Thu 17 Feb
Okay, I’m kind of fixated on iPods right now, so bear with me. Since getting my new iPod photo, I’ve been in turns pleased with the way the user interface has been rounded out with new features — rating songs right in the iPod, for example, is terrific and something I didn’t have in my old iPod — and also I’ve been a little frustrated that a few fundamental changes haven’t been put in place.
A friend of mine wishes that, when in shuffle mode, the U.I. would allow him to take the currently playing song and shift out of shuffle mode and into that song’s native album. That sounds handy and I’d be happy to see it, but not before I’d want to see the addition of something much more fundamental: the alphabet.
Here’s what I’m talking about: my digital music library has grown so significantly that it’s become unwieldy to sort by artists, albums or songs — scrolling down these long lists is extremely inaccurate. Say I want to find “Seefeel” among the artists. In order to get past the As, Bs, Cs etc. with a minimum of tedium, I must scroll quickly, but the most of the time I do so too quickly, and overshoot past the entire S section, forcing me to slowly scroll back up. I bet this has happened to you if you own one of these things.
What I’d like to see is the addition of a new hierarchical level between the selection for “Artists” and the actual list of artists. By simply throwing the alphabet in there, it becomes vastly easier to find all the artists whose names begin with S, because I need only navigate among twenty-six levels. Actually twenty-eight; there’s value in seeing all of the artists in a single list, I admit, so it’s useful to have a selection for “All Artists” at the beginning of the alphabet. And you’d need a selection for names that begin with numerals, too. But still, twenty-eight is a huge improvement over a jillion, which is what I seem to have now.
The iPod is, in my opinion, justly lauded for having an exceedingly elegant and usable interface, but it’s not exempt from reconsideration. The fact that Apple is willing to tinker with it by adding new features is admirable, but I hope that in some revision in the near future they’re willing to take a closer look at fundamental behaviors like this one, too. Or, better yet, maybe someday soon there will be enough accumulated knowledge at large to hack this tightly held platform and really open it up to modifications. And then I hope Apple doesn’t release a lock-step upgrade that closes it all right back down.