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iTunes has always been that featured-filled music-management software that has left us wanting just a bit more. It can be a little finnicky at times, and with iOS 6 creeping up on the horizon, it may be high time to get your bearings with iTunes before it's too late. If you managed to get stumped by iTunes sometimes, or just need a helpful push in the right direction, here are ten quick tips for getting more out of iTunes.
If you import CDs into iTunes, or add music that you already had stored as digital files, there won’t always be album artwork available straight away. In such cases you’ll end up with blank parts of your library when you view it as a grid, or in Cover Flow mode. To fill in the gaps, go to Advanced > Get Album Artwork. This will search through your library, updating any songs or albums that it recognizes. It’s not faultless, but you can also try apps such as CoverScout (http://bit.ly/2LSu) to fill any further blanks.
There are several different viewing modes for your iTunes library, so it’s worth playing around to see which one suits you best. The first option is a song list that lets you see all of your songs, with their information in columns, which you can sort any way you like. The album view arranges music by album, and shows you the album artwork. The grid view arranges your music by artist, and offers a grid of artwork instead of a list. Cover Flow is the fanciest, letting you browse your music like a CD collection.
CDs carry much higher quality audio than you generally get out of an MP3 or AAC file. Many people won’t notice the difference, but some only want the best audio experience. You can change how iTunes imports audio from CDs, to give yourself higher quality files, including using Apple Lossless. Go to "iTunes Preferences" menu and click "Import Settings" near the bottom. Click the drop-down menu for "Import Using" to select which encoding to use (AAC or MP3 are the most common).
If you have more than one machine in your house running iTunes, or if you have multiple accounts on one Mac, you can actually share your libraries with each other. This enables you to listen to music you wouldn’t normally have available to you without adding it permanently to your own library. You can turn on this option by going to "iTunes" preferences, then selecting the Sharing tab. Click the checkbox at the top to enable sharing – note that you can password protect access. You can also opt to share only selected playlists not just of music, but also any other supported media types. You can access another user’s library in the iTunes’s sidebar -- it will appear next to your playlists under the appropriate name.
There are a few options you can tweak to change the way iTunes plays songs. Go to the Preferences menu, then the Playback tab. Here, you can choose to have songs crossfade into each other (which could be good if you have your music on shuffle), you can use the built-in Sound Enhancer (or turn it off) and use Sounds Check to make sure that your songs all play at roughly the same volume. You can also enable closed captioning for videos by default here, and select to play in HD automatically.
If you want to be able to listen to your music in a way that goes beyond just having it sorted by artist or album -- as the main library does -- or shuffling through it all, then playlists are the ideal solution. You can add any songs you want to a playlist, mixing genres, artists and anything you like! To create a new playlist, click the plus in the far bottom-left corner. Type to name it something suitable, then go back to your music library. To add tracks to the playlist, simply drag them to it in the iTunes sidebar. You can also create so-called "smart playlists", which allow you to set up certain criteria for songs to be added automatically, such as anything you haven’t listened to in the last 30 days, for example. You can sync your playlists with your iOS devices, too, so you’re not restricted to listening to them on your Mac.
iTunes DJ is a feature of iTunes that lets you create a collaborative playlist where people can request songs from your library and add them to a playing queue. This can be done directly on the Mac, or you can enable people to browse the iTunes DJ list and your library from their iOS devices, adding songs from anywhere on your network. You can tweak the settings to tell it how many queued songs to display, and you can let people vote on the order from their devices. A great party feature, this one!
With so much focus on your own music library and the iTunes Store for finding more music, it’s easy to forget that iTunes is also a very capable internet radio player. Click Radio in the sidebar (under Tones) to see the different categories of station. Unfortunately, you can’t search for a specific station easily, but there’s a huge range of music in the different genres, and there are several BBC stations on there. Additionally, any streams with the PLS suffix you find on the web should automatically open and play in iTunes.
iTunes is just a database of your music and movies, meaning that it doesn’t actually contain the music files it plays, but rather just sorts them into an easy-to-browse interface. The actual files are on your hard drive, mostly likely in the Music folder. If you want to find any of the files themselves, you can simply right-click on any song and select "Show in Finder". This will bring up a new Finder window, with the song you selected in iTunes already highlighted. This is useful if you want to copy tracks manually.
If you hold Option when you click to open iTunes, you’ll bring up a menu where you can choose which iTunes library to open, or you can opt to create a new one. Why would you want to do this exactly? Well, you might want to have a separate library for your kids, for instance, so that their songs don’t pop up when you’re listening to yours on shuffle. Or you might want to use more than one iOS device on the same account. The songs aren’t just separated in the iTunes interface -- when you create a new library and name it something new, that selection is also stored separately to your original library in Finder.