First look at Cs 6

When Miximum was released at the beginning of the summer, I know there were concerns that that meant the end of development for Cs. I’m happy to finally be able to put substance to my claims that that was not the case. In fact, I pretty much immediately began the quasi-annual ritual of rebuilding Cs for the coming iOS update; but unlike previous years, this time I had a new vision for what the app should be. The result is, I think, pretty obviously the most well made version of Cs yet – but it’s enough of a departure that it could spell the end of Cs development entirely.

Dramatic, eh? Let me explain.

When [redacted] 5 was released, it was still the early days of MusicKit, the new Apple API that promised deeper integration into Apple Music. Since then, a new generation of apps like Marvis Pro and Soor have stepped up to fill the niche of alternative UI/UX solutions to the stock Apple Music platform. This particular direction makes me uncomfortable (and not just because this new batch of music apps are much more polished than competitors of old). Music apps pre-Apple Music could be comfortably considered "utilities", albeit with some dependencies on iTunes built in. The official music app today (like all the major players) is first and foremost a service, with some utility functions included. Attempting to provide a third party port of a closely guarded service like Apple Music seems a fools errand. We all have enough experience with the MediaPlayer framework to know that the APIs aren't built with such advanced usage in mind. And honestly, it would be unfair to expect Apple to make all of it available. Unlike the stock Music app of iOS 7, today functionality can not be replicated 100%. Is compromised functionality really useful? It leaves Cs in an uncomfortable spot... an aging app not keeping up with the modern feature set?

It was with these questions in mind that I set out on Miximum, and it greatly influenced the shape it ended up taking. Miximum is intended explicitly to be a partner app to Apple Music, and is aggressively minimalist in places to enforce that relationship. I wasn't sure how it would be received (a music app that doesn't even have a skip back button?). But those choices clearly defined what Miximum was trying to be, and what it wasn't. They helped set user expectations, and I think that is why to date, the response to Miximum has been overwhelmingly positive.

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I'd hate to say that the review above was "transformative", but melodrama seems to be the underlying theme of this post, so let's go with it. It captures what I want the apps I make to be: a beautifully simple premise that unlocks surprising power when applied. I now had a framework. If the next version of Cs wasn't going to be Marvis or Soor 2, what could I bring to Cs to create a uniquely powerful and joyful experience?

 

Flexible sort and collection options
I've always tried to be tasteful in offering what felt like a robust but refined selection of sorting and grouping options at each step. Certainly other apps like Marvis Pro have gone further with sorting options, however I find that this quickly gets overly complicated and ungainly with slightly different variations on similar menus of options. Cs 6 forgoes this for a consistent set of options. Now any collection of songs can now be configured with 6 grouping and 16 sorting options at any time.

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Stacks
Stacks are certainly the most impactful change in the new beta, since they replace most of the sorting settings and even tabs from Cs 5. A stack replaces the pre-set sequence of view settings for a tab (e.g. album artists > albums > songs), with a totally flexible sequence of the user-defined options above. So you can create any navigation flow you want (e.g genres > composers > artists > songs). In a nutshell, you can now create as many of your own customized tabs as you want.

 

Favorites
No longer a small convenience of the Playlists tab, in Cs 6 you can favorite any collection of songs for easy recall. Favorited collections can be accessed from the new Favorites tab, which also sports a convenient place to access all loved songs in your library.

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Song Previews
In addition to being totally redesigned, the song details pane includes an exciting new option. Now you can press and hold to listen to a preview of any song without interrupting your current playback queue.

 

New Now Playing
The Now Playing pane has been entirely redesigned with interactive swiping navigation and colours based on album art!

A Search that Works
I won't get into the specifics, but the Search tab has been rebuilt from scratch to not only work (actually), but to be smarter than ever before.

iOS 13 Bells'n'Whistles
iOS 13 makes it easier than ever to create apps feel like natural parts of the operating system. Cs6 takes advantage of this with Dark Mode, SF Symbols, contextual menus and more.

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Get the TestFlight Beta now! (iOS 13+)

So what to do with this? I’d like to hear from the community, so please comment below. I know there will be a vocal contingent who think Cs is perfect the way it is and will reject any significant changes. I’d like to be as sensitive to this as possible, but at the same time the future direction for development is set. Maybe this isn’t the next version of Cs at all, but a spiritual successor. That’d be weird. But, to some extent, we can figure this out together. Either way I hope it’s something you all enjoy, because I’m proud of it ☺️