’ve said a lot about iTunes lately, and I am still not finished.
Until iTunes 11, I never used the MiniPlayer. After trying out the new MiniPlayer last week, there was something about it that felt very familiar. A few iMessages and emails later, it became abundantly clear what it was:
I then began to wonder: Why didn’t iTunes 11 take advantage of Notification Center in Mountain Lion? If Notification Center was exclusively for notifications, I would understand the omission, but it isn’t. It also features Share Buttons for Facebook and Twitter, in addition to weather and stock widgets on the iPhone.
The idea is simple: Pin the MiniPlayer into Notification Center and allow iTunes to send notifications. While I am not an UI designer, I went ahead and made some mock-ups of this idea for fun, and to illustrate that it is feasible. I’ve posted them in this Public Photo Stream.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, and I keep wondering why it hasn’t been done yet. Here’s why I think this would be a great move:
- Reduction of desktop clutter: If you have many apps open on multiple desktops while using the MiniPlayer, it is easy to lose track of where it is. The fastest way to find it is to click the iTunes logo in the dock. Even then it may end up blocking another element on your screen, taking you to another desktop, which may take you away from what you were working on, or something else. By pinning the MiniPlayer to Notification Center, this would no longer be a problem.
- Easier access from full screen apps: On the other hand, what if you are using a full-screen app? Right now, if you’ve got iTunes running in full-screen mode or on another desktop, you’d have to go there and leave your app. If the MiniPlayer was in Notification Center, you wouldn’t really be leaving your app, just temporarily moving it aside.
- Consistency: iOS has always made it easy to control media playback while multitasking. Prior to iOS 4, double-tapping the home button would bring up a menu which gave you volume and media playback controls, in addition to some basic metadata on what was playing. With the introduction of multitasking in iOS 4, these controls were moved to the left-most page of the fast app switcher. These controls have not moved since iOS 4. They remained anchored to that page. You never have to go searching for them after you use them for the first time. Just a simple double-tap of the home button and a swipe to the right. They are always there.
Prior to iTunes 11, you could use the old iTunes MiniPlayer and an iTunes Dashboard widget (which seems to have disappeared from my machine) for iTunes playback controls on the Mac. On top of this, the Mac features dedicated media playback and volume control buttons on the keyboard. You could argue that these three can do the job just fine. The hardware controls will stay on the keyboard, the MiniPlayer stays on your desktop, and the iTunes widget stays wherever you leave it on dashboard.
The difference here is that none of these are as useful as the new MiniPlayer, which not only manages playback, but allows you to search your library, create playlists, and use Genius, among other things. It’s a tool that you don’t want to lose track of when you are doing things on your Mac. By anchoring it in Notification Center, you would have a fast, unobtrusive way to manage iTunes, similar to the way iOS media controls are set up. It would not matter where you are or what you are doing in OS X. One swipe to the left, and you have iTunes right at your fingertips.
- Notifications: iTunes could also use Notification Center to do a variety of things. It could alert you of:
-What song is starting to play
-A new episode of a subscription that is ready
-When a preorder is available
-Apps that have updates
-Rentals that are about to expire
These are just a few examples off the top of my head.
The MiniPlayer in iTunes 11 is a feature with a lot of potential. It reduces the iTunes UI down to a more manageable size, which is useful when I am trying to do other tasks on my Mac. At the same time, I found myself losing track of where it was too often. If Apple were to take (yet another) page from iOS and give the MiniPlayer a permanent home in Notification Center (or else where in OS X for that matter), it wouldn’t just be easier to find, but easier to use as well.