iTunes finally gets a makeover

A month late, Apple has released iTunes 11, a revamped version of its music software.

Claimed to be noticeably faster than its slow and bloated predecessor, it’s already gone out to existing users on Mac and Windows, and is available as a download from the iTunes site.

The most noticeable change to the software is a completely new interface, with a cleaner, simpler appearance. Instead of the Cover Flow system that mimicked flipping through a record collection, it displays albums as a series of tiles that can be expanded to show individual song listings, as well as other related items for purchase. The familiar left-hand-side sidebar is gone from the default view, but can be restored.

There’s also much stronger iCloud integration, allowing users to play their music, movies and TV shows directly from the cloud. It’s possible to stream songs that have been purchased from the ITunes store without having to download them first. Instead, iCloud loads a placeholder, which allows for instant streaming. Thanks to synching, users can halt content on one device and carry on from the same point on another.

Other features include a new ‘up next’ song feature within an improved mini player that lets users search for songs, albums, and artists without going back to the full view.

There’s also a makeover for the iTunes Store, so that it looks the same across all devices. The iTunes catalog now amounts to around 26 million songs, and the company says it has more than 435 million users.