The Complete Guide to Using the iTunes Store | iLounge Article


The Complete Guide to Using the iTunes Store

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The App Store

The iTunes Store also provides the gateway to the App Store where you can purchase applications for your iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. The App Store is in some ways a separate section from the traditional iTunes Store, but within the iTunes application itself, it works in much the same way.


Browsing for and purchasing apps works as it does in any other section on the iTunes Store. Previews are not specifically available, although the detail pages for a given application will show a set of screenshots for that app which you can scroll through.


Apps are also updated from time to time, and iTunes will notify you when updates for your applications are available by displaying a number beside the “Apps” category in the iTunes source list. Updates are always provided free of charge at this point, and replace the older version in your iTunes library automatically.

The iTunes App Store also lists the top in-app purchases for a given application on that app’s detail page. This can give you an idea of what other expansion options are available for the app after you’ve purchased it, and what you can expect these to cost.


Gifting Specific Items

In addition to gift cards and gift certificates described earlier, it is also possible to give a specific iTunes Store item as a gift. To do this, simply choose the “Gift Item” option from the drop-down menu beside the Buy button. A screen will be shown where you can enter information for the gift such as the recipient’s name, e-mail address and a personal message, and choose to either send out your gift via email or print it out yourself. The recipient receives a gift code that works in a manner similar to a gift certificate, except that it is used by the recipient to download the specific gifted item, rather than being applied as a balance to their account.


The recipient will need to set up an iTunes Store account if they do not already have one, and as with gift certificates, their iTunes Store account must be in the same country where the gift was purchased. The gifted item will be downloaded from the iTunes Store like any other purchase. If the item is DRM-protected, then it will be associated with the account of the recipient.

Reviews and Ratings

The iTunes Store allows you to post your thoughts on items in the form of reviews, and read the reviews for any item that have been written by other iTunes Store users. Reviews are normally found on the main iTunes Store page for a given item. Note that individual music tracks and TV Show, podcast or iTunes U episodes cannot be reviewed directly; reviews are instead associated with an entire album, season, podcast or iTunes U collection. Further, since apps can be updated from time to time, reviews of applications are organized based on the version of the application.

Each user can provide a paragraph or two of thoughts on the item as well as a rating from one to five stars. When viewing other customer reviews, you can choose to sort by Most Helpful, as judged by other iTunes Store users, Most Favorable, Most Critical, or Most Recent. Links are also provided on each review to report a concern with the review or indicate whether or not you found the review helpful. A note below each review indicates how many viewers considered the review helpful—note however that the total number shown here is not the number of people who have read the review, but merely the number who have responded either Yes or No to the Was the review helpful? question.


You can write your own review of an item simply by clicking the Write a Review link that appears above the other reviews. You’ll be given an option to enter a rating, title, and some text for your review. If you’ve already posted a review of the item previously, then your existing review is displayed for you to edit—you cannot add more than one review to a given item.


Note that reviews are moderated by the iTunes Store staff before they actually appear on the iTunes Store. Further, some items such as Apps require that you have actually purchased the item before you can write a review.

iTunes also allows you to rate items without actually having to write a review. A summary of ratings for an item will be shown in the left-hand side of the iTunes Store page for an item, showing the average overall rating as well as the number of users for each rating.


You can add your own rating simply by hovering over the stars beside Rate This and clicking on your preferred rating.


Ratings for applications are displayed a bit differently, below the application screen shots and organized into ratings for the current version and an average rating for all prior versions of an app. Note that like reviews, application ratings are based on the current version, and therefore reset each time a new version is released. Note that you must have actually purchased the app in order to rate it.


Sharing Links to Items

In addition to being able to send links to item to your friends via e-mail, you can now also share them on Twitter and Facebook. To share a link in this manner, simply choose either Share on Twitter or Share on Facebook from the “Buy” drop-down menu for an item. A web page will be opened up to the appropriate service with a link to the item filled in.


Browsing the iTunes Store

If you’d prefer to just browse through content listings directly rather than navigating through all of the web-style content pages, you can access the iTunes Store Browser view by selecting View, Column Browser, Show Column Browser from the iTunes menu, or selecting Browse from the Quick Links menu in the iTunes Store itself. You will be shown the same familiar three-column browser view used to navigate through your own library.


The first column will allow you to select the media type you’d like to browse through, with the additional columns changing to display information appropriate to the selected media type.


You can preview items from here by double-clicking on them, view additional information such as the description, or purchase the item with the purchasing buttons. You can even add and remove columns from this view in the same manner as you would in your own iTunes library to display the specific information you would like to see.

Note that some content such as Movies and TV Shows that are available in more than one format (ie, HD, SD, purchase or rental) will provide a “View” button instead of a “Buy” button. The “View” button takes you to the main iTunes Store page for that particular item so you can see the various purchase formats that are available.

Searching the iTunes Store

With over 15 million items on the iTunes Store, it’s not practical to simply browse through the iTunes Store collection if you’re looking for an individual item. Fortunately, iTunes provides a reasonably powerful search feature to help you find specific tracks or videos.

The simplest and quickest search is the one built right into iTunes itself—the Search box in the top-right corner of the iTunes window. Although this same field is normally used to search your own iTunes library, when you’re in the iTunes Store, any text you enter in here is searched for on the iTunes Store instead. Essentially, this field searches through whatever you’re currently looking at in your iTunes window. Simply type something in here and hit the Enter key and a list of matching search results will be displayed across all categories. From this results screen, you can filter by media type or simply scroll down through the window to view, preview or purchase any of the displayed content. The results screen works in the same manner as any other iTunes Store screen, with previews available by hovering over individual items, and expanded pop-up track listings that can be accessed by hovering over an album or TV show name and clicking the info icon. Only a small sampling of items is shown for each media type; a See All button is shown to display all of the found content available within that category.


An advanced search option can also be accessed by selecting Power Search on the iTunes Store menu, or selecting the Power Search option from the normal search results screen. You’ll be shown a basic search screen to search through all items on the store by either title or artist.


The basic search options are pretty generic, but if you choose a specific type of content, additional type-specific search options are shown. For example, in the case of movies, you can limit your search to only movies that are available for rental, or only movies that include closed captioning.


Working with Season Passes and iTunes Passes

As noted earlier, some of the content from the iTunes Store is available as a sort of subscription known as a “Season Pass” or “iTunes Pass.” This is most often used for TV Shows that are currently airing, but is also occasionally used to offer music content from specific artists. The idea behind a Season Pass or iTunes Pass is that you essentially pre-purchase the content before its actually released, and then iTunes downloads the new content automatically as it comes out. This is particularly useful for TV Shows that you’re interested in following, as it saves you the trouble of having to remember to check back each week and download the latest individual episode. Further, the price of the Season Pass is usually slightly lower than the combined price of the individual episodes.

To ensure that iTunes automatically downloads new content as it becomes available, you need to make sure that you have enabled the option to Automatically download prepurchased content from your iTunes preferences under the Store tab. Note that this doesn’t necessarily ensure that iTunes will download new content immediately after it becomes available, but it will check for new content whenever you start iTunes up, sign on to your iTunes Store account, or whenever you happen to be downloading other new content from the iTunes Store. If you’re using the same iTunes Store account on more than one computer, you may want to disable this option on secondary computers to ensure that all of your season pass content gets downloaded only to one location, rather than scattered across several iTunes libraries. Note that pre-purchased content also includes pre-ordered albums and movies in addition to Season Passes and iTunes Passes.


By default, you also receive e-mail notifications for your Season Passes as new episodes become available. These notifications include a link that will tell iTunes to download the new content, or instructions on how to do so manually in iTunes.


You can view and manage notifications for your Season Passes by choosing the Manage Passes button from your iTunes Store Account Information Screen. A list of all of your current and expired passes will be shown. Current passes will display an option to enable or disable e-mail notifications for those passes, while completed passes will show their completion date—the date the last episode in the pass was delivered.


Using the iTunes Store Wish List

With the release of iTunes 9, Apple introduced a new “Wish List” feature to allow you to keep track of items that you may want to purchase later. This somewhat replaces the “Shopping Cart” found in previous versions of iTunes, although it doesn’t offer exactly the same functionality. On the positive side, your wish list is stored with your iTunes Store account, so it can be accessed from any of your computers running iTunes. What many fans of the Shopping Cart will find disappointing, however, is that there is no ability to automatically add items to your Wish List instead of purchasing them outright. The Add to Wish List option is found under the Buy drop-down menu, and must therefore be specifically clicked; the Buy button is a one-click purchasing option.


You can view your Wish List either by selecting it from the Quick Links menu in the top-left corner of the main iTunes Store home page, or by choosing it from the drop-down menu under your account name. Items in your Wish List are categorized by media type, and you can purchase and preview items in the same manner as on any other iTunes Store page. To remove an item from your wish list, simply hover over it and an X will appear in the top-left corner; click on this to remove the item from your Wish List.


If you prefer you can also still create a playlist of iTunes Store items in iTunes 9 simply by switching to the Browser view as described earlier and then dragging-and-dropping tracks from the iTunes Store browser into your playlists. Within these playlists, items you’ve already purchased will show the actual tracks, while items from the iTunes Store will show a Buy button and can be previewed by double-clicking on them. This can be a very useful way to build a playlist of content for purchasing over a period of time; once all items are purchased, it will function as a normal playlist.


This works for all media types with the exception of apps, which can’t be placed into playlists anyway, even in your own library.

Viewing your Purchase History and Reporting Problems

You can view a history of all of your iTunes Store purchases from your Apple Account Information screen. This displays your most recent purchases at the top of the screen, and previous orders summarized below it. You can view the detail for any of your previous orders by clicking on the arrow to the left of the order date.


From here, you can also report a problem with any item in your order, such as an item that was corrupted or didn’t download properly. To do this, click on the Report a Problem button, and a “Report a Problem” link will appear beside each item in that particular order.


Clicking one of the “Report a Problem” links will open up a screen where you can choose the nature of your problem from a drop-down list and enter additional details about your particular problem. iTunes support representatives will contact you via e-mail to respond to your problem report.



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