iTunes Tips and Tricks
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.
Organizing: Getting Rid of Duplicates
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.
Organizing: Smart Playlists
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 Video "Groups" p1
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.)
Organizing Video "Groups" p2
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.
Search the iTunes Store from Anywhere!
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.
Ever listened to a soft, quiet piece of music only to be suddenly jarred by a blaring change in volume in the next track? Maybe you didn't have Sound Check turned on. This little feature in the Edit->Preferences->Playback menu is designed to normalize the playback volumes across your library so jarring differences in noise level are minimized. While not perfect (it can sometimes reduce the volumes of loud tracks too much or make a soft track a bit louder), it certainly helps keep your eardrums from ringing.
TuneUp is a powerful organizing and sorting tool for cleaning up missing or damaged tags and metadata in your music collection. It "automagically" cleans up tags, fills in artist data and downloads album art. It's powerful, comprehensive, but its power does come with a hefty pricetag (from $20 to $50) that people are still willing to pay given TuneUp's undeniable utility. If you're not sure, you can download their demo version, which is limited to 50 song cleanups, 25 album cover downloads, and 25 duplicate removals. Give it a shot and decide for yourself whether the full deal is worth it.
iTunes Folder Watch
iTunes Folder Watch (iFW) is a great Windows freeware tool for users who rip, download, or otherwise import material from various sources besides the iTunes Store. iFW allows you to set the program to watch certain folders and whenever new iTunes-compatible media is added into those folders, it can then automatically import them into your iTunes library, allowing you to avoid the tedium of sorting and organizing your media imports into iTunes.
MP3tag is a free bulk tagger for media files that helps users sort through their collections to tweak the tags and other metadata. Simply select the folders and files you want to edit, select the files you want to tweak, enter the tags in the fields on the left, and presto! You're done! While not as automated, flashy, or slick as the likes of TuneUp, MP3tag for Windows cuts out the cost and is just as rewarding to a user willing to put in some time organizing their media library.
Doug's AppleScripts for iTunes
Mac users can also take advantage of Apple's AppleScript programming language' ability to automate repetitive tasks to help in their iTunes library management. Doug's AppleScripts for iTunes is a handy resource for just that, listing popular scripts for library management and other iTunes related tasks, as well as instructions on how to apply and use them.
Have any favorite tips and tweaks that you'd like to share for getting more out of iTunes? Got any useful programs that you'd recommend to compliment the iTunes suite? Let us know in the comments section below!