The iTunes app in Windows 11 has been replaced with four new apps that’ll make life a whole lot easier for iPhone users with Windows PCs

The iTunes for Windows app has just received a sweeping overhaul. The app has now been split into four different entities: an iCloud app, Apple Music, Apple TV and a new Devices app. These new apps offer a refreshed onboarding and set-up experience, aesthetic improvements and a more intuitive syncing process that’ll make downloading your iCloud content to your PC much easier.

Even now, after all these years, iTunes in Windows 11 hasn’t improved in a sufficient way to win me over. For a long time, it’s remained clunky and slow and honestly just not that helpful. Using the app in Windows feels like navigating a twenty-year-old bit of software. 

Thankfully, it seems like Apple has finally gotten the hint and has decided to dissect it and offer four separate apps that concentrate on specific features and use cases, rather than being a jack-of-all-trades as iTunes often felt like. This move could hint at the swift death of iTunes altogether, as the app is now even more redundant.

So, what's new?

iCloud Photos gets a big boost that brings the Windows 11 app on par with the preinstalled apps you find on Apple Macs, offering the ability to create Shared Albums on your PC, and access and remove photos and videos from your cloud storage directly from your PC. Perhaps my favourite new feature is that you can now view your photos directly from the default Microsoft Photos app in Windows 11.

Being able to view all your photos, both from your PC and from your phone in one place in the Windows Photos app is an incredibly convenient change. If you need something for work or you just want to send a few photos in an email to someone, you now don’t have to use different apps and trawl folders to find what you need, now you can just open the default photo app on your Windows 11 PC and have all your photos in one place – making the process a lot more seamless – and more like the experience iCloud users on Apple devices are used to. 

Apple TV for Windows

(Image credit: Apple )

The new iCloud Drive app will now let you share files with friends, family and colleagues straight from File Explorer, which again is such a time-saving integration that makes your Apple device feel more at home with your Windows PC. Not every iPhone user will own a Mac or MacBook, and it’s great to finally see Apple implement changes that mean iPhone users with Windows 11 laptops and PCs don’t feel like second-class citizens.

Password management across your iPhone and your PC will be a lot smoother as well, so if you happen to forget any of your passwords you can just view them in the iCloud Passwords app on your Windows PC without having to pick up your iPhone or iPad. Your passwords will also be saved and synced across not just your Apple devices but to your PC as well via the Chrome and Edge web browsers with an iCloud Passwords extension. Again, this is great news for people who use PCs and need to quickly log into their accounts without having to fumble with their personal devices.

Finally, your Apple Calendars, Bookmarks and contacts will be synced up on your PC as well, so you’ll be able to view your iCloud Calendar in Microsoft Outlook. This applies to both the free version that comes with your PC and the paid version for Microsoft 365 subscribers. 

Apple Music for Windows

(Image credit: Apple )

The Apple Music app has also received a refresh to its user interface as well as time-synced lyrics and 4K music videos, which is a feature in the iOS and iPad versions of the app. The Apple TV app for Windows is a new addition that aims to bring your viewing library to your desktop, which is great news for those of us who like to have a show or a movie in the background while you work on personal projects. I love binge-watching TV shows while playing games on my PC, and this is great news because it means I won’t have to prop my iPhone up by my display just to watch something at the same time.

The fourth app being introduced to Windows is called 'Devices' and offers a straightforward way for you to keep track of what devices are connected to your iCloud account, as well as allowing you to sync, update and backup your Apple devices right from your desktop. This means the iTunes app will be left with Podcasts and Audiobooks for now, with all the other features split between these four apps. So, you won’t lose any of your favourite bits of audio content. 

The implementation of these new apps adds a more contemporary feel to the Apple experience on Windows. All these positives combined will hopefully make it feel less like you’re using an ancient app that’s been ignored for several years.

Overall, this is a positive move from Apple that finally brings some much-needed improvements to PC users who want to sync up their iPhones to their devices.  This way you get the best out of the Apple ecosystem file-sharing experience without having to own an actual Mac. 

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YouTube working on an AI music tool that’ll let you use the voices of famous musicians

YouTube is apparently working on a new AI tool that could give content creators the ability to produce songs using the voices of famous singers and musicians.

According to a recent Bloomberg report, the platform has approached several record labels with this technology with negotiations still ongoing. YouTube is trying to obtain rights to use certain songs to train the AI while also trying not to step on any land mines that would lead to them getting sued to high heaven. We’re already seeing a similar situation happen with OpenAI as it’s currently being sued by 17 authors, including A Song of Ice and Fire creator George R.R. Martin, who all allege ChatGPT is illegally using their work. Bloomberg states musicians and labels want to maintain control over their work so developers aren’t using it “to train models without permission or compensation.”

Originally, a beta of this tech was supposed to be shown off during the Made On YouTube event last month. Billboard states in their report the beta would have had a “select pool of artists [give] permission to” certain creators to use their likeness on the platform. Eventually, it would officially launch as a feature where everybody can try using the voices of consenting artists. 

Mixed response

The response from the music industry at large has been mixed. Bloomberg claims “companies have been receptive” agreeing to work with YouTube on this project. However, Billboard states record executives have had a tough time finding artists willing to participate. Some acts feel anxious about putting their voices into “the hands of unknown creators who could use them to make statements or sing lyrics” that they don’t agree with.

YouTube is trying to position itself as everybody’s best friend – as a partner to help the music industry figure this whole thing out. However, the air is gloomy. The industry sees generative AI as an unstoppable force, but it’s not an immovable object. The technology is an inevitability that they’ll have to deal with or they risk getting left behind. 

Ray of positivity

There’s another snag in all this regarding publishing. Making music isn’t a one-person show as there are entire teams involved in production. To solve this, a Billboard source says YouTube will probably give labels one big licensing fee that they have to “figure out how to divide among” songwriters.

Despite the dour attitude, there is some positivity. Billboard claims rights holders are engaging in “good faith to get a deal done” amicably. A few artists do “recognize these models could open new avenues for creative expression.” Record executives may be less keen as another Billboard source states AI can put “companies at a disadvantage”.

We’ll just have to wait and see what comes from all this. Again, YouTube’s new model could help people explore their creative side assuming deals are made fairly.

While we're on the topic of production, be sure to check out TechRadar's list of the best free music-making software for 2023.

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Windows 11 is getting two new features that’ll save you time in spades

The latest preview build for Windows 11 shows off a new Settings homepage, complete with fresh backup capabilities for the OS.

This is build 22631 in the Beta channel, and the Settings homepage is a major move that’s been in the works for a while (it was previously seen in earlier test channels).

The homepage shows some status details along the top – the name of the PC, internet connection status, and when Windows Update last checked for updates – and a bunch of panels with various bits of info underneath.

Those panels (Microsoft calls them ‘cards’) include cloud storage details (OneDrive) – and how full it is – and a personalization panel that offers the ability to quickly change the Windows theme or color mode.

Another important card offers up recommended settings, providing access to recently used settings, or ones that you use a lot based on your past history of tweaking Windows 11.

Microsoft has also implemented panels for Xbox (with details like your Game Pass subscription, if you have one), and a card for Bluetooth devices to give you quick access to all the peripherals you might hook up wirelessly with.

Windows 11 Settings Homepage

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The other big introduction here is a revamped backup system for restoring your Windows 11 environment to a new PC (or your existing one, should the OS somehow crash and burn irrevocably).

The Windows Backup app is on hand for beta testers to back up their PC. When restoring Windows 11, the app will pull in all your settings and customization, as well as your pins on the taskbar and Start menu, and Microsoft Store apps. (Third-party apps from elsewhere will still get their pins kept on, but you’ll be directed to download the relevant installer from the web when you first fire them up).

Elsewhere in build 22631, there’s been a change to Dynamic Lighting whereby the Windows 11 accent color can be synced with your RGB peripherals, a neat little touch.

As expected, there are a bunch of bug fixes and other minor features, all of which are summarized in Microsoft’s blog post about the preview build.

Windows 11 Backup App

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Analysis: Time is of the essence

The theme here is timesaving. The new Settings homepage lets you easily adjust customization elements, and change commonly used settings in a single click, all in one place (rather than having to hunt in different Settings submenus, and let’s face it, these can be a bit of a maze to navigate at times, perhaps requiring Googling to find things).

Another major timesaver is the ability to have all your bits and pieces where you left them when restoring your PC from the Backup app. Having to redo all your customization and pinned elements is a real drag – a potentially lengthy process, and you may even forget stuff – so this is very helpful.

With these features progressing to the Beta channel, they’re coming close to arrival now. The next step is the Release Preview channel, and from there, it’s a short hop to what’ll surely be inclusion in the Windows 11 23H2 update due later this year.

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Microsoft’s on a roll with another change that’ll make Windows 11 better

In the future Windows 11 will offer users the ability to ditch the Microsoft News feed from the widgets panel.

Currently, the widgets panel – accessed via the taskbar in Windows 11 – contains a mix of widgets (as you might expect) alongside MSN news stories highlighted by Microsoft.

Windows Central reports that Microsoft has made the decision to give users the choice to drop said news feed. You’ll be able to choose from different layouts for the widgets panel, in fact, some of which will have the MSN news feed in them – and one will be widgets-only.

This is yet another step forward Microsoft has taken with Windows 11’s widgets board in recent times.

Notably, the software giant is currently experimenting with a larger widgets panel, one that’s an extra column wide (three instead of two), giving you plenty of real-estate to view your widget-related stuff. And that’ll be even truer when you can get rid of MSN, and have a large panel entirely dedicated to all your widgets – if you have a lot of them.

Widget fans will also be pleased at rumors – quite strong ones – Microsoft is going to allow them to be dragged onto and pinned to the desktop. Plus we’re also seeing some extra touches like animated icons for widgets coming in, and new widgets from the likes of major players like Facebook. Microsoft is driving hard with this area of the OS, for sure.


Analysis: On the right track

For us, this is another change to Windows 11 which isn’t that hard to implement, and just makes the OS better. More choice is always good, and Microsoft appears to have taken that message to heart with some of its most recent changes from the Build conference this week.

You’ll now be able to choose whether you want to see MSN news in the widgets panel (some regard it as unnecessary bloat, but if you don’t, you can still have those news headline highlights). You’ll also be able to choose whether you want to ‘never combine’ apps on the taskbar (finally). Those right there are two key choices – at least for us – that can tailor the OS to work the way you want.

Now, Microsoft, how about giving us a big old hefty, really important, choice: to turn off any prompts or help – the stuff like badging in the Windows 11 interface, or suggestions that pop up under the Ribbon when you’re using Office, prompts to take a tour of features (that seasoned users really don’t need), anything like that – in one fell swoop, system-wide. A no nag switch, if you will, that also ditches things like messaging to tell you to upgrade to the next incarnation of Windows. Quiet mode, we could call it…

That won’t happen, of course, but hey, we can always hope for something along those lines. Whatever the case, Microsoft is clearly heading in the right direction by giving users more options to turn off stuff they don’t want, or reinstate settings from Windows 10 that were sorely missed by some users. In short, keep up the good work, Microsoft, and give us more of this sort of thing – choice.

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Microsoft is finally introducing the feature that’ll make me upgrade to Windows 11

Windows 11 is finally getting a feature I’ve been keenly awaiting since the OS was released – yes, a ‘never combine’ option is coming to the taskbar. Oh, a joyous and rapturous day indeed (ahem).

This is one of many changes brought forth with a new preview build (23466) in the Dev channel, and it has been previously speculated about in a number of leaks.

Turning on 'never combine' mode for the taskbar means that apps are always kept as individual entries on the bar, even when multiple copies of the same application are open at the same time.

With multiple instances of apps, by default Windows 11 stacks them up – combines them, so to speak – into one entry on the taskbar. Never combined, as the name suggests, means this doesn’t happen, and they all stay separate – and you can see the labels on those individual instances (telling you which web page is currently active, for example, in a browser window).

Not all testers will see this straightaway, Microsoft informs us, as it’s a gradual rollout. So even if you’re a Windows Insider hanging out in the Dev channel, it may still be some time before you receive the option.

Happiness is a non-combining taskbar

The introduction of the never combined option for the taskbar is a big one for me, as the lack of this feature is pretty much the biggest reason why I’ve not upgraded to Windows 11 yet. (There are other niggles, too, but let’s not stray off-topic).

That probably sounds a bit overblown, but seriously, stacking up apps on the taskbar is a deal-breaker as far as I’m concerned. I hate this way of working – it truly bugs me – so I was pretty mystified when Windows 11 turned up without never combine (as it’s known in Windows 10 – I’m not sure why it’s now ‘combined’ in Windows 11, but it doesn’t really matter).

It’s never a good idea to remove choice as far as I’m concerned, but Microsoft didn’t do this out of some arbitrary desire, we were told. The chatter from the usual insider sources suggested that adding what seems like a simple bit of functionality on the face of it was actually a pretty complex issue around how the interface of the latest OS was built from the ground up.

I’m not sure how far I buy into that, but I can accept the basic premise. I just can’t understand why it has taken so very long for Microsoft to introduce this for Windows 11 – clearly, it was pretty far down whatever interface priority lists were drawn up internally. 

But hey, it’s here now, if only in testing. Hopefully, Microsoft will manage to push this change through in the big update at the end of the year (23H2). After all, the groundwork should’ve been the hard bit here, so honing the feature shouldn’t be that much of a task. I hope.

Then I can fire up that Windows 11 upgrade, finally, and get with the OS times. This feels a bit more like a pressing need following the announcement that Windows 10 won’t get any more features at all (save minor tweaks – there’ll be no 23H2 update for the older operating system, as you may recall).

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