Of the many new features in iTunes 11, the one that gives me the most grief is definitely Up Next. As a sort of replacement for iTunes DJ, which had been around for many years, Up Next provides the following, according to Apple:
The new Up Next feature in iTunes lets you select a song and easily queue it to play next. Or last.
“Easily?” When I was writing my Take Control of iTunes 11: The FAQ, I spent a great deal of time trying to not just understand Up Next, but also explain it. Up Next is problematic, for one main reason: it’s always on. You cannot turn it off. So you can easily get confused.
In iTunes, whenever you play any music — unless you are playing a playlist which contains just one song — there is a song queue. It may be all the songs of an album, all the songs of a playlist, or all the tracks in your library. You can see the song queue at any time by clicking the Up Next ￼ icon in the iTunes LCD or MiniPlayer.
The Up Next icon is the one with the three lines near the right of the Mini Player window above.
The problem is that you may have music in the Up Next queue without realizing it, and when you go to play something else, you may see what I call “the pesky Up Next dialog.”
This dialog displays when you have explicitly added music to the Up Next queue (the Up Next icon in the iTunes LCD is blue), and you then try to play something else without first adding it to Up Next. For example, you might have double-clicked an album or playlist. (The dialog is slightly different if you double-click a single track.)
If you click Clear Songs, iTunes replaces your Up Next queue with the tracks in the item you just double-clicked. Or, if you click Don’t Clear, iTunes adds what you just double-clicked to the beginning of the Up Next queue; this is the same as if you had Control-clicked the item and chosen Play Next. Of course, you can click Cancel to keep listening to what’s currently playing.
Confused? So am I. I was prompted to write this article when a friend asked me to try to explain the dialog. He said, “I get that all the time, and have no idea why, nor what it means, nor what I should do about it.”
Up Next is confusing, especially because users will find that it gets in their way when they do something as simple as wanting to play some music. “All I did was click Play,” he said.
But I think he hit on the real reason for this dialog. He finished our instant message chat saying, “I know where all the weed is going when it gets to Cupertino.”
Apple, Up Next is confusing, perplexing, and downright wrong from a user interface point of view. If there’s one thing in iTunes that needs fixing, it’s Up Next.