Friday, October 13, 2023

The History of Cover Flow

Andrew Coulter Enright (in 2005):

I thought [the iChat AV] implementation would work perfectly if applied to my Visual Browsing problem.

Like paper cards flipping within a bar jukebox, I pictured each cover flipping in and out of the illuminated center position, revealing the subsequent album/song as the user browsed through the current library (via the linear scroll-bar detailed below). The faster you scrolled, the faster the covers would shuffle in and out of the spotlight.

After you had located the record you wanted, you could simply click on it, and the familiar iTunes Browse View would slide up from the bottom edge of the window (much like the Cover Art Window does currently) allowing you to select a song to play.

Via Stephen Hackett:

The images in the blog post are shockingly close to what the feature would become when Mac developer Jonathan del Strother implemented it in an app called “CoverFlow” that let users flip through their non-iTunes MP3 collections in a much more visual way than scrolling folders in Finder.


CoverFlow was purchased by Apple in 2006, as the app’s website still reports[…]


The final blow came with macOS Mojave in 2018, which swapped out Cover Flow for a new Gallery view[…]

Cover Flow never clicked for me, either.

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Practical? No. Beautiful? Yes.

I wasn't too fussed about it anywhere else, but I actually still miss it in the Finder. Largely because Cover Flow itself occupied the top half of the Finder window, while the bottom half showed the same files in sortable columns. That made it an absolutely fantastic tool for quickly sorting out big folders of (e.g.) images, or other visual media, in all sorts of ways.

But Gallery View sacrificed that bottom half, in favour of the pane of metadata fixed over on the right. Much less flexible and useful - to me, at least.

If I'd had a dollar for every client that asked my company to "make it look like cover flow" in Flash back in the day...

Actually I did. Thousands of dollars as a matter of fact. Thanks Apple!

I agree with Rob, Finder Cover View was handy and still useful given the detailed list view below. The rest of the applications Apple used it for was kind of meh.

I have used it extensively on my fourth generation iPod nano. The best and quickest way to quickly browse the collection. No matter what was playing you could rotate the device and see the whole music library. iOS 7 version was less beautiful yet still functional. I don't know why Apple dropped it completely with the introduction of Apple Music. Browsing the library is a bit of a pain after a couple of years, especially if your favourite albums or artists don't start with an "a"…

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