NOTE: This article has been updated significantly as we've had more of a chance to explore iTunes 4.5 and discover new features.
Early this morning Apple released version 4.5 of iTunes via Web download. (It hasn't yet appeared in Software Update on our computers here at MacFixIt.) The new version provides a number of significant new features:
- CD insert printing: After burning a CD you can create and print a label insert directly from iTunes.
- WMA audio file support: According to Apple's docs, "you can now import WMA (Windows Media) files (unprotected files only)."
- Lossless Encoder: Although the details aren't yet clear, "using the Apple Lossless Encoder, you can import CDs into iTunes with sound indistinguishable from the original recording but at about half the size." The new Lossless Encoder appears as an option in the Importing pane of iTunes preferences.
- Links to iTunes Music Store: Songs in your iTunes library automatically link to the iTunes Music Store, allowing you, for example, to find more music by an artist you like. (You can disable link icons via the General pane of iTunes preferences.)
- "Party Shuffle" playlists: A new Smart Playlist that is continually updated with songs from your library. "Party Shuffle automatically chooses upcoming songs from your Music Library or Playlists. You may add to, delete or reorder the upcoming songs at any time." You choose options for the Party Shuffle playlists such as the source (your entire Library or just a particular playlist); the number of upcoming songs; the number of recently played songs; and whether or not to give preferences to higher-rated songs. If you don't like the mix, clicking the Refresh button will give you a new set of tunes.
- Compilation grouping: iTunes can keep compilations grouped together when browsing.
- Better compatibility with Fast User Switching: you can now use iTunes when switching accounts via Fast User Switching.
- Changes to licenses for purchased music: Playlists containing purchased music can now only be burned 7 times (and you can no longer simply rearrange tracks to reset the number of burns), but the number of computers allowed to listen to purchased tracks has been increased from 3 to 5.
With the release of iTunes 4.5, Apple has also announced new iTunes Music Store features:
- Free downloads: Each Tuesday selected singles will be available, for the next week, for free download. (This week's song: "My Hero" by Foo Fighters.)
- "Wish lists": You can create a playlist of songs that you want to buy and then purchase them later.
- Published playlists: Users can publish their own playlists as well as view (and rate) playlists published by other users. (Note that only songs available from the iTunes Music Store will appear in published playlists.)
- Music videos: Users can view videos for selected iTunes Music Service songs from within iTunes.
- Movie trailers: Movie trailers available from Apple's QuickTime website are also viewable from within iTunes.
- Radio station charts: Playlists/charts from over 1200 U.S. radio stations are updated weekly and available for browsing.
On first launch iTunes 4.5 will update your music library for compatibility with the new features.
UPDATE: Note that you need to update QuickTime to version 6.5.1 to support some features; it can be downloaded here. In addition, To take advantage of some of the new features, such as Apple Lossless Encoder, on your iPod, you need to install iPod Update 2004-04-28.
UPDATE: Jim Heid has a thorough overview of the new version of iTunes on his Mac iLife site.