iTunes 12 Continues Apple’s Quiet War on the Sidebar

When Apple launched iTunes 11 in late 2012, many longtime iTunes users were shocked to find their beloved sidebar absent after upgrading. Thankfully, a quick trip to the Menu Bar could restore the missing sidebar, but history looks to be repeating itself with the first beta of iTunes 12, released to developers this week.

iTunes 12 Continues Apple's Quiet War on the Sidebar

iTunes 12 Music Album View

The upcoming version of iTunes unsurprisingly introduces a visual overhaul inspired by what’s been seen thus far of OS X Yosemite. Each media section can now be found via its own icon in the iTunes navigation bar, and the iTunes sidebar is once again missing by default.

Unfortunately, users won’t find a “show sidebar” option in the iTunes 12 menu structure, and there’s no reference to the sidebar at all. But all is not lost! Apple has maintained the sidebar-style interface for the Playlist view of each media section.

Related: We can’t bring the full sidebar back in iTunes 12, but here’s a neat workaround to get the old ‘Get Info’ window back.

To see it in action, select a media section from the icons on the left of the iTunes navigation bar then click the Playlist button at the center of the navigation bar. The screenshots demonstrate this process with music, but it works the same for all forms of iTunes content.

iTunes 12 Playlist Sidebar

Voilà! The iTunes sidebar returns! Well…at least, sort of. Unlike the sidebar in previous versions of iTunes, this sidebar view in iTunes 12 only displays the current content category. That is, when you’re in the music section, you won’t see movies, TV shows, or podcasts listed in the sidebar, although playlists do persist between sections, allowing users to build playlists comprised of various types of media.

Also of note, the traditional iTunes list view is still available, but you’ll find it now in the drop-down on the right of the navigation bar as “Song List” with various user parameters (e.g., Song List by Album, Song List by Artist).

iTunes 12 Song List

It’s clear that Apple is trying to steer users away from the sidebar, and the company’s default album view is visually impressive. But longtime iTunes users who prefer the “traditional” iTunes layout may be fighting a losing battle with Apple. It’s great that the company preserves some forms of sidebar and list views in iTunes 12, even if they’re harder to find and lack some functionality, but how much longer will Apple continue quietly relegating these layouts before they’re gone completely?

iTunes 12 and OS X Yosemite are still in beta, of course, and won’t launch until the fall. Apple could continue to refine the iTunes user interface during that time. It’s also worth noting that Apple made several significant functionality and layout updates in the months following the release of iTunes 11, and could follow suit with iTunes 12.

30 thoughts on “iTunes 12 Continues Apple’s Quiet War on the Sidebar”

vexedshelly says:
This kind of thing is why I’m starting to hate Apple. They don’t care what their users want. They just want to force bad and bloated software on us and force us to use it.
Dolmance says:
I am looking far and wide for an alternate player. When I find it, with the functionality of something like ITunes 8, I’ll get rid of ITunes in a heartbeat.
Robert Longman says:
Am I the only one who gets the spinning disk for around 8-10 secs when I move the iTunes 12 scroll bars? (And how can that be remedied?)

And, I use iTunes as a large library with manual selection of tracks. For that quasi-pro use, the list view and sidebar-playlists are absolutely critical. The album art view simply does not give enough information for practical, at-a-glance look. Why would they try to move those kind of users out?

maxovrdriv says:
Anyone having a problem with the iTunes screen moving around on the monitor whenever you open another file? It pops to the front every time I do something, never happened until i downloaded yosemite.
hostile_17 says:
This is a common problem I’m starting to see with Facebook, FourSquare, LinkedIn et al… if you control your content, then you do what you want. What they want to do is feed you content that they want you to look at, that they can monetise… so this constant erosion of control continues.
hostile_17 says:
Thanks for this. After time away from iTunes I’ve been fumbling about for ages trying to work out how to just bring up a simple list of tracks for an album and shock horror be able to see them and click them.
Richard says:
Can anyone tell me why artists are now listed by “The” rather then the actual band name? For instance I have just bought the new The Charlatans album, all my other The Charlatans albums are stored under “C” however for some reason this one is under “T”. Can I change this?
TekRevue says:
Hi Richard,

Yes, there is a separate “sort” field for every item in iTunes, allowing “The Charlatans” to be sorted by “C” rather than “T.” You can change or fix sorting information by right-clicking on the album or track, selecting Get Info, and then clicking on the Sorting tab. There, change the “Sort As” field to just “Charlatans.”

Richard says:
Great, thanks very much.
TEB says:
So they don’t want you to have your sidebar which is what makes the program most useful, that is bad enough but then you have a screen of album covers in the My music screen that you can’t control the size of. I have a moderate size monitor by modern standards and now have these little tiny album covers. Its 11 albums per row and 5 rows showing 55 tiny album covers. That is not intuitive my brain just won’t process 55 covers simultaneously to decide to play one of scroll farther. I have 1300 albums It took me a long time to get high quality covers for all of them I don’t want to just see 1/1/2 in squares. Yet another epic fail for itunes every “upgrade” they remove features and add nothing of value.
Sicarium says:
Really wish Apple would stop screwing up iTunes. My migration to Android will continue.
TerryB says:
iTunes 12 is to multimedia what Windows 8 is to Operating Systems. And, just like Windows 8, if it isn’t fixed, my next media player will be by someone else and I will recommend the same to all my friends. I used to designer operator interfaces as a user friendly interface this is a FAIL. Please get it fixed, roll it back or I’ll vote with my $.
zp says:
I just DETEST this new iTunes 12. Why would Apple release a product that becomes increasingly less functional and more difficult to use? I’m so frustrated by this awful product, which sadly, is still so necessary to manage my music collection. Pitiful, backwards choice, Apple.
Marnie McCallister says:
What a revolting company Apple is, at times. Their idiotic developers (and the company) seem to be so damn entrenched in their “we know better than our users, when it comes to what they want,” that they continually screw things up and give a big middle finger to their customers who point it out. They did this with the god awful “simple design” of ibooks–that disgustingly boring bland layout in place of the beautiful wood grain book shelves. And, they did it with the plain looking “flat” app icons. And, now they’ve don it with the idiotic move to cram a “sidebar-less” iTunes down our throats. For no reason.
just_visiting323 says:
This is wrong and incorrect UI. You do not design interfaces that change their own interface like this. Why does the playlist button magically bring back the sidebar, but all other buttons take it away? And it sticks on certain media types. Why are the media types now horizontal? Horizontal iconography is the wrong direction. Conceptual lists (media, chapters, categories) are ALWAYS better sorted up and down. Apple has no more UI consistency – NO thought that goes into their UI – just a bunch of conflicting ideas and ideals. Abject morons with no UI experience who confusing simplicity with obfuscation.
Michael Vinci says:
Why? Seriously, why? The sidebar is intuitive and makes transferring music/podcasts/videos easy – why must the half-wits who toil in Apple R&D force their idiotic ideas into every single itunes update?
Catch a freakin’ clue, geniuses. No one wants your hipster garbage interface – we want reliability and practicality! You should be ashamed that people fear a new version of itunes instead of being happy that a new version is available.
Apple is making it really easy to make the switch to another, easier-to-navigate OS…
Joe Fonebone says:
“But longtime iTunes users who prefer the “traditional” iTunes layout may be fighting a losing battle with Apple.”

And there in a nutshell is why Apple are going down the toilet. They’re meant to be designing products and software for the USER not to amuse themselves. Yosemite’s also a big bag of wow-look-at-all-this-needless-change-for-change-sake shite! My next computer? A PC for sure.

Gabe says:
Where is the repeat song/playlist button? I can find the shuffle one but not that one 😛 can anyone help?
steveh46 says:
In order to improve the user interface Apple has hidden useful features from users. I hear if you right click on the shuffle button, you will find the repeat button. Hard to believe, but it seems to be true.
Bradleycg1 says:
just had iTunes 12 downloaded and not
happy about the changes in loosing the sidebar. I have now been able to find
it but it only shows 1 category at a time completely useless. so unintuitive.
what a waste of time and effort. When will Apple stop trying to steer us away from the sidebar
TheronC says:
Apple doesn’t like the sidebar because it gives users a great deal of control over their own music. They want to be Pandora and Spotify, they want you to let them make your music decisions and play everything off the cloud. Makes me crazy when my iPhone tries to play stuff off the cloud that is actually on the phone.
Pamela Ramos Langley says:
Has anyone else had issues with track names when ripping songs off CDs since upgrading? I suddenly cannot get track names off of store-bought CDs of mainstream music, let alone any compilation CDs I have previously made. I just get track #s. If I try the old trick of “Get Track Names,” I get an error message, saying user not registered for online use?!!? I created a test account on my PC and that worked, but my library of previously ripped music did not import, only iTunes purchased songs. I spent 3 full hours on the phone with tech support, one agent disconnecting me and never calling back after 1 hour and 18 minutes of trying to fix the issue. I now have a trouble ticket, and have been told I should try the genius bar at my nearest Apple store. I’d prefer not to have to do this …
BlairBeck Fan says:
I am never downloading another version of iTunes. This war on the users is getting ridiculous.
mchan1 says:
Unfortunately, if any past indications hold true, newer features on iOS will eventually force users, eventually, to upgrade iTunes to use the iDevice(s).
PJ says:
UGH. I updated my iTunes SOLELY to update my iPhone. Looks like once that’s done, I’ll be downloading an older version of iTunes. I HATE this new version.
CariHislop says:
Apple b*st*rds! Why can’t they just leave things alone? It worked fine. I noticed yesterday my iTunes looked different (don’t know if I accidentally updated the damn thing or if my husband helpfully updated it – probably the latter) and now my phone is not showing up anywhere on the brilliant new 12 layout…just great! I buy a book to read on my phone…but I can’t find my phone or my list of purchased books to transfer to my phone (now) it was fine before the update! And their so called “help” box is cr*p. It makes me SO mad. I can’t help wondering how many people have had heart attacks and died from the rage of dealing with Apple’s Oh so unhelpful iTunes updates.
Leon says:
I want the sidebar back. f… iOs style. On my MBP i can connect an external hard disk (which I can’t on iOs), and there i have more 80 o more than 100 gb of mp3 (which I can’t on iOs). this is more albums I can see on screen, I have to scroll a lot to see them if they are images (most of them never existed on iTunes, are from CDs outside of mainstream WITHOUT a downloadable cover), and forever if i put the songs list. So, the ALBUM list in the sidebar is what was ok for me, other visualizations are absolutely useless!!!

Apple, if I want iOs I buy an iPad, but I bought a laptop for a reason. Stop visualizing all as if my life is a tablet!

Carlo Odoardi says:
I wish I’d read this before I upgraded. itunes 12 stinks! Bring back the sidebar!
Ivy says:
Not happy about this… I just spent an hour trying to come up with a work around to my usual workflow when dealing it iTunes. Just one more reason why I’m never purchasing another apple product again. I was able to upgrade my phone last week and had the choice between the iphone 6 and the Samsung Note 4… I had no hesitation is choosing the Note.
samm says:
I’m not happy with iTunes 12, wish I had read this before I upgraded. Bring back the sidebar.
Nicholas Bobbitt says:
The dropdown menu in the upper right, where it says “Albums” can be used to select Artist, which does have a sidebar.
Plagueis says:
Itunes / apple is just turning into Microsux by doing BS like this. As soon as there is something that works, they have to eff it up.
mchan1 says:
Apple has been doing this for years, albeit Silently, but many Apple users really don’t care. Just look at the sales of Apple products.

If people really didn’t like what Apple was doing or how it was behaving, consumers would NOT be buying Apple products!

Plagueis says:
I disagree, Apple hasn’t been doing this for years. Which is why people are started to say that they have jumped the shark. Yes they still have plenty of time to get their act together but right now they are on a downward spiral. The only reason they are still on top is because of the brand. Also, tons of people, myself included, own lots of Apple gear that is still relevant and will be for a while regardless of how many updates get pushed down. Basically people won’t stop buying Apple products over night but if Apple doesn’t get their act together they are about to fall behind.
aaaandI'mBored says:
i updated without knowing FML!!! i really like how apple takes something that wasn’t broken and moves all the goddamn buttons
Dennis says:
Thank you, so very much! I updated and then looked for it…I was lost for a while.

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