iTunes is Apple's multimedia software juggernaut, an all-in-one media marketplace and player that is swiftly becoming as ubiquitous as its many iDevices. Even with Apple's fabled commitment to interface and design, there are still little tips, tricks, tweaks, and pieces of software out there that everyday users can tack on to get more out of their iTunes experience. Here are a few of our favorites.
iTunes' library view gives you a wealth of information about the albums and individual tracks in your music collection. Artists, albums, genres, track length, rating, bit rate and more are plastered across the screen. Cull the columns down to just the ones that you need, saving on screen clutter, while also prioritizing the information that you want, making for easy reading and sorting.
Column sorting and smart playlists are only as good as the data you provide, such as a particular music file's tags. If you've got files with missing or broken tags, you can manually enter the missing data yourself. Select the track you want to edit and press Command + I (Mac) or right click->Get Info and go to the Info tab. From there, you can manually edit the track's tags. This works just fine for individual files but can be tedious with repetitive bulk retagging. Later, we'll look at a few programs that can help with bulk tagging.
Another useful overlooked feature is the simple "Display Duplicates" button, handy for cleaning out duped songs in your library. It's not perfect, as it bases its criteria on a combination of artist, title, and album, so you might want to double check the tracks to confirm their actually duped, and not just a cover by a different band or an acoustic version, etc.
Smart Playlists is another great iTunes feature that allows you to create an auto-updating playlist of music files based on a wealth of criteria that you've set down. Create playlists listing your favorite songs played over 5 times or all songs by a particular band. Set boundaries for size based on the remaining space in your synched iDevice and set it to autoupdate. More options are available for the user who really dives in to make the most out of the options in the Smart Playlist generator.
Organizing videos can be a bit of a pain with iTunes. Video files are generally classified as Movies and TV Shows. Movies will usually include all of your imported video files as well as downloaded purchases and will generally be displayed in one messy mashed-up library view. One workaround allows you to sort your movies and videos using the TV Show sorting functionality, allowing you to trick iTunes into grouping videos into custom "TV Show" groups.
Say you have a series of home videos you want to separate from the rest. You can go to the Get Info page (see the earlier Tags page 3) and then change the Media Kind to "TV Show". (cont.)
Once you have the videos set as TV Shows, you go to the Sorting tab and input a custom TV Show title in the "Show" field, such as, "Home Movies", or "Live Band Videos", or a tag like "Kids." Just make sure to be consistent, as you want to group your videos together. This takes advantage of the fact that iTunes groups TV Show video files by the show's title. From there, you can go from Movies to TV Shows, and then view your files in Album View, with the files clustered together under your custom TV Show 'titles'. A clunky workaround, but it does the job reasonably.
Here's a useful little interface tip: Did you know you can search the iTunes store without actually clicking on the iTunes Store on the left options bar? You simply enter your search phrase in the search box and then hold down Option + Return on Mac (or Shift + Return on Windows) to have your search go into the iTunes store, rather than movies, music, or whatever media library you're viewing at the moment.