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First Take: iTunes 9

At the annual Apple event reserved for all things music, Apple announced iTunes 9. Check out our First Take for a rundown of new features and interface enhancements.

iTunes 9
Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

iTunes 9 was announced today at this year's annual music event from Apple. Named the "It's Only Rock and Roll event," Apple didn't disappoint with the return of Steve Jobs, upgraded (and cheaper) iPod Nanos and Shuffles, and plenty of new iPhone app demonstrations from third-party developers. As many predicted, iTunes 9 (Mac or Windows) was also on the agenda and it received a number of cool new feature enhancements to make navigation and syncing to your devices easier. iTunes 9 is available today, but has not yet been added to Apple's software update service.

iTunes 9 has been cleaned up for easier navigation, redesigned with a new layout and a new black tabbed-menu system across the top of the iTunes Store interface. These new tabs replace the old left-side navigation to choose between categories like music, apps, movies, and podcasts. The layout for new content in the iTunes Store has been improved as well, with more browsable content in every category.

Along with the iTunes Store interface enhancements, Apple announced newly packaged digital content it referred to as "LPs." According to Apple, buying the full album will now give you new content, kind of like extras on a DVD. You can show songs with lyrics, explore bonus content, and check out extra content created by the musicians themselves. Additionally, you get the same new content for movies, with extras, bonus content, chapter selection, character details, and more.

The way you interact with apps on the iPhone and the iPod Touch has also been improved. Now your home screen can be interacted with visually, right inside the iTunes window, letting you drag apps wherever you want before syncing to your device. Apps can be dragged from page to page and within pages, and when you're done you can apply the changes to sync them to your device. iPhone syncing has been improved as well, with the ability to selectively sync specific artists or playlists, or sync your photos by specific albums or faces.

iTunes 9
The new interface buttons across the top act as pull-down menus so you can drill down to the content you want. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Steve Jobs also announced that iTunes now offers Home Sharing. This new feature will let you share purchased songs across a home network. As long as all the computers on the network are on the same iTunes account, you can drag to copy songs to other computers. iTunes 9 also will automatically sync new purchases across your computers.

Overall, with new interface enhancements to the iTunes Store, a better way to organize apps on your iPhone or iPod Touch, and improvements to syncing, the new iTunes update offers plenty of improvements for iTunes users. As a free update, iTunes 9 is a no-brainer for those who use the program.