Using iTunes can be easy and fun!

Take Control of
iTunes 12: The FAQ

Second Edition
Kirk McElhearn

Befuddled by Apple Music? Tired of playing hide-and-seek with the iTunes sidebar? 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.

This book has been discontinued. It has been replaced with:

Take Control of macOS Media Apps

NOTE: This book has been discontinued and replaced with Take Control of macOS Media Apps, which covers the apps in Catalina that replace iTunes. If you still need our iTunes 12 book, don’t worry! Buy the new Media Apps book, and inside you’ll find a link to a page where you can download the old iTunes 12 book.

Using iTunes as a media hub is easy with time-tested advice from author Kirk McElhearn. Kirk, who also pens Macworld’s “The iTunes Guy” column, wrote this book to answer your questions about the many details of working with audio and video in iTunes, with notable coverage of Apple Music and iCloud Music Library and explanations of numerous iTunes quirks.

Whether you just want to play your media, or you want to go deeper with special features like Genius, Shuffle, Up Next, Apple Music, and podcasts, this carefully organized compendium of iTunes wisdom has the answers you need.

Kirk also looks at various ways of bringing audio and video into iTunes, tagging songs and videos so you can find them more easily later, creating playlists, sharing your library over a home network, and transferring media to an iPad, iPhone, or iPod.

This ebook comes with coupons! You’ll find one for 10% off any Drobo storage unit and another for $7 off Rogue Amoeba’s Airfoil app.

The book also covers:

Play: Learn the basics of playing audio and video. You’ll also find tips on making quick playlists with Genius and Up Next, and find out how to view lyrics while tunes play.

Stream and Cloud: What are the pros and cons of iCloud Music Library? How do Apple Music and iTunes Match figure out whether to upload your music when setting up your iCloud Music Library? What’s Beats 1? You’ll get answers to these questions and more.

Share: Whether you want to casually share a playlist from your laptop when visiting a friend or you want to make all your media available on all your home’s computers, you’ll find out how Media Sharing and Home Sharing make sharing possible.

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.

Podcasts: You’ll be sampling and subscribing to podcasts in no time with Kirk’s advice, plus you’ll pick a method of syncing podcast episodes to your iPhone or iPad and even learn about creating your own podcast station.

Tag: Tags are descriptive bits of information — called “metadata” — that can describe your media. Learn which tags to bother changing, how to work with the Love tag, the best ways to add lyrics and album art, and more.

View: iTunes has more views than you can shake a stick at (much as you might want to). Get the scoop on switching between views, displaying album art, opening the handy column browser, and more.

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

Sync: You’ve put all your media in iTunes… now, how do you transfer it to a mobile Apple device such as an iPhone or an old-school iPod? Learn the best approach for your situation.

Rip: Add content to iTunes with Kirk’s detailed steps for “ripping” music CDs and audiobooks. If you want to rip audiobook CDs so they play nicely from iTunes, don’t miss this chapter!

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.

Kirk McElhearn

About Kirk McElhearn

Kirk McElhearn writes about Macs, iPods, iTunes, books, music and more. As a Senior Contributor to Macworld for more than 15 years, he wrote hundreds of articles, including the Ask the iTunes Guy column. He is a regular contributor to The Mac Security Blog, The Startup Finance Blog, and TidBITS, as well as several other websites and magazines. He is co-host of several podcasts, including The Next Track, a podcast about how people listen to music today. Visit his website Kirkville.

What versions of the Mac operating system is this ebook for?

iTunes 12.5 runs on 10.9.5 Mavericks and later. This book focuses on using iTunes with 10.12 Sierra, but if you are running Mavericks or Yosemite, you'll find that most of the book is in line with those older OS versions.

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.

  • Read Me First
  • Introduction
  • iTunes Quick Start
  • Play
  • Rip
  • Buy
  • Tag
  • View
  • Organize
  • Search
  • Sync
  • Cloud
  • Share
  • Burn
  • Print
  • Back Up
  • Bonus: Extend iTunes with AppleScripts
  • Learn More
  • About This Book
  • Opening a Playlist Window in iTunes 12.6

    Posted by Tonya Engst on March 29, 2017

    iTunes 12.6 adds a feature that has been absent for a few years, the ability to open a playlist in its own window. To make this happen, Control-click the playlist name in the sidebar and choose Open in New Window from the contextual menu.

    A New Look for the MiniPlayer

    Posted by Tonya Engst on

    In iTunes 12.6, Apple has given a facelift to the MiniPlayer, that small window that can replace your iTunes window while you listen to music. For details, read the Kirkville blog post iTunes 12.6 Overhauls the MiniPlayer Window.

    Multi-device Movie Rentals Made Easier

    Posted by Tonya Engst on

    In iTunes 12.6, Apple has added a long-awaited “rent once, watch anywhere” function. You can now start watching an iTunes Store rental movie on your Apple TV at home and then finish it on your next morning’s bus commute by streaming it on your iPhone. Previously, you could transfer rentals made on your Mac to an iOS device by performing an iTunes sync, and you couldn’t access rentals made on an Apple TV on any other devices.

    Kirk Riffs on the Second Edition

    Posted by Michael E. Cohen on February 27, 2017

    Kirk and Chuck Joiner of MacVoices discuss what’s new in the second edition of Kirk’s book (including coverage of new features and new interfaces for older features), why splitting iTunes into separate apps may not be practical, and tips for classical music management.

    August 26, 2019—With the release of Catalina, this book becomes highly outdated. We are planning a new book to cover the Music, Podcasts, and TV apps in Catalina later in 2019.

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