Apple Releases iTunes 12.4; Bringing a Number of Interface and Navigation Changes

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

In addition to releasing software updates for iOS, OS X, watchOS and the fourth-generation Apple TV, Apple has today released iTunes 12.4.

According to Apple’s release notes via 9to5Mac, this update brings a number of design and navigation tweaks:

  • Now enjoy all of your music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, and more in a simpler design.
  • Navigation. Now you can use Back and Forward buttons as you navigate between your Library, Apple Music, iTunes Store, and more.
  • Media Picker. Easily switch between Music, Movies, TV shows and more–and Edit to choose just the items you want.
  • Library and Playlists. Use Sidebar to view your Library in new ways. Drag and drop songs to easily add them to Playlists. And Edit Sidebar to show only your favorite views.
  • Menus. Menus in iTunes are now simpler and easier to use. Use the View menu to customize your Library or try context menus to act on specific items.

Mention of design and navigation changes in any software update typically raises concerns that these may introduce accessibility-related issues for VoiceOver users. As we have not been able to test this update prior to its public release, we do not know at this time if there are any changes which will significantly alter the usability of iTunes for VoiceOver users. So, if you notice any changes, do please let us know by posting a comment below.

You can update to iTunes 12.4 by selecting the “Check for updates” option in the iTunes Menu bar.

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Submitted by dvdmth on Monday, May 16, 2016

Club AppleVis Member

These are my observations from trying out the new iTunes under Mac OS X.

Navigation. Now you can use Back and Forward buttons as you navigate between your Library, Apple Music, iTunes Store, and more.

I like this change. It used to be that the back and forward buttons were only available while navigating the iTunes Store or Apple Music catalog. Now they are available throughout the iTunes interface. The keyboard shortcuts Command-Left Bracket and Command-Right Bracket can be used to activate the buttons without having to navigate to them, just like in Safari. For example, if I am viewing a particular playlist and then decide to look at my audiobooks, I can press Command-6 to go to my audiobooks as before, but then if I want to go back to the playlist I was looking at, I can just hit Command-Left Bracket instead of trying to find it in the playlist table.

Media Picker. Easily switch between Music, Movies, TV shows and more–and Edit to choose just the items you want.

Before, there was a series of buttons near the upper left corner of the window which you used to select which media type you wanted to view, which were followed by a "More" button for accessing other media types. Now, there is just one button here, a popup menu for selecting media types. When I first launched iTunes, VoiceOver crashed and relaunched when I brought up this popup menu, but since then VoiceOver has had no issues here. In my opinion, this media picker isn't as nice as the previous interface, where it only took one click to switch to a particular media type, whereas now it takes two clicks. However, I don't really care since there are keyboard shortcuts for quickly switching media types, which are easily more convenient than any other method once you know what the commands are. For those who don't know, you can find the keyboard shortcuts in the View menu.

Library and Playlists. Use Sidebar to view your Library in new ways. Drag and drop songs to easily add them to Playlists. And Edit Sidebar to show only your favorite views.

In recent versions of iTunes, the playlist table was only available when you selected the Playlists tab at the top of the window. When you switched to another view, the playlist table disappeared. Now, the table is always present regardless of what view you're in, and the Playlists tab has been removed. The table is basically the same as it has been, except that there are more media types listed at the top of the list, and there are buttons you can use to show and hide various items. It's not quite the same as the sidebar of the days before iTunes 11, but it's close.

Menus. Menus in iTunes are now simpler and easier to use. Use the View menu to customize your Library or try context menus to act on specific items

I didn't spend much time in the menus, but they do appear to be better arranged. I did notice, however, that they changed the View Options screen. Before, it appeared as a popover in the iTunes window, which was rather clunky both visually and with VoiceOver. Now it comes up as its own window, with checkboxes to control which columns to display when in list view. This is how View Options used to work a few years ago, and I think it is much better.

Overall, I find the new iTunes to be very usable. Other than the one quirkI mentioned above, I haven't run into any accessibility issues.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Monday, May 16, 2016

Hope someone is brave to check it and share how it is. I am waiting for someone to test it for me.

I am using windows 8.1 and JAWS 15 with the new version of iTunes. I think it is very accessible. I like how Apple redesigned the new interface. Apple has come a long way in terms of accessibility.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Tuesday, May 17, 2016

OK. I downloaded it. alt does not give you menue, can not see list of my audio books under author. How do you move around it if you can not see menue?

Submitted by Clare Page on Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Hi! After downloading iTunes 12.4 this morning, I gave it a quick test run, using NVDA on my Windows 7 PC, and these are my observations after that test run: sorry if this post is a bit long, but it could take me a while to explain what I've found. I was able to buy a song from the iTunes store in the same way as before, and, although there is talk of drag-and-drop to add songs to playlists, pressing the Applications key and choosing Add To Playlist from the context menu still works. My biggest frustrations with iTunes 12.4 concern navigation. When scrolling up and down a list with NVDA, such as the contents of my music library, the previous or next item isn't automatically read as it used to be, I have to use the Read Current Line keystroke to read that item. Also, once I'd explored iTunes to find out where my playlists are, I had something of a battle to get back to showing all the contents of my music library, and I'm still not 100% sure how I did that. I may not be able to solve the scrolling problem, but hopefully I'll soon get used to the new iTunes 12.4 layout, including jumping between playlists and my entire music library if I feel so inclined. As my iPhone 6 now has IOS 9.3.2 on it, I probably can't roll back to an older iTunes, but if it continues to frustrate me I'll mostly use it for backups, as I can buy and listen to music and manage playlists on my iPhone anyway.

Submitted by alex wallis on Tuesday, May 17, 2016

one thing I am disappointed to note is that the issue where app names when browsing the iPhone are still not reported, so you just get read the size of the app along with the word remove, this has been an issue for some time now, certainly since iTunes 1.3, though I am not sure when it was introduced exactly, certainly sometime since iTunes 12 came out. before apps were read as checkboxes and the names were announced. the affect of this is that lets say an app becomes inaccessible, you can't use itunes to downgrade to the old version of the app. I have written and complained to apple twice about this, first time they said it was down to the screen reader manufacturer to fix, when I wrote and said I found that attitude unacceptable because it was basically saying its down to screen reader makers to sort out our sloppy programming they said they would take the feedback on board, also screen readers have minimal support for iTunes built in as mostly they rely on it working out of the box, and it was an iTunes update that caused this issue. this issue affects only when browsing apps through the iPhone part of itunes you can still brows actual apps you have in your library just not manage them on the phone. One other thing I noticed is that when I used itunes 12.4 to install my ios update when the upgrade process began a little window opened called device setup and you could watch the progress of how the upgrade was going, though pressing alt tab seemed to move you back to the main itunes window and this setup progress window vanished.

Submitted by JDawg on Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Club AppleVis Member

I love the new design interface of iTunes, however something I have noticed is that when you press Command F to search for something, when you press enter after typing a search it would search your library. Now it wants to seemingly exclusively search Apple Music. I have albums that will never be, and are not in Apple Music. Now I can't search for them anymore. Any ideas?

Submitted by Clare Page on Tuesday, May 17, 2016

I noticed the same thing earlier, that the search in iTunes 12.4 ttook me into Apple Music when I actually wanted to find something in my music library. This isn't a Mac-specific issue, i'm on Windows here, but if anyone knows how to do a search just of our music libraries rather than Apple Music i'd be grateful to find out how to do it.

Submitted by ming on Tuesday, May 17, 2016

hi all,
I'm using windows 7 with NVDA 2016.1
it is not accessible at all...

Submitted by sockhopsinger on Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Before searching, did you make sure the My Music area was selected? Perhaps that will make a difference? I haven't downloaded it yet and am asking only out of curiosity.

Submitted by Clare Page on Tuesday, May 17, 2016

I"'m using NVDA 2016.1 on Windows 7 as well, but I wouldn't say that iTunes 12.4 has become completely inaccessible: it can still be used with NVDA, but nowhere near as easily as 12.3.3 could.

Submitted by sockhopsinger on Tuesday, May 17, 2016

So I am using the latest version of JAWS with iTunes 12.4. If you check the "My Music" box and then enter text in the search field, if you hit enter, it will default back to Apple Music. However, if you check the box, type in your text, and then tab over for results, it will search your library. A little confusing, but this is what I have found works.

Submitted by Lielle ben simon on Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Hi! Someone has tryed iTunes12.4 with Cobra or latest version of NVDA? It could be more accessible with NVDA2016.4.

Submitted by Brian Giles on Tuesday, May 17, 2016

IMO iTunes needs to be burned to the ground and rewritten. I agree with a lot of sighted Apple bloggers who say iTunes tries to do too many jobs and it ends up being a jumbled mess. I don't know about Windows, but on the Mac I think they should break it up into separate apps like on iOS. So you'd have a music app, a videos app, an iTunes store app, and some kind of app to sync/update your iDevices. I haven't updated my Mac yet, it'll be interesting to see how iTunes 12.4 is.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Tuesday, May 17, 2016

I can not see my list of author or audio books. I want to know where I can find earlier release of iTunes. New one is not navegable with jaws 15. When I press alt to get the menue it takes a while to open. Help.

Submitted by kool_turk on Wednesday, May 18, 2016

For me, using NVDA 2016.1 the treeview doesn't read when you arrow up and down.

Only Jaws appears to read that treeview.

System access is the same as NVDA.

It is usable, if only that treeview would get read cause that appears to be how you sort your content, be it music, podcast, books, ETC.

Submitted by kithri on Wednesday, May 18, 2016

I did this once and got a version of iTunes that wasn't accessible and spent nearly 3 hours on the phone with Apple getting back to a previous version. I am not downloading 12.4 for a while as I've found downloading the latest version of anything usually means some bugs and a couple weeks later a fix is released, so maybe you all should've waited...though I only use iTunes mainly for downloading/burning audio books on CD. Good luck to all.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Wednesday, May 18, 2016

In reply to by kithri

ok. Do not need to be told something I knew. Someone did indicated it was working well so I went with the recommendation.

Submitted by charles on Wednesday, May 18, 2016

I'm having difficulty determining what apps are to be updated using JAWS16 on a Windows 7 PC. I see a "app table" and a button to "update all apps", but no list of apps to update. Any suggestions are appreciated.

Submitted by sockhopsinger on Wednesday, May 18, 2016

My suggestion is to update them from your phone. It is far more accessible that way. The App table in iTunes doesn't read.

Submitted by Greg Epley on Thursday, May 19, 2016

Planning to go back to 12.3 if I can. Pressing Alt doesn't speak menus. Arrowing starts reading menu items, but it's clumsy compared to 12.3. Also clumsy is use of the tab and F6 keys. These don't seem to do anything most of the time. Can't access album list, movie list or tv show list. Did finally hear some music track names but have no idea how to get between albums since arrows, tab and F6 generally don't seem to do anything. Have rebooted computer, thinking this had something to do with problems. No help. Lousy accessibility considering I'm on the latest JAWS and iTunes 12.3 was working fine. Very displeased.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Thursday, May 19, 2016

In reply to by riyu12345 (not verified)

OK. After I get it? Do I need to do anything beside installing? What

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Thursday, May 19, 2016

In reply to by riyu12345 (not verified)

Got following message when open iTunes after installing. The file iTunes library ITL can not be read because it was created by a new version of iTunes. What do I do?

Submitted by kool_turk on Thursday, May 19, 2016

Subject says it all, use an older library.

Mine was only a day old so I used the one found in the old iTunes libraries folder, located where iTunes saves your library.

On windows it's in the music folder by default.

typing "music" with out the quotes in the run dialogue should find it.

I also make it a habbit of saving folders in another location, incase something like this were to happen.

Plus, it saves me from redoing my preferences.

Submitted by charles on Thursday, May 19, 2016

I got the same error message, and the old iTunes would not open. So, using JAWS 16 and Windows 7, how do I replace the newer library with one that the older version of iTunes can access? Thanks.

Submitted by Eric Davis on Thursday, May 19, 2016

I usually try to back up my iPhone once or twice a month, but I can't find it in the new iTunes. Yes, the device is connected. What am I missing? Help, I feel like a new user. I have used a Mac sense 2011.

Submitted by Eric Davis on Thursday, May 19, 2016

I guess it is feel like a dumbass day for me. I just quit iTunes and opened it back up and my problem solved it's self. My iPhone popped up like I figured it should and I was able to back it up.

Submitted by Greg Epley on Friday, May 20, 2016

Fortunately I had iTunes installer since I saw no sign of any 12.3 installer on the page linked in an earlier post. Had to go back to a March iTunes library, but all I lost was any outside stuff I'd imported to the library (old TV shows ripped off DVD); these are easily enough added back since the files themselves are still there. "Check for updates" is off and will remain off for the foreseeable future; I'll never blindly trust an iTunes update again. Will maintain my own periodic backups of the .itl and other settings/preferences files so I'm better prepared if this happens again. Didn't expect Apple, a company who's ordinarily so "up" on accessibility, to allow something this bad to slip through.

Well, this just goes to show that all people can do things that are so obvious that you look back on it and, well you just shake your head at yourself. I closed iTunes and opened it again and my iPhone showed up. I realized that after I updated iTunes I had not closed and reopened the program. That is the reason I say that I am always learning. I tell other people not to rush but I forgot to remind myself of this. The good thing is that I didn't have to call support about this. I would have felt like more of an idiot than I already do. I just smiled at my own silliness and got on with my day.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Monday, May 23, 2016

OK. Good for those who got it and could not go back due to problems. To see your list of audio books or artist of your albums, control j and select what you need to see only. In audio books, select only author and what else. Same thing with artist.

Submitted by Ekaj on Tuesday, May 24, 2016

So far so good on my end, using a mid-2013 MBA. Just updated on Friday, and I was actually able to go through my list of albums using the grid and delete 2 which I had previously transferred to a USB drive. The delete shortcut didn't work there but going into the Context menu did. I then closed out of iTunes and reopened it. Those 2 "albums" are no longer in there. I put that word in quotations because some of my albums only contain 1 track. At some point I'm going through and changing that if I can. I'm also making a Genius bar appointment in the next few days, about a memory issue I've had on here for a little while. But everything's working as it should thus far for me.

Submitted by DPinWI on Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I am an iTunes power user. I often see people complain about updates, and find they are really not an issue for me.

This update is a big step backwards for how I use iTunes. I cannot managed playlists to any useful degree. My playlist folders will not open in the sidebar, and i cannot read the titles, nor the check box status of the playlists in the device music settings.

While there are a couple of improvements to getting around the iTunes interface, not being the master of my library is not worth that trade off. I plan on toughing it out for a few weeks to see if I can find work arounds, and to see if Apple provides an update. If nothing changes, I will be rolling back.

Submitted by dhatch on Wednesday, May 25, 2016

so i updated to elcappitan and the iTunes that came with it. there was another update for iTunes that i added but is not the 12 update, i painfully learned not to update a bit to ;ate to do any good. iTunes worked fine before the update relatively speaking. now when i do a search i may get one search done then voiceover crashes. i can get it all working by turning voiceover off and on again or touch the touchpad and it will talk again. any ideas how to fix this or does it work in the new update for iTunes. i tried it on another mac and voice over still crashes but the touchpad fix doesn't work. I've looked online and it seams I'm the only one with this issue, not sure if its a setting i have turned on in accessibility or its just being contrary.

Submitted by Amy on Thursday, May 26, 2016

I upgraded to the new itunes and have been putting cds on my computer. I want to delet some of the songs but can't figure out how to in this version. The delete option was in the action menu but now isn't there. Anyone know how to delet song from Itunes or is there a way to go back to previous version?

Submitted by Chris on Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Unfortunately accessibility in windows has took a nose dive it no longer reads down a song list unles you keep tabbin back and forth which is a painfully slow process to go through your songs and not acceptable in any way shape of form
The menus still work which is something i guess as in i can send feedback to apple which is something i guess and i suggest others to the same look in the help menu to find the feedback item

I e I have now gone back to an older version of itunes using an older library file as it is incompatible with the newer version other than that it went back just fine

I will probably now stay with that one now as i cant deal with the hassle of inaccessibility

Good luck to anyone who does update you will need it :)

Submitted by forereel on Wednesday, June 1, 2016

I’ll be the odd one out.
I use Windows 10, and Jaws 17 latest release, and I find the new iTunes livable.
Sure, it is different, and you’ll have a learning curve, but it is accessible.
Apple music is going to be overhauled I understand this month, so I suspect if that is so, many of the things not working now for some should start to.

Check recently added. Tab until you find the list. Now you should be able to delete as you always did.

Submitted by forereel on Wednesday, June 1, 2016

I need to say. If you are happy with your version of iTunes, it be best to remain as you are.
This one works for me, and I'd say well, but again, you'll have a large relearn.
Keystrokes are your friends here.
I suspect it will get better in a bit. Easier.
iTunes was never easy, and has lots to it.