Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iTunes 9.1 (Updated) | iLounge Article


Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iTunes 9.1 (Updated)

In anticipation of this weekend’s United States rollout of the iPad, Apple has released iTunes 9.1, a minor update to last year’s iTunes 9. This new version is designed primarily to provide support for the iPad and its related features such as the iBookstore, but also adds a few other nice enhancements.

The main changes in iTunes 9.1 are highlighted in typically sparse release notes, and include support for the iPad, including iBooks and ePub content and the ability to manage Genius Mixes.


There are, of course, a few more interesting new features hidden under the hood. As usual, we’ve gone through iTunes 9.1 with a fine-toothed comb, and below, we look at what’s new.

Downloading and Installing the Update

As with other iTunes updates, you can either download the new version directly from Apple’s web site at or simply choose “Check for Updates” from the menu in your existing version of iTunes.

The new version weighs in at approximately 94MB. QuickTime has not been updated this time around.

Initial Startup

After upgrading, iTunes 9 will take a few minutes when you first start it to convert your existing iTunes library database to the new format used by iTunes 9.1. As with previous upgrades, a typical iTunes user can expect this to take no more than 5-10 minutes, but if you have a large iTunes library, you will want to allow some time for this to complete—our largest iTunes library took over an hour.


Unlike the extra background processing that occurred with the major iTunes 9 release, once this update is complete iTunes should be ready to go and perform normally.

Keep in mind as well that due to this database upgrade you won’t be able to revert back to a prior version of iTunes without restoring a copy of the database from before the update. iTunes does make its own copy of your previous iTunes library database in your “Previous iTunes Libraries” subfolder, but any changes you’ve made to the database since the upgrade will be lost if you want to go back to the previous version for any reason.


The most notable change in iTunes 9.1 is support for storage and synchronization of eBooks, specifically for the iPad. Rather than adding a separate section, however, Apple has simply re-labelled the “Audiobooks” section to just “Books” and now combines both audiobooks and text-based eBooks in the same sorting area.


As with the Audiobooks section before it, the Books section can be displayed in List, Grid or Cover Flow views. In Grid View, Books and Audiobooks can be grouped into separate sections as shown above or you can choose to group by Author or Category. In List and Cover Flow views, both types of content are mixed together into the same list, although the “Kind” column can be used to differentiate books from audio books.


iTunes 9.1 also lets users import their own ePub-format books from other sources such as Project Gutenberg. ePub files are imported in the same manner as other types of media content—drag and drop into iTunes—then are automatically grouped into the Books section. Books are managed in much the same way as other types of media content as well: the File Info dialog box can also be used to update metadata for Books, and cover artwork can be added in the normal manner.


For Books, the Options page currently only provides one user-settable option: VoiceOver Language, which will presumably be tied to the VoiceOver feature on the iPad itself. Apple has also released a new VoiceOver pack (version 1.3), which signals that iTunes will automatically download pronunciation updates for this feature going forward.


Note that iTunes 9.1 does not provide any support for actually opening ePub files directly on your Mac or PC—these files are stored in iTunes only as a repository for syncing with the iPad and any future devices that may provide support for Apple’s iBooks app.

It is unclear at this time whether the iBookstore will be available through iTunes or only on the iPad. As of this writing it is not yet appearing on the iTunes Store, however Apple may be waiting for the actual launch of iPad before opening the iBookstore. At the very least it seems likely that iBooks purchased on the iPad itself will sync back to iTunes and be displayed and managed in the Books section. We’ll update this section when the iPad is available.

UPDATE (April 3, 2010): iBooks purchased on the iPad sync back to iTunes automatically in the same way as any other media content. The iBooks app on the iPad also allows users to download free samples of books for preview purposes; these free samples do not sync back to iTunes.

Genius Mixes

First introduced in iTunes 9.0 last fall, Genius Mixes expand upon the earlier Genius Playlists feature by providing longer radio-style mixes of music tracks that go well together. Once your library had been analyzed by the Genius feature, iTunes 9 could automatically generate up to 12 mixes based on different genres.


In iTunes 9, Genius Mixes were fairly static; iTunes would happily create up to 12 mixes but users had no control over the mixes themselves or even their titles. iTunes 9.1 now adds the ability to rename, reorder and even delete Genius Mixes entirely.

Genius Mixes can also now be selected as a source for the iTunes DJ feature, allowing it to draw its track selection from a Genius Mix rather than a playlist or the entire music library.


Convert Higher Bit Rate Songs to 128 kbps AAC

When Apple first released the iPod shuffle in 2005, iTunes added a feature that allowed users to automatically convert higher bit rate tracks down to 128kbps to accommodate the much lower capacity of the iPod shuffle. Since then, many iTunes users have been hoping that Apple would add the same capability for other iPod models and the iPhone.

After five years, iTunes 9.1 finally delivers this feature. All iPod and iPhone models now offer the option to “Convert higher bit rate songs to 128 kbps AAC,” found on their Summary tabs within iTunes.


As with other sync options, this can be enabled on a per-device basis and will simply tell iTunes to automatically convert all files transferred to the iPod to a 128kbps AAC format, allowing users with larger libraries or smaller iPods to potentially fit more music onto their devices. Note that this option only applies to music and does not affect audiobooks, podcasts or video files. Also note that the 128kbps files are created on-the-fly and stored only on the target device and not in the iTunes library itself; enabling this option for multiple devices will require the conversion to be performed separately for each target device.

Note that this conversion option is not available for the Apple TV, which today has as much capacity as the largest iPod, but a much slower synchronization process, and presumably wouldn’t benefit much from conversion for most users.

Sync Screen Changes

iTunes 9.1 also introduces several other minor changes to the synchronization options. This includes a slightly redesigned layout for most of the settings screens which places groups of settings within their own dialog boxes rather than the two-tone shaded areas used in prior versions. iTunes 9 actually introduced this style for certain updated settings screens; iTunes 9.1 unifies this style across all of the sync settings tabs.


Note that iTunes 9.1 also displays iPhone 3GS devices in the Summary page with the screen on, showing an image of a generic home screen. Older iPhone models and all iPod touch devices—even the updated 2009 third-generation iPod touch—continue to show the image with a blank screen.

UPDATE (April 3, 2010): iPad Sync Options

The iPad displays the same type of Summary screen in iTunes as the iPhone and iPod touch, displaying an image of the iPad, with the screen on, the name, capacity, software version and serial number. The standard “Check for Updates” and “Restore” buttons are present as well as the usual syncing options. The iPad introduces one additional sync option to this list however.  Since the iPad supports 720p videos, iTunes will sync the HD versions of videos to the iPad by default. Users can select “Prefer standard definition videos” to choose to sync only the standard definition version instead to save space on their iPad. Note that this only applies to videos from the iTunes Store that include both the HD and standard definition formats; iTunes will not perform any downconversion of HD content—if a standard-definition version is not available for a selected video the HD version will be transferred to the device regardless of this setting.



The Applications category in the iTunes source list and the sync settings tab for iPhone OS devices have now been condensed to just “Apps,” and the sort options have been moved to a drop-down menu rather than the previous button bar layout. The corresponding “Games” settings for Click Wheel iPod models has not been changed, however.


UPDATE (April 3, 2010): The Apps sync screen for the iPad is similar to the screen for the iPhone and iPod touch, with the sample home screen layout shown for an iPad. Any custom wallpaper selected on the iPad will also be shown here. Selecting, unselecting and rearranging apps here works in the same way as it does for other iPhone OS devices.


The iPad Apps sync screen also hides one additional trick: If you have apps installed on your iPad that support document transfer, a separate set of File Sharing options will appear below the main app sync section, displaying a list of these apps and the documents that they contain.


You can also now choose to see the “Version” column when viewing your Apps category in list mode, which can save a trip to the file info dialog box when you just want to check which version of an app is in your library. You can sort on the Version column in the same way as any other column in iTunes list view, although we’re not really sure what point there would be in doing this.


The View options for the Apps section have also been revised to more accurately reflect app-related information. Artist has been changed to read “Seller,” for example.


Books Syncing

A Books tab now appears in the sync options for all iPod and iPhone devices for managing synchronization of audiobooks. This is likely where you will select eBooks to synchronize to the iPad as well.


The settings on the Books screen work much like the settings for TV Shows; users can choose either specific audiobooks or playlists for synchronization and can select individual parts from multi-part audiobooks. This provides additional flexibility when syncing audiobooks.

The Apple TV settings do not include the separate Books tab, however non-Audible audiobooks can still be synchronized to the Apple TV from the Music settings, as in previous versions of iTunes.

UPDATE (April 3, 2010): With today’s release of the iPad it has been confirmed that eBooks from the iTunes library are synchronized to the iPad via the “Books” tab. Books can be sorted by Title or by Author and a Search field is available to quickly search through the list of Books in the iTunes library directly within the sync selection window.


Books purchased through the iBookstore on the iPad sync automatically back to iTunes in the same manner as other purchased content. Purchased books appear in iTunes with a “Kind” type of “Purchased Book.”


Note that the iBookstore remains available only from the iPad at this time and not via iTunes on your computer. Further, free samples of books downloaded from the iBookstore on the iPad do not sync back to your iTunes library.

Aperture Support

iTunes has provided basic support for synchronizing photo albums from Apple’s Aperture application since Aperture’s first release. However this support has been quite limited in comparison to the more advanced synchronization options available for iPhoto users. With the release of Aperture 3 earlier this year, iTunes 9.1 has expanded support for synchronizing photos from Aperture. Users of Aperture can now select Faces and recent Projects from their Aperture libraries, and iPhone and iPod touch users can choose to synchronize videos from Aperture to their devices. As with iPhoto, synchronized videos must already be in an iPhone OS compatible format—iTunes will not perform any video conversion during the sync.


iTunes 9.1 now also displays your Aperture or iPhoto albums in a hierarchical view, shown within their appropriate folders and projects.


As with prior versions, iTunes 9.1 displays iPhoto Events in a separate list. Aperture Projects on the other hand are displayed in a hierarchical list alongside Aperture photo albums. Much like iPhoto Events, users can choose to automatically sync recent projects and can select additional projects manually.

Faces and Projects appear on iPod and iPhone devices as standard albums in the same way as Faces and Events from iPhoto. On the Apple TV, Faces are displayed in their own category and Aperture Projects are treated as normal photo albums. This differs from viewing iPhoto content on the Apple TV, where Events are displayed in a separate “Events” section.

iTunes 9.1 also preserves any custom sort ordering set within photo albums from an Aperture library. In prior versions, Aperture albums were always sorted by date.

Unlike iPhoto, Aperture Slideshows cannot be synced to the Apple TV, even as static photo albums—they simply do not appear in the list. iTunes 9.1 continues to allow iPhoto users to sync their slideshows to the Apple TV, including custom transition and playlist settings. As before, syncing videos to the Apple TV from either iPhoto or Aperture is not supported.

Aperture photos will also not display the date taken when browsing photos on the Apple TV or iPod classic. Aperture Albums display no date at all, while Aperture Projects display only the date that project was imported into Aperture. By comparison when browsing iPhoto content on these devices, the actual date taken is displayed at the top of the screen for each photo.

Support for syncing Places information from either iPhoto or Aperture is not available on current iPod, iPhone or Apple TV devices. The iPad will include Places support although it is not yet clear whether iTunes will implement Places as separate sync categories for the iPad or simply transfer the location information as metadata for the iPad itself to sort out. We’ll update this with more information once the iPad is released.

UPDATE (April 3, 2010): The “Photos” sync tab for the iPad in iTunes 9.1 is the same as for other iPhone OS devices, with no specific “Places” option. Instead, the iPad reads places information directly from the photo metadata to display your photos on a map in the iPad Photos application.


iPad Remote

Very little has changed in the Preferences in iTunes 9.1, with most of the changes related to terminology such as Audiobooks being replaced with “Books” and Applications being renamed “Apps” on the General tab, and references to the iPad on the Devices tab. One setting of note on the Devices tab, however, is the option to “Look for iPod touch, iPhone and iPad Remotes.”


While it is possible that this may simply indicate that the existing Remote app will also run on the iPad, with the specific reference to “iPad Remote” it seems more likely that Apple plans to release an iPad-optimized Remote app rather than forcing iPad users to rely on the non-optimized iPhone Remote app.

Other Minor Changes

The iTunes Advanced Preferences screen has a new option, Reset iTunes Store Cache. No help is provided on this option, but presumably this clears any cached iTunes Store interface information within iTunes and is likely useful primarily as a diagnostic tool for users who may be having problems accessing the iTunes Store.

The Group Compilations when Browsing option has disappeared from the Advanced Preferences as well, although is is still referenced in the iTunes Help file. As with other preferences that have been removed from the iTunes UI, the Group Compilations when Browsing option remains available as a hidden preference that can be adjusted by editing the preference files outside of iTunes. When upgrading an existing library iTunes will keep the existing settings.

UPDATE: The Group Compilations option is now found on the View menu in iTunes under the Column Browser submenu. This works in the same way as the preference option did, and allows you to toggle it on and off more easily. Thanks to Doug Adams for pointing this out in the comments.

The Column Browser submenu now also contains a setting to Use Album Artists. When enabled, the Album Artist field is used to group tracks instead of the Artist field. This can be particularly useful for albums that include featured or alternate artists as they can now all appear under a single artist entry when browsing the library while still retaining their actual artist information in the individual tracks.


The Show Duplicates option on the File menu has been renamed Display Duplicates. It functions the same as in prior versions, however.

New options can now be found on the Control menu to Increase and Decrease Volume along with corresponding keyboard shortcuts.

What still hasn’t changed - iPhone Manual Mode

Each time an iTunes update comes out we receive a flurry of e-mails from readers asking us if Apple has finally fixed certain longstanding problems such as the ability to manually manage the media content on an iPhone from more than one computer. Sadly, iTunes 9.1 and iPhone OS 3.1.3 still have not addressed this issue.

The inability to manually manage the media content on an iPhone from more than one computer continues to be a source of frustration for many of our readers and one of the oddest limitations we’ve seen in iTunes. For many users this keeps the iPhone from being entirely usable as an iPod. It is obvious at this stage that this is a deliberate design decision on Apple’s part, and one that it is for some reason refusing to fix for the benefit of users.

More importantly, this makes us wonder whether the iPad will suffer from a similar limitation or will function more like the iPod touch. It is worth noting that with the iPhone there is an additional licensing restriction that prevents ringtones from being loaded from more than one iTunes library, which may indirectly contribute to this limitation. The iPod touch and iPad do not support ringtone capabilities and are therefore not bound by this restriction.


iTunes 9.1 contains no noticeable performance improvements from the previous version on either Windows or Mac OS X. It remains a 32-bit application and memory usage and utilization appear to be the same in the new version as in iTunes 9.

Update or Wait?

If you’re planning to buy an iPad, the answer to this question is obvious as you will need the newest version of iTunes to support the iPad. For other users, the main benefits of this update seem to be support for converting songs on-the-fly during sync and improved support for the new features in Aperture 3. The new separate Audiobooks syncing options may also be of interest to Audiobook enthusiasts.

Other new features are more minor in scope and there’s nothing else here that would make the average user rush out and download this update. The good news, however, is that we haven’t seen anything in iTunes 9.1 that suggests you shouldn’t update. For all intents and purposes it continues to work much the same as iTunes 9 did.


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Does anyone know if you’ll be able to purchase books from the iTunes 9.1 *without* owning an iPad (just like music)?

Posted by Tom K in Toronto on March 31, 2010 at 11:31 AM (CDT)


But is song info still missing after I double-click an album from Album View?

Posted by Herr Doktor in Toronto on March 31, 2010 at 11:33 AM (CDT)


As noted above, it’s not clear yet whether the iBookstore will be available from within iTunes or only on the iPad itself.  The language used in the release notes suggests that the “Books” category in iTunes is primarily an accommodation for importing your own ePub titles.

Keep in mind that even if the iBookstore does become available through iTunes, there wouldn’t really be any point in purchasing books from there without having an iPad. Most if not all books will be DRM-protected and the iPad is the only device that you will actually be able to read them on. It would be akin to purchasing an iPhone application without owning an iPhone.

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on March 31, 2010 at 11:35 AM (CDT)


#2: I’m not sure what you’re referring to as I never had that problem in iTunes 9.0. At this point it’s still working the same in iTunes 9.1 as it did before.

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on March 31, 2010 at 11:38 AM (CDT)


The iTunes Store can now be viewed in full-screen mode.  When this option is enabled, your library panel will disappear.  This may useful for smaller screens.

Posted by Galley in Toronto on March 31, 2010 at 11:40 AM (CDT)


That was already there in iTunes 9 under the iTunes Store Preferences.

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on March 31, 2010 at 11:50 AM (CDT)


Has the ability of draging art on to a file to copy the artwork been fixed. The version before this broke the ability. So that you had to drag to the desktop then to the file info dialog box to copy artwork.

Posted by Ed Wiser in Toronto on March 31, 2010 at 12:44 PM (CDT)


So no chance that when you buy books or load epub books into iTunes that we can read them on the iPhone, ala the Kindle App?

Posted by Seth in Toronto on March 31, 2010 at 12:49 PM (CDT)


“Group Compilations” is under View > Column Browser

Posted by Doug Adams in Toronto on March 31, 2010 at 1:00 PM (CDT)


Hi Jesse, regarding your comment (3) above:

“Most if not all books will be DRM-protected and the iPad is the only device that you will actually be able to read them on.”

It would be disappointing if, in spite of Apple’s claim that they were supporting .epub (an open format), any DRM tied the books specifically to the iPad. That would make their books no better than Amazon’s proprietary .azw format and defeat the purpose of publishing in .epub.

I can buy books in Adobe .epub (i.e. DRM-protected through Adobe Digital Editions) and read them on my PC, IREX, or anything which can run Adobe Digital Editions or, I believe, Adobe Reader Mobile.

Since I can buy music from iTunes and play it on any music player I want, I would hope the analogy is closer to buying music than buying an app for the iPhone or iPod Touch… :(

Posted by Tom K in Toronto on March 31, 2010 at 1:51 PM (CDT)


#7: I’m not sure that dragging art directly onto a track in iTunes was ever officially supported, although it may have worked at one point. The normal way of adding artwork to a track without using the File Info dialog box is to display the album artwork panel in the bottom left corner of the iTunes window, select the track, and then drag the artwork into there.

#8 / #10: It seems unlikely that Apple will provide any support for other eBook readers any more than they provide support for other media players. ePub books you load yourself can of course be added to any device in the same way as MP3 files can be loaded onto any other media player. iTunes will not likely provide an interface for doing this, however. 

While nothing is certain until such time as Apple actually launches the iPad and the iBookstore, reports from publishers back in February indicated that Apple may be at least offering FairPlay as an option for publishers if nothing else. As with the music industry, the issue here likely has more to do with the publishers demanding copy-protection on their publications than with Apple encouraging it, and rumour has it that publishers will be able to choose not to use DRM for their books. Certainly the reports of Project Gunterburg titles being available on the iBookstore would suggest that not all titles will be DRM-protected.  My earlier comment said “most” based on my belief that most publishers will likely choose to use copy-protection much as they have already done with Amazon.

#9: Thanks Doug. Missed that in the chaos that the “View” menu seems to have become. The article has been updated.

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on March 31, 2010 at 1:54 PM (CDT)


Convert on the fly is HUGE—by far the biggest previous issue for me, as I want to keep lossless files on my desktop and lossy on my iPhone. I had resorted to having two copies of each file, and separate smart playlists to separate them and use as the basis for syncing. But that also meant an ugly library, separate manual playlists, etc. Generally a headache.

Posted by Gareth R. in Toronto on March 31, 2010 at 2:07 PM (CDT)


Still no 64 bit support for Macintosh.  Say what you will, 64bit applications are much snappier than the 32 bit ones.  iTunes is sluggish as are all the remaining non-64 bit Apple applications, such as iWork, and Keynote.  Can’t wait, but will have to.

Posted by Czar in Toronto on March 31, 2010 at 7:06 PM (CDT)


As an “audiobook enthusiast” with a 50+ GB audiobook collection, the new option under the Books tabs to sync individual audiobook titles and playlists is a great step forward. This will immediately make it much easier to add particular titles [and their parts] to my iPhone. Excellent and worth the 9.1 upgrade for me.

Posted by Will in Toronto on March 31, 2010 at 7:11 PM (CDT)


It’s a shame that iTunes isn’t as smart as RealPlayer when it comes to transcoding.  RP only converted files when necessary, meaning files that were already AAC were left alone; only file types that weren’t supported by the portable device were transcoded.

Posted by Galley in Toronto on March 31, 2010 at 7:33 PM (CDT)


Wow! what a disappointment. A long sought after feature: down-convert lossless audio files while syncing to an I-device. They missed the mark. The target customer who stores lossless music does so for one reason: you enjoy the fidelity on a home system. For the discriminating ear, 128kbps is too lossy and it is a discernable loss of fidelity whether you listen with cheap headphones or quality headphones. You require a minimum 258kbps for a tolerable music experience. The irony here is the I-Tunes music library was criticized for years because they provided only 128kbps music. Thank goodness they remedied that problem by providing a 256kbps format. Now, they bring that old issue front and center with a limited conversion to the old 128 standard. Oy!

Posted by Mark in Toronto on April 2, 2010 at 2:35 AM (CDT)


How do you make a ringtone with a song in your current itunes library, Ive notice that 9.1 deleted the create AAC Version option in order to do so

Posted by king kayser in Toronto on April 2, 2010 at 8:17 PM (CDT)


Still no support for synching Firefox favourites to the iPhone? It’s got 1/3 of the world browser market.

Please add it soon!

Posted by Dave Fearn in Toronto on April 3, 2010 at 4:51 AM (CDT)


I downloaded iTunes 9.1 today and it worked fine on my login but when my husband started up his side, all of his music is gone. I looked under preferences and it still says that the file location is our shared music folder and I tried changing it to our backup file but neither is working.

Has anyone else had this happen?

Posted by Jill in Toronto on April 3, 2010 at 7:55 PM (CDT)


Updated my software this weekend. 4/3. 

Now my ipod touch does not work with my Pioneer Premier DEH-P780MP car stereo.  When I plug the touch into the adapter the head unit displays “No Songs” for the ipod connection.

I really don’t have much hope that i will ever be able to use my touch with my car stereo again.  Thaks Apple.  You Rock

Posted by Rhett in Toronto on April 5, 2010 at 10:08 AM (CDT)

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