Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iTunes 9.2 (Updated) | iLounge Article

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Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iTunes 9.2 (Updated)

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By Jesse Hollington

Social Media & Software Editor, iLounge
Published: Monday, June 21, 2010
Articles Categories: Features

With the impending release of the iOS 4 operating system scheduled for Monday and the iPhone 4 set to follow shortly thereafter, Apple has released another relatively minor iTunes update—iTunes 9.2—to provide support for its new touchscreen software and hardware. iTunes 9.2 is the first to offer compatibility with the new iOS and iPhone 4 devices, as well as supporting its upcoming iBooks 1.1 application, which synchronizes ePub- and PDF-format books to the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

The main changes in iTunes 9.2 are highlighted in the usual sparse release notes, and primarily include support for new features and changes in iOS 4 and iBooks 1.1.

As usual, there are a number of other more subtle new features hidden in this update as well, and we’ve taken our traditional in-depth look at what’s changed. For the time being, some of the iTunes 9.2 changes are hidden unless an iOS 4 device is connected, so we’ll update this article with those additional features when iOS 4 is officially available.

Downloading and Installing the Update

As with other iTunes updates, you can either download the new version directly from Apple’s web site at http://www.itunes.com or simply choose “Check for Updates” from the menu in your existing version of iTunes. Mac users should also see the update included in the Software Update application.

The update weighs in at approximately 107MB for the Mac version and 93MB for the Windows version. QuickTime has not been updated with this release, although the Windows installer still includes QuickTime 7.6.6 for users who do not already have it.

Initial Startup

After upgrading, iTunes 9.2 will take some time when you first run it to convert your existing iTunes library database to a new format. We found this update took a little bit longer for this process than in previous versions, with one extremely large iTunes library requiring almost 90 minutes of “Updating” before iTunes was ready to use.

Following the main update to the library, iTunes 9.2 will also take a few minutes to create new artwork thumbnails. This process should run somewhat faster, with the longest run we encountered taking just under 10 minutes.

As usual, this database upgrade will prevent you from reverting 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 a “Previous iTunes Libraries” subfolder, but any changes you make after the upgrade will be lost if you want to go back to the previous version for any reason.

Support for iBooks 1.1

Several of the changes in iTunes 9.2 are directly related to a new version of iBooks released on June 21st. ”>iBooks 1.1 adds support for the iPhone and iPod touch as well as the ability to view PDFs within the iBooks application on any iOS 4 device.

iPhone and iPod touch Support

At the beginning of April, iTunes 9.1 reorganized the “Audiobooks” section from earlier versions into a new “Books” section, grouping audiobooks and e-books together in one place. Most references to “Audiobooks” were changed to “Books” throughout the iTunes interface, including the sync tabs for Apple’s various media devices. At that time, however, only the sync options for the iPad actually included e-books in that section—others were limited to listing audiobooks only in much the same way as they had previously.

iTunes 9.2 provides the same e-book management interface for iPhone and iPod touch devices running iOS 4, regardless of whether iBooks is installed on the target device or not. The settings here are essentially the same as for the iPad, and a separate entry in the capacity bar is also included to indicate how much space is being taken up by e-books.

You can choose to sync e-books to your iPhone or iPod touch regardless of whether the iBooks application is installed or not. If the app is not present, iTunes will display a warning dialog indicating this following the sync. The iBooks app can be installed either via iTunes or directly from the App Store on the device itself, and will pick up any content that you’ve already transferred to the device.

PDF Support

With the inclusion of PDF reading features in iBooks 1.1, iTunes 9.2 has also made some changes to how PDF files are handled. For several years now, iTunes has supported importing PDF files as “digital booklets” for the music library, and many albums purchased from the iTunes Store have included PDF files as parts of the album to provide digital cover artwork and liner notes. Likewise, it has not been uncommon for podcasts and iTunes U collections to include PDF files as part of their subscriptions from time to time. Prior to iTunes 9.2, dragging a PDF file into your iTunes library would drop it into the “Music” section, where it would organized in much the same way as a music track.

iTunes 9.2 now imports PDF files directly into the Books section, ready to be synced to a device running iBooks 1.1. PDF files appear in the Books listing alongside ePub books.

In much the same way, PDF files from the Books section will appear in the “Books” sync settings in iTunes for an iPad or iOS 4 device and are synced over in the same manner as ePub titles.

Note that iTunes 9.2 doesn’t perform any checks on what version of iBooks is on your device. For instance, PDF files can be synced to an iPad using iBooks 1.0 but will not be readable on the device until iBooks 1.1 is installed. Further, unlike syncing e-books to an iPhone or iPod touch, no warning message is provided when syncing PDF files to an iPad device running an older version of iBooks.

iTunes 9.2 also still does not provide any built-in method for viewing ePub files. Double-clicking on a PDF file will open it in your default PDF reader application in the same manner as in previous versions of iTunes.

Syncing Existing PDF Files to iBooks

As noted earlier, iTunes has been able to store and read PDF files for some time, and many users may have a number of PDF files stored in their Music library or as part of podcasts or iTunes U collections. By default, these PDF files remain exactly where they are and do not appear in the Books section and are therefore not available to sync to iBooks. With iTunes 9.2, however, you can re-categorize these PDF files by using the “Media Kind” field in the Options panel of the file properties. Simply change the “Media Kind” to “Book” and the PDF will appear in the Books section in iTunes and can be synced to iBooks on your device.

Application Folder Management

One of the significant user interface changes in iOS 4 is the ability to organize applications into Folders. In addition to being able to do this directly on an iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 4, iTunes 9.2 also provides the same capabilities in the Apps sync settings.

This works in much the same manner as on the device itself. To create a new folder, simply drag an application icon on top of another one and a new folder will appear with the two applications, and a default folder name based on genre. You can then rename the folder, drag in more applications, or drag applications out of the folder onto the same page or other pages.

With support for background home screen wallpapers in iOS 4, the iTunes 9.2 Apps screen also displays the selected home screen background in much the same way as it previously did for the iPad.

Automatically Sync New Apps

iTunes 9.2 adds another new feature that will be of value to users with more than one iOS device who frequently download a lot of apps. In prior versions of iTunes, when new apps were downloaded from the App Store, they would be automatically synced to every iOS device associated with the current library. This created problems for families where multiple devices were shared on a single computer, since not every user would necessarily want every apps. The problem was exacerbated with the advent of the iPad, where apps downloaded for an iPhone or iPod touch would also end up getting synced automatically to the iPad.

Fortunately, iTunes 9.2 addresses this with an option to “Automatically Sync New Apps.” Found below the listing of applications on the “Apps” tab for each device, this option determines whether new apps that are downloaded into the iTunes library will be automatically synced to the specified device.

This option is enabled by default, but when disabled, new applications will never be synced automatically; users will need to select new apps manually from the list before they will be transferred. Note that updates to apps that are already installed on a device will still be synced automatically regardless of this setting.

File Sharing Support for iOS 4

While not specifically new in iTunes 9.2, iPhone and iPod touch devices running iOS 4 now have a “File Sharing” section on the “Apps” tab in much the same way as the iPad. This allows files to be transferred to and from supported applications via iTunes.

New List View Columns

iTunes 9.2 also adds a few new columns to the List View. Artwork, Episode Number, Purchase Date, Ringtone, and VoiceOver are now available in all views. Some of these were previously available only in specific sections, and enabling the “Artwork” setting in the View Options essentially performs the same function as the Show Artwork Column option on the iTunes View menu.

Note also that the “Play Count” and “Skip Count” columns have been renamed to simply “Plays” and “Skips” respectively.

Other Notable Changes

We’ve observed a few other small changes and UI enhancements in iTunes 9.2 that are not particularly significant by themselves but are certainly worth noting.

An unplayed count now appears beside the TV Shows section in the iTunes source listing, indicating the total number of unwatched TV Shows.

The Summary tab for most current iOS devices now shows slightly different icons. iTunes 9.1 introduced an “powered on” version of the icon for the iPhone 3GS which has now been extended to the iPhone 3G and iPod touch models.

The iPhone 3GS and third-generation iPod touch devices, which will be capable of displaying home screen wallpaper with iOS 4 now show an icon with not only the iPhone home screen but also a generic background wallpaper. This appears even when using iOS 3.x on these devices.

The original iPhone and first-generation iPod touch continue to appear with the same black screen icon as in previous versions of iTunes.

Performance Improvements

iTunes 9.2 claims to provide two specific areas of performance improvement: Faster backups with iOS 4 devices and faster scrolling.

When syncing iOS 4 devices there is a noticeable improvement in backup performance. A test iPhone running iOS 4 which took almost two minutes to backup with iTunes 9.1 saw backup speeds reduced to under 30 seconds when using iTunes 9.2. The bulk of this improvement seems to come from faster scanning for content to be backed up rather than the actual transfer of data. In short, an iPhone with few or no changes to be backed up can scan through and “complete” its backup in 5-10 seconds. This improvement is less noticeable on a device that has a lot of data to be transferred as part of the backup, as the transfer speeds themselves do not appear to have been improved.

Scrolling performance in Grid View also appears to have been significantly improved over iTunes 9.1, at least in the media sections of iTunes. This is likely due to the pre-caching of artwork thumbnails performed during initial startup, as the artwork loads significantly faster while scrolling, removing the delays previously encountered. Even in a very large iTunes library with over 50,000 tracks, scrolling through grid views was extremely smooth in almost all views. The notable exception here is the Apps section, which still seems to “stall” while icons are rendered, suggesting that App icons are not being cached by iTunes in the same manner. With the improvements elsewhere, using the Grid View for the Apps section now feels almost painful by comparison.

Beyond these two areas, iTunes 9.2 does not appear to offer any other significant performance improvements. It remains a 32-bit application, and memory usage and processor utilization appear to be about the same as in the prior version.

Update or Wait?

iTunes 9.2 is a mandatory upgrade if you plan on upgrading your device to iOS 4 or purchasing an iPhone 4. Users of older iOS devices or iPods will find few useful new features in here, but the scrolling performance improvements and artwork caching alone are a nice improvement for any iTunes user with a medium to large-sized library, particularly if you normally use the Grid or Cover Flow views.  Beyond that, these users will find that this version continues to work about the same as iTunes 9.1 did.

The bottom line is that there’s nothing we can see in here that would cause us to recommend against installing this upgrade for any reason, but the greatest benefits will be for users looking to use iOS 4 devices.

This article will be updated with additional iOS 4 device-specific details in the near future.

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Comments

1

Holy crap! You 3218 unwatched tv shows!

Posted by nosedive51 on June 17, 2010 at 11:30 AM (PDT)

2

yes that’s crazy!!

Posted by Tim on June 17, 2010 at 11:43 AM (PDT)

3

iTunes 9.2 on Windows will now sync Notes with Outlook 2010 64 bit.  Previous versions would only sync with 32 bit versions of Outlook.

Posted by mr. everest on June 17, 2010 at 11:51 AM (PDT)

4

Mr. Everest, can you confirm if it will now also sync with the Outlook Calendar? Guess this might be a dumb question if it syncs with Outlook 201 Notes, but as I have to upgrade my Office 201 beta, it would be nice to have that confirmed before I try.  Thanks!!

Posted by Gator on June 17, 2010 at 12:49 PM (PDT)

5

@Gator - Sorry, I’m on an Exchange server and my calendar syncs over the air.

Posted by mr. everest on June 17, 2010 at 12:56 PM (PDT)

6

Cool, t hanks for the reply, though.

Posted by Gator on June 17, 2010 at 2:23 PM (PDT)

7

This is more of a visual thing, but you forgot to note that 9.2 now has a gradual fade in the album artwork viewer when you change to a different song, or select a different song.

A nice visual change!

Posted by James Merryman on June 17, 2010 at 4:16 PM (PDT)

8

Does this mean we’ll be able to buy books from the iBookstore on our PC or Mac—whether we can read them or not on our desktop(s)/laptop(s)—and sync them with the iOS4 and iPad devices? Honestly, though, the iBookstore SHOULD BE PART OF the iTunes Store. End of story.

Posted by John Stockman on June 17, 2010 at 7:35 PM (PDT)

9

#1/#2: Yes. Our largest iTunes library here at iLounge, which we use for stress-testing new iTunes releases, is around 3,500 GB (3.5TB) and contains around 1,000 movies, 6,000 TV Shows, 50,000 music tracks, 5,000 podcasts and about 800 applications.

#8: Sadly, the iBookstore does not yet appear to be available via iTunes. I would agree that this sounds like a logical next step, particularly now that it’s available on multiple devices.  It may be in the works already, and it is unclear whether an actual iTunes update would be required to enable this or whether it’s simply a question of Apple turning on a switch on the back-end to expose the iBookstore to the desktop version of iTunes.

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on June 18, 2010 at 6:18 AM (PDT)

10

Something I’ve just noticed - I downloaded an app update and a free app direct to my iPhone this morning. I’ve just started up iTunes and it automatically downloaded the same two items, rather than waiting for a sync and copying the data across from the iPhone.

Posted by Jon white on June 18, 2010 at 7:25 AM (PDT)

11

How did you get the black bookshelf view to display as shown in your screenshots? I can’t seem to change it in the settings - itunes 9.2 still has the old appearance for me.

Posted by javabird on June 18, 2010 at 8:12 AM (PDT)

12

#10: I’ve noticed that problem before in previous versions as well. It seems to be more of an issue with the Store on the back-end than iTunes itself.

#11: You can change the background colour for Grid view under the “General” tab in Preferences. Simply set it to “Dark.”

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on June 18, 2010 at 8:53 AM (PDT)

13

May be just a coincidence but moving aiff files into iTunes seems to have sped up considerably on 9.2 as well!

Posted by topcheeseman on June 19, 2010 at 2:52 AM (PDT)

14

Sorry, but I think itunes 9.2 is the worst mess I have ever used (and I have had every version since 1.0 rolled out).  They have destroyed the functionality of audiobooks, particulraly related to artwork and the context menus that pop up when you right click a book. 

You used to be able to right click a book and select “Show Description” on the context menu to get the description of the book.  There is no other way to get that info—- even clicking on “Get Info” only shows you the first sentence of the book’s description under “Comments.”  itunes 9.2 removed “Show Description” from the Book context menus, although you can still find “Show Description” under Podcasts and TV Shows . . . just not on Books, where you need it most. 

Next, the changes they made to artwork really screws up heavy audiobook readers like me.  They broomed over 500 manually added pieces of artwork curing the update library process(everything I added manually is gone from my library for some reason).  Much worse, all of the books I purchased from somewhere other than itunes (i.e. Audible.com) show up as so fuzzy in the browser display window as to be unreadable.  Music and iTunes purchased artwork shows fine, and the audible.com artwork images themselves are still clear as a bell . . . they just display in the primary browser window on itunes as a fuzzy, unreadable mess. 

Sorry, but I strongly recommend heavy audiobook users avoid itunes 9.2 like the plague.

Posted by Dave Kerr on June 20, 2010 at 12:37 PM (PDT)

15

This new version of iTunes also has a serious annoyance with regards to the album art. Previously you could set the album art box in the lower-left to display “now playing” or “selected item.” Now, though, no matter what you choose it automatically changes back to “selected item” when you highlight a song. There is no permanent way to show “now playing” art, as you could in previous versions. Maybe it’s just an oversight on the part of Apple, since it makes no sense to remove that feature, but it’s REALLY annoying when browsing your library.

Posted by cbebop007 on June 21, 2010 at 4:19 PM (PDT)

16

Now one of my computers can see the itunes music library with home sharing but the computer that is seen doesn’t even get the home sharing menu on the left.  Yes, they’re both authorized, signed in with the same account, and “turned on”.  WTF

Posted by DJ on June 21, 2010 at 7:55 PM (PDT)

17

I downloaded the new version, let iTunes do it’s update and download.  However, I lost ALL of my ringtones, apps, iTunes U and podcasts!  Any thoughts on a fix?

Posted by JN on June 22, 2010 at 10:04 AM (PDT)

18

9.2 does not do Album Art period.  After upgrading, most of my album art disappeared and was replaced with the white music note icon.  I tried changing file on one of the albums and that file no longer displayed any album art (old or new).  When editing the meta data, the application often hangs.

The obviously did no regression testing on this application and have been mum about any work-arounds or resolutions.

Posted by Bob Brown on June 22, 2010 at 3:59 PM (PDT)

19

I downloaded and installed 9.2. Had been working fine prior to 9.2.
Once I installed the new version, the window where the ITunes store should be is all black.
There are links that are active, but I can’t see what they are.
If I do a search for an artist/song, it shows up, but when I go back to the home page, it is black again. Same thing for all “home” Screens For Movies, APPS, Itunes U. ETC.
I re-downloaded and installed. Same problem.

Posted by Charly78 on June 22, 2010 at 9:14 PM (PDT)

20

I had a number of audiobooks on my iphone prior to the ios4 update.  They now show in ‘books’ in my itunes library but when I sync my iphone to itunes now they don’t show up on the books tab and I can’t get them back onto my iphone.  I also don’t have the books entry on the capacity bar as illustrated in your article.  Do you have any idea as to why this might be?  Thanks.

Posted by Rebecca on June 23, 2010 at 12:21 PM (PDT)

21

DJ (#16): Have you confirmed that the “Look for Shared Libraries” setting is enabled on both computers under Preferences? This needs to be on for Home Sharing libraries to be located.

JN (#17): Lost as in disappeared from your iTunes library?  The underlying files should still be there regardless, so you can try reimporting them. Alternatively, try shutting down iTunes and copying the “Previous iTunes Library” contents back up to the parent folder and letting iTunes reconvert your library database again.

Bob Brown (#18): Although I’ve heard several other reports of the same thing, it doesn’t seem to be a problem everywhere. We had no album art issues on any of our test machines or even our own personal iTunes libraries, even across multiple platforms. Although our personal libraries are all on Mac OS X, we do put iTunes through the paces on Windows as well.  The artwork conversion process is likely the culprit, and the artwork itself may still be fine with only the cache having been corrupted.  If you delete the “Album Artwork” folder from your iTunes library this will cause iTunes to re-generate the cache of all of the artwork you’ve added manually, which should still be embedded in the files themselves.  Artwork that was downloaded by iTunes automatically will have to be downloaded again, however, as this does not get embedded.

Charly78 (#19): This definitely appears to be an installation problem related to either the underlying webkit engine or QuickTime. I’d suggest uninstalling iTunes completely and then reinstalling from scratch. This will not remove your existing library or any of your music—only the app should be removed.

Rebecca (#20): The “Books” heading for your iPhone will only appear once you’ve successfully synced some books, which obviously hasn’t happened yet.  Use the File, Get Info menu option on one of your books and check the “Media Kind” setting under “Options” to ensure that it’s still properly set to “Audiobook.”  If these audiobooks were purchased from Audible or iTunes you may also need to reauthorize your account for those services. Trying to play the audiobooks in iTunes will prompt for any necessary authorization information if it’s required.

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on June 23, 2010 at 12:40 PM (PDT)

22

Brilliant - all seems good now.  Thanks!

Posted by Rebecca on June 23, 2010 at 2:51 PM (PDT)

23

I downloaded and installed 9.2. Had been working fine prior to 9.2.
Once I installed the new version, the window where the ITunes store should be is all black.
There are links that are active, but I can’t see what they are.
If I do a search for an artist/song, it shows up, but when I go back to the home page, it is black again. Same thing for all “home” Screens For Movies, APPS, Itunes U. ETC.
I re-downloaded and installed. Same problem.

Posted by Charly78 on June 22, 2010 at 9:14 PM (PDT)

On a PC update your video drivers. Same thing happened to me with nVidia drivers.

Posted by arby94 on June 23, 2010 at 3:04 PM (PDT)

24

if i update to 9.2 does all my songs from my library get deleted???

Posted by joseph on June 28, 2010 at 5:49 PM (PDT)

25

Response to #21 - I followed your suggestion of deleting the Cache in the Album Artwork Folder and that did not solve the problem at all.  I also shared your suggestion on the Apple.com Communities blog, and others had the same experience (both Windows and Mac).  I still think that there a fundamental flaw with this upgrade that is causing problems for a large number of iTune users.  It is focused on Art Work that has been added manually or imported via another program.  I spent a great deal of time getting my library in order prior to the upgrade and now all of that work is gone, with no resolution.

Posted by Bob Brown on June 29, 2010 at 7:00 PM (PDT)

26

I also want to report artwork problems. My artwork is still intact but…

Since itunes almost never has the music I listen to, and anyway I like to have all the art I always add it manually. I select all the tracks in the album and then do get info. Then I manually drag and drop the art into the artwork box.

This still works for the first thing I drag but it doesn’t register anything after that! Many of my albums have many pieces of artwork (cover scans, album scans, back/front, inserts, etc..) and while it was already time consuming enough, now I have add them one at a time to each track of each album???? Apple do you really think that people only listen to music or manage their library in one way?

itunes used to be a great thing, but nowadays itunes only bothers to update whatever is related to the latest iphone/other gadget. There are requests and bugs that have been around for years and never get updated. and now its getting worse. Really apple? You’ve made the perfect music app that needs no improvements anymore? sigh. I wish someone would make a comparably good thing for mac.

Posted by Jeffbbz on June 30, 2010 at 6:17 AM (PDT)

27

I found this post on the Apple.com Communities Blog

“received an update today from Developer Support. The good news is this issue is known and widely reported to Apple Engineering. It is currently being investigated under Bug ID# 8116422. I think we are one step closer to a fix.”

So it looks like there is a bug and Apple Engineering is working on it.

Posted by Bob Brown on June 30, 2010 at 2:40 PM (PDT)

28

Rebecca (#20): It seems that you have to scroll down the “books” tab in iTunes. The first half is for iBooks. The second half (seen when you scroll down) is for audiobooks. Check the audiobooks option and you should see your selection of audiobooks.

Posted by songav on July 3, 2010 at 2:41 AM (PDT)

29

I upgrade to 9.2 and now Itunes can’t see my iPod Touch 3rd gen when I connect it to my laptop and it was working just fine before the upgrade.  Apparently others are having the same problem and there is no real solution other than the usual uninstall and reinstall of iTunes.  Anybody got any other idess?

Posted by Carl Kibler on July 4, 2010 at 6:01 PM (PDT)

30

my laptop crashed and i lost everything. Does anyone know how i can add new songs to my ipod without deleting the songs already on it but not in the new library…...thanks

Posted by Ufuoma on July 8, 2010 at 4:06 AM (PDT)

31

After downloading Itunes 9.2, I cannot put music onto my ipod or the library…?

Posted by PdMeasles on July 8, 2010 at 6:13 PM (PDT)

32

I need help.
I have a new itouch 4. My Mac is running 10.4.11 and my itunes is 9.2. When I plug in my itouch it says I need to upgrade to itunes 10. itunes 10 won’t install unless I upgrade my computer to 10.5 which from what I hear will cost me around $200. Is there anyway around this? Please help.

Thank you.

Posted by caitie shiflett on December 26, 2010 at 9:47 PM (PDT)

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