Buy three or more books and save 30% on your order!
They’ll help you update your skills, work more efficiently, and increase productivity.
(The discount is calculated after you click Check Out in the cart.)

Take Control of iTunes 12: The FAQ
Aug 07, 2016
The Author

Kirk McElhearn is a freelance writer, specializing in Macs, iPods, iTunes, digital music, and more. In addition to having written or co-written a dozen books, he is a Senior Contributor to Macworld magazine and he contributes to several other publications. He reviews classical CDs for MusicWeb and audiobooks for Audiofile, and he is a translator from French to English.

Take Control of iTunes 12: The FAQ

Take your iTunes know-how past 11 to 12!

Befuddled by Apple Music? Want to find the best view for listening to your albums? Hoping to make playlists to transfer to your iPhone? Wish you could organize your podcasts? Wondering what the difference is between loves and stars? In this FAQ-style ebook, Kirk McElhearn (author of “The iTunes Guy” column at Macworld) explains not only how the iTunes features work, but how normal people can make iTunes do what they want.

Relying on an easily browsed question-and-answer approach, Kirk shares his love of music and helps you understand the process of bringing media into iTunes, tagging it, adding album artwork, organizing it into playlists, and transferring it to an iPad, iPhone, or iPod.

Is this book up-to-date? Yes and no. On the one hand, we last updated it in August, so most of the content is accurate and useful. On the other hand, we are working on a new edition, due out later this year! See Update Plans, below, for more.

More Info

Find answers to questions about how to:

Play: Learn the basics of playing audio and video, and start making quick playlists with Genius and Up Next.

Rip: Add content to iTunes with detailed steps for “ripping” music CDs and audiobooks. (If you want to rip audiobooks so they play nicely from iTunes, don’t miss this chapter!) Also, find general advice for ripping video DVDs and learn which file formats work in iTunes.

Buy: Find tips on shopping in the iTunes Store, and get advice on sharing your purchases with family members and among your various Apple devices.

Tag: Kirk describes himself as “tag obsessed.” If that description fits you, or if you just want to take control of your tags, this chapter is for you. Tags are descriptive bits of information — known to geeks as “metadata” — that describe your media. You can sort and filter based on tags, giving you myriad ways to manipulate your media. Learn which tags to bother changing, how to work with the Love tag, how to add lyrics and album art, and more.

View: iTunes has more views than flavors of ice cream at the corner grocery. Get the scoop on how to switch between views, where your album art is (or is not), and so forth.

Organize: Make a simple playlist of romantic songs, workout songs, Apple Watch songs, or whatever theme you like. Also, create smart playlists that, for example, comprise only your 5-star faves (or Loves!) or tunes you haven’t heard recently. You’ll also find help with operational issues like dealing with a huge library, multiple libraries, and where iTunes puts your media files.

Search: Find media in iTunes, plus learn tricks for narrowing a search and for locating duplicates.

Sync: You’ve put all your media in iTunes… now, how do you transfer it to an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch? This chapter considers many different user scenarios and has help for people who have too much music. It also notes options for playing media through a second-, third-, or fourth-generation Apple TV.

Cloud: What exactly comprises an iCloud Music Library? How do Apple Music and iTunes Match figure out whether your music matches tracks in the Apple Music Library? What is Beats 1? Kirk answers these questions and more.

Share: Find answers to questions about sharing iTunes library media with others, primarily through Home Sharing on a local network.

Burn and Print: Learn how to copy music from iTunes to a CD. Also, get directions for printing a song list, for example, to include in the jewel case of said CD.

Back Up: This short chapter has tips and inspiration for backing up your (potentially irreplaceable) iTunes media.

Extend with AppleScript: Mac users can make iTunes do more with AppleScript. Learn about key AppleScripts that you can download to make iTunes jump through even more hoops.

What's New

What’s New in Version 1.3 of This Book

In July 2016, Apple Music began matching your music using acoustic fingerprinting, just like the way iTunes Match matches tracks, rather than using your files’ metadata (tags). A benefit of this change is that Apple can more accurately match your tracks. In addition, matched tracks in an Apple Music library no longer contain DRM, which limited how they could be played on secondary devices. If you are already an iTunes Match subscriber, you may no longer need that service, since Apple Music now offers the same type of matching.

We’ve updated a handful of topics to account for this important change. In particular, see Does Apple Music Match My Music?.

Also, Apple has released a new remote app for the fourth-generation Apple TV. To clarify which app is for what, Apple changed the full name of the Remote app discussed in this book to iTunes Remote. Read How Do I Control iTunes Remotely? for details.

What Was New in Version 1.2 of This Book

As Kirk and I (Tonya) began creating version 1.2, which was aimed at covering iTunes 12.4, we thought that all we needed to do, really, was describe a few key interface changes, like how the sidebar is now a prominent interface element. But, as we started testing the text against iTunes and as Apple released 12.4.1, we realized that the entire book needed to be read carefully so that we could make hundreds (maybe thousands) of tiny changes. The good news is that we both like the new iTunes interface better, because it is more consistent and sensible. The book has a What’s New list in the “Read Me First” chapter that provides you with a helpful overview of what’s changed.


What versions of Mac OS X is this ebook for?

iTunes 12 runs on 10.7.5 Lion and later. This book focuses on using iTunes with 10.11 El Capitan, but if you are running Lion, Mountain Lion, Mavericks, or Yosemite, you’ll find that most of the book is in line with those older OS versions — the book does call out the switch in Mavericks with the Books/Audiobooks library.

What about Windows?

Kirk created this book using a Mac, but with Mac and Windows users in mind. With the exception of a handful of small points and the chapter about AppleScript, everything in the book applies to both the Mac and the Windows versions of iTunes. Windows users who like keyboard shortcuts should keep in mind that some keys are different in Windows. A sidebar at the end of the Introduction notes the differences.

Update Plans

January 13, 2017 – We are working on a new version of the iTunes book and our hope is to have something ready for release in late January or February. The new version will include a major reshaping of the book and will cover questions, like how to best work with iCloud Music Library. Plus, we’re taking the time to re-test everything in iTunes as Apple continues to make changes to this popular app. Stay tuned for more information! If you buy a copy of the book now, you’ll get lots of immediately useful information and a free upgrade once this new edition is released.

Posted by Lauri Reinhardt

  1. Acoustic Fingerprinting Comes to Apple Music, Some DRM Leaves

    Yesterday, the Apple news world was abuzz with a change that Apple is rolling out to Apple Music subscribers. The change effects the way that iCloud Music Library tracks are matched. Instead of using metadata, as it had before, iTunes will now employ the same acoustic fingerprinting technique used by iTunes Match.

    This change means that iTunes is more likely to accurately match your music. And, now, if you want to download your matched tracks to another Apple device, those tracks come down without DRM (digital rights management). This makes is easier to not lose your music if you unsubscribe from Apple Music without carefully checking that you have at least one copy of all your tracks locally.

    To read about all the picky details, see Kirk McElhearn’s Macworld article.

    According to Jim Dalrymple in his article at The Loop, Apple is rolling out the new matching service to 1% or 2% of its users per day. If your iCloud Music Library is now matching with acoustic fingerprinting, you’ll see Matched in the iCloud Status column for newly matched music, instead of Apple Music.

    Posted by Tonya Engst (Permalink)

  2. Kirk and Chuck Discuss the iTunes Comeback Tour

    From the app that sold a zillion iPods to the app that tech pundits love to hate, iTunes has been on a long journey into and out of favor. With the latest revisions in iTunes 12.4, iTunes seems to be on a comeback tour, bringing back some interface elements and refining others, making it more usable again. In his interview with Chuck Joiner of MacVoices, Kirk describes the iTunes changes that led to his being able to add more coverage about iTunes features without appreciably increasing the book’s page count (hint: a lot of complex step-by-step instructions could be streamlined thanks to iTunes’ newly restored sidebar and improved navigation).

    Posted by Michael E. Cohen (Permalink)

  3. Grown-ups Planned the iTunes 12.4 Interface and Look What Happened

    Although Apple made almost no feature-related changes in iTunes 12.4, it appears that a bunch of grown-ups have taken over decision making about the interface — and that’s a good thing. Here are some of the changes…

    In iTunes 12.4, fewer controls are strewn about at the top of the window; instead those functions, including the store-related commands, are now accessed via menus on the menubar.

    View Options appear in their own window; the funky View Options popover menu is no more. As always, you can access View Options either by choosing View > View Options from the menu bar or by pressing Command-J (a keyboard shortcut worth memorizing).

    There’s a new menu on the menubar that uses the name of the type of media you are working with (Songs, Movies, Audiobooks, etc.). This menu contains commands that would otherwise be buried in a Control-click contextual menu, such as the one you see when you Control-click a track name.

    To choose a type of media, like music or movies, you use a pop-up menu near the left of the toolbar. This menu is reminiscent of the menu found in iTunes 11 and uses words so you don’t have to interpret little icons. Once you choose a media type, you can work with the media that’s stored locally on your computer by clicking the My button (like My Music or My Movies) near the center of the toolbar; when you do, the sidebar (much like the fabled and beloved sidebar in iTunes of old) appears.

    One navigational hurdle that's difficult to overcome intuitively is when you’ve got an iPhone or other iOS device selected (which you do by choosing a device from the iconic device pop-up menu near the left of the toolbar). When a device's settings occupy the iTunes window, to go back to some other part of iTunes you need to click the new Back button, which looks sort-of like a left-pointing arrow or a chevron <. The Back < button appears at the left of the toolbar.

    All of this improved navigation should be easy to figure out, but because it’s not what Kirk described in his "Take Control of iTunes 12: The FAQ,” we are working on an update to the book (but we are also aware that Apple may make an important iTunes-related announcement at WWDC later this month, and we'll be taking that into account, too, as we plan the update).

    And here's a final tip: if you’ve lost your Recent Updates list for podcasts, you can learn how to get it back from Kirk’s recent Macworld article, Ask the iTunes Guy: Changes in iTunes 12.4.

    Posted by Tonya Engst (Permalink)

  4. iTunes Match and iCloud Music Library Limits Increased

    Apple said earlier this year that it would be increasing the track limits for both iTunes Match and iCloud Music Library. As Kirk describes on his Kirkville blog, that promise seems in the process of being fulfilled, with a new limit that is apparently quadruple the size of the old: 100,000 songs vs. 25,000.

    Posted by Michael E. Cohen (Permalink)

  5. Tell Apple Music Which Music You Don’t Like in iTunes

    Starting with iTunes 12.2.2, you can tell Apple Music that you don’t like a For You recommendation. Previously, you could do this on iOS devices, but not in the iTunes app on the desktop. To tell Apple that a For You recommendation is not really for you, click the … button next to any song, album, or playlist, and choose Recommend Less Like This.

    Apple Music will take your dis-recommendation into account when it recommends music in For You. It’s a good idea to do this whenever you see something you really don’t like, just as it’s important to click the heart (♥) button to tell Apple Music what you do like. Over time, you’ll get better recommendations.

    Posted by Michael E. Cohen (Permalink)

  6. Kirk and Chuck Dissect iTunes 12 and Apple Music on MacVoices

    Kirk and Chuck Joiner of MacVoices discuss the many recent changes to iTunes, including its integration with the new Apple Music service, that prompted the latest update to Kirk’s book.

    Posted by Michael E. Cohen (Permalink)