Hey folks, sorry for the slow response on these – we’re actively designing and implementing a number of related changes right now. In addition to me being out for a few weeks, I wanted to spend some time pondering these requests and making sure our current planning took them into consideration. These questions all seem reasonable, and I would agree that a good deal of it could be handled better in Roon right now.
So, I’d like to give everyone some background on why that this, and what’s likely to change in the future. I’m going to break up this answer up into two pieces: What Roon is designed to do, and what Roon needs to do better on.
What Roon Is Designed To Do
A big goal of Roon is to stop treating music like a bunch of files sitting on a hard drive, and get back to how it felt to actually build a collection. In many apps, the iTunes-style playlist grid became THE way you viewed your library, whether you were looking at a playlist, or your favorite album of all time, or even your entire collection. For us, the origin of a song isn’t just a text string stored in a file’s “album” tag – it’s critical context that’s worth preserving.
Digital music offers almost unlimited flexibility for organizing your music, and we feel there’s a lot more to do there. Playlists, tags, personal favorites – these are all deeply flexible and personal ways to arrange music that weren’t possible with physical media. With the flexibility these tools afford us, there’s no need to affect the music’s underlying context – in Roon, each song ultimately lives on an album or artist page that’s built to preserve that context.
So, Roon’s look and feel is built with a sort of mission – Roon respects each song’s lineage in a way that goes beyond managing files, by treating artists, composers, albums, and works with reverence.
So if you ask me how I personally would want a folder full of singles identified, I would say that I want each track matched to how it was released, whether that’s in the context of a single, an album, a compilation, etc. Even if an album is missing half its tracks, when Roon retrieves the associated credits, label information, release and recording dates, influences, etc, the music can be viewed in context, unlocking the full spectrum of browsing experiences that make Roon unique.
And if that folder has personal significance, I agree you should be able to preserve that context as well, using Roon’s tools for personal organization – a playlist or tag called “Mike’s Singles”, for example.
What Needs To Improve
So, understanding that many of the product design choices are focused on preserving “where did this music come from” while still allowing for “this is how I organize this music”, I can definitely acknowledge that there are areas where Roon needs to do a lot better.
We’re currently hard at work on additional visibility for your files in Roon. Allowing visibility into the folders on your hard drive is an important diagnostic tool for locating files, but Roon should also allow for personal organization, so it’s easy to say “all the files in this folder should be tagged as “Mike’s Singles”.
There are other areas where Roon’s interface needs to be retooled or overhauled. Our Tracks browser grid (also used for Playlists and History) needs to be rewritten to support customizable headings, so columns like Track Artist can be added or removed on the fly.
A while back, we found that our Album page does not perform well with large numbers of tracks. When we tested with sequentially-numbered box sets (say, tracks 1 - 450), the interface slows to a crawl and many devices choke as Roon’s custom graphics engine is pushed to the limit.
Roon’s interface is built more like a video game than a music app, and while the engine is designed to hold huge amounts of content in some screens (tens of thousands of albums; hundreds of thousands of tracks), the architecture of the album screen wasn’t built for these cases. As digital releases eclipse physical media completely, loooong sequential albums will become more and more common, and so this screen will absolutely need a redesign under the hood.
All of this work is on our roadmap. Rebuilding entire screens takes time from every member of the team; the product needs to be defined, the underlying engine or database may need to be modified, the new interface needs to be designed and then coded from scratch, and finally the whole screen needs to go through weeks of testing with our internal QA and our alpha testers. For a small team, these are big, costly projects. And they are absolutely coming.
So that’s a not-so-short summary of where we are on this class of issues. We’re always open to feedback and requests of all sorts, and we try to be as transparent as possible with this community, as priorities inform the work that’s done every day. Our hope is that people can understand that a 500 track album called “Mike’s Singles” isn’t something Roon was designed to handle, in a few different ways. Putting all 500 songs in the best possible historical and personal context is our goal, and the ongoing feedback of this community will determine our methods for getting there.