iPod, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iOS and iTunes Tips & Tricks | iLounge

Tips & Tricks

Quickly hiding iCloud media content in iTunes

iTunes 11 allows you to integrate your cloud-based music, movie, and TV show purchases directly into your iTunes library, where you can easily download or stream anything in your purchase history. While you can disable this feature entirely if you don’t want to see any of your cloud-based purchases at all, you can also easily hide items individually.

Simply select the item from your iTunes in the Cloud library that you would like to hide, and delete it as if you were removing it from your local iTunes library. You’ll see a dialog box asking you to confirm whether or not you want to hide the item in iCloud. Select the Hide option, and the item will vanish from your library as if you had actually deleted it. Keep in mind, however, that this will also hide the purchased item from all of your devices that share the same iTunes Store account; you can un-hide any hidden purchases by logging into the iTunes Store and selecting your “Account Information” and looking for the “Hidden Purchases” section.

Organizing Home Videos in iTunes

Last year, iTunes 11 introduced a new “Home Videos” category, providing a great way—in principle—to use iTunes for storing personal videos and syncing them with other Apple devices without cluttering up the main “Movies” category. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until the release of Apple TV 6.0 and iOS 7 that the category become fully supported across all of Apple’s current hardware devices.

The “Home Videos’ category will remain hidden in iTunes and on other devices until you actually place something in it; to categorize a video as a “Home Video” simply import it into the main “Movies” section and then open the properties by selecting it and choosing File, Get Info, selecting the Options tab and setting the Media Kind field to “Home Video.”

You’ll need to sync the video to any iOS devices the old-fashioned way, since iCloud doesn’t support non-purchased video content, at which point a new “Home Videos’ button should appear in the iOS “Videos” app.

Upgrading your 720p iTunes purchases to 1080p

Apple began offering HD content on the iTunes Store in 1080p a little over a year ago, and has been gradually increasing the amount of content available in the higher resolution. The good news is that Apple considers the 720p and 1080p versions of HD content to be the same purchase, so if you have older 720p content sitting around in your iTunes library, you can very easily upgrade it to the 1080p simply by downloading it from your iTunes Purchase history.

To do this, ensure that your “Preferred Video Version” is set to 1080p in your iTunes Preferences, and then simply go into the iTunes Store and select the “Purchases” link near the top-right corner. You can access a list of all of your previously purchased movies and TV shows from here, and any that are available for re-download in the higher resolution will show an iCloud download icon beside them instead of the word “Downloaded.” If you have a large library of purchased 720p content, it may even be worth checking back here from time to time to see if any new content has become available in the better format. Keep in mind, though, that downloading the 1080p version doesn’t remove the older 720p version from your library, so you’ll have to go and do that manually if you want to conserve disk space and don’t need to keep the other version around for syncing to older devices.

Adding Internet Radio streams to iTunes

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iTunes provides a list of Internet Radio stations that can be found in the “Radio” sub-section under the “Music” section, however this list is by no means comprehensive, and you may find that it doesn’t include all of your preferred online radio stations. Although you can’t actually modify this list, the good news is that you can easily create a custom playlist containing your own personal selection of stations, from just about any open and unprotected Internet audio source. Simply copy the URL to your clipboard and then choose Open Stream under the File menu and paste the URL into the dialog box that appears. A custom playlist named “Internet Songs” will be created automatically the first time you do this, and any subsequent streams will simply be added to this playlist.

Quickly update info for different tracks in iTunes

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Most iTunes users probably already know that you can edit information for multiple tracks simply by selecting them all and choosing File, Get Info. However, this only works if you need to apply the same information to all of the selected tracks. If you’re updating tracks individually, such as to correct song titles or track numbers, you’ll find the multiple item editor to be less useful. However, iTunes does offer a useful shortcut for quickly moving between tracks without leaving the edit window. Instead of clicking “OK” when you’re finished editing the information for a selected track, you can use the buttons found in the bottom left corner of the editing window to simply pull up the information for the next or previous track, and better yet, iTunes provides shortcuts for these buttons: CMD+N and CMD+P respectively on a Mac, or ALT+N and ALT+P in iTunes for Windows. If you simply organize your tracks in the order you want by sorting or placing them into a playlist, with these shortcuts you can quickly move through them and update your info like a pro.

Manually adding artwork in iTunes 11

Although iTunes has a feature for automatically fetching album artwork, there are likely going to be times that you’ll still want to add artwork manually to your tracks, especially for more obscure tracks that you’ve imported from your own collection. Unfortunately, with the redesign of iTunes 11, the long-established artwork pane in the bottom left corner disappeared, and with it one of the easier shortcuts for adding and removing album artwork. Fortunately, however, all is not lost, and you can still add artwork to multiple tracks through the track info dialog box. Simply select one or more tracks and choose Get Info from the iTunes File menu. If you’re working with a single track, you’ll need to switch to the “Artwork” tab, while with multiple tracks selected, an “Artwork” section will appear in the main Info tab. From here, you can drag and drop an image in from Finder or Windows Explorer, or paste an image in from the clipboard using CTRL+V (Windows) or CMD+V (Mac). As an added bonus, the clipboard options also work to copy artwork from other tracks; simply open the track info, highlight the artwork, and use CTRL+C/CMD+C to copy the selected image to the clipboard, after which you can easily paste it to one or more additional tracks using the method above.

Quickly search in the iTunes Store

The search field in the top-right corner of the iTunes window is a handy way to find content in your own library, but did you know that you can also quickly search the iTunes Store directly from this field? Simply enter your text in the search field and hold down the OPT key (Mac) or SHIFT key (Windows) when pressing RETURN and you’ll be automatically taken to a results page in the iTunes Store. This can be particularly useful when you’re trying to determine if you already have something in your library, as you can search for it locally first, and then use the OPT/SHIFT trick to continue your search in the iTunes Store. The best part is that this works regardless of whether you’re using the newer Live Search feature or have opted to disable Live Search and use the older style iTunes search filtering.

Updating Apps in iTunes 11.0.3

If you’ve updated to the latest version of iTunes, you may have noticed a change in the way app updates are now handled. In place of the update button traditionally found in the bottom right corner of the apps listing, an “Updates” tab now appears along the top navigation bar, taking you to an iTunes view of apps with available updates, rather than an iTunes Store page. An “Update All Apps” button appears in the bottom right corner here, and clicking on an app icon from here will open details on what’s changed in the update, along with a button to update that individual app. You can also select one or more apps and right-click to update only those individual apps.

Creating or Importing your own Ringtones into iTunes

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While Apple still allows you to purchase alert tones directly from the iTunes Store, many users may already have their own sound effects or songs that they already own that they’d like to use as ringtones or alert tones. Unfortunately, while iTunes doesn’t provide any way to do this directly, if you already have a short sound file in the AAC format you can actually import it straight into the “Tones” section in iTunes simply by renaming the file, changing the extension from M4A to M4R before importing it.

If your file is longer than about 30 seconds and/or in a format other than AAC, however, you’ll need to take some additional steps. See this week’s Ask iLounge article Setting up a ringtone in iTunes for more information.

Identifying and Removing Device Backups in iTunes

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If you backup your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch using iTunes, you may find it useful to be able to check the status of these backups and when the last one was made for each of your devices. You can easily find this out by going into your iTunes Preferences and selecting the Devices section. A list of all of your device backups will be shown here by device name, with the date and time of the last backup for each. If you have multiple backups under the same name, which can often happen if you’ve upgraded to a new device, you can easily tell which is which simply by hovering over them with your mouse pointer; a popup will appear displaying the serial number of the device from which that backup was made, along with the phone number and IMEI number in the case of an iPhone or cellular-capable iPad.

If you want to remove any old backups, simply select the one you want to remove and click the “Delete Backup” button. Although deleting a backup is ultimately irreversible, the good news is that it isn’t actually removed until you click “OK” to close the iTunes preferences dialog, so if you make a mistake, simply click “Cancel” instead, and the backup will be left alone.

Quickly copy selected tracks to a folder

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Sometimes you may find yourself needing to copy a set of music tracks or other media files out of iTunes into a folder on your computer, such as if you’re using a non-Apple media player or simply want to transfer some content to another computer. While the traditional way of doing this is to dig down into the file system and locate each of the files through Finder or Windows Explorer, this can be a somewhat involved process if you’re dealing with something like a playlist, where items may be spread out across several different locations in your iTunes Media folder. Fortunately, there’s actually a much easier way to do this: Simply highlight the tracks in your iTunes application and drag and drop them to an open Windows Explorer or Finder window in the same way as you would move or copy files between two folders. iTunes will copy the selected tracks directly to the selected location, saving you the trouble of having to go into the file system and track them down individually. This can be particularly useful if you have a USB flash drive media player as you can drag and drop an entire playlist right onto the removable drive icon in Finder or Explorer to load up the files onto your media player.

Purchasing Videos on iOS for later download in iTunes

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If you’ve ever held off on purchasing a movie or TV show directly on your iOS device because you’d rather download it directly in iTunes, then you’ll be happy to know that Apple has recently added a “Download Later” feature for iOS 6 users. Now, when purchasing a movies, TV shows, or music box sets, you’ll be prompted as to whether you want to download your items immediately, or complete the purchase and save them for later downloading from iTunes in the Cloud. Simply tap the “Later” button and your purchase transaction will be completed, and as an added bonus, if you’ve enabled the options in iTunes to “Always check for new downloads” and “Download pre-orders when available” the purchased content will be automatically downloaded to your iTunes library. Whether you’re out and about or sitting on your couch, this can be a great way to browse for and purchase new movies and TV shows from the comfort of your iPhone or iPad without having to worry about bandwidth or storage space.

Note that Apple does indicate that this feature requires iTunes in the Cloud support and may not yet be available in all countries. If it’s not available in your particular iTunes Store, the purchased item will simply download as it normally would.

Renting movies in iTunes for more flexibility

Apple provides the ability to rent movies from the iTunes Store directly on any iOS device or the Apple TV, but you may not realize that not only can you rent a movie directly using iTunes on your computer, but that doing so actually gives you more options on where to watch it.  On any recent model iOS device, renting a movie directly on your device forces you to watch it only on that device—it can’t be moved or transferred elsewhere, although you can stream it to an Apple TV via AirPlay; similarly, renting a movie directly on your Apple TV will allow you to watch it on any Apple TV connected to the same iTunes Store account, but it can’t be transferred to an iPad or iPhone if you decide you want to watch it while travelling instead.  By comparison, renting a movie directly on your computer in iTunes bypasses these limitations—you can easily stream a rented movie to an Apple TV or move it to an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch.

You can rent movies in iTunes the same way that you would purchase content, and the same time restrictions apply. If you have any rented movies in your iTunes library, a new “Rentals” section will appear under Movies both in iTunes and on your Apple TV, and new options will show up in your device sync settings to allow you to transfer those movies to or from an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

Disabling iTunes in the Cloud Content

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With the release of iTunes 11, Apple introduced much tighter integration between the content in your local iTunes library and your purchases available from iTunes in the Cloud. The new feature displays all of your purchases in a single, unified library view and allows you to stream any movie, TV show or music track directly from your purchase history instead of having to download it to your computer. This can be a great feature when working with limited disk space, but if you prefer to only see content that is actually stored on your computer, you can easily hide all of your iTunes in the Cloud content by going into your iTunes Preferences, and unchecking the “Show iTunes in the Cloud purchases” option found on the Store page. In this mode, you can still go into your “Purchases” section in the actual iTunes Store and specifically download content as you could in previous versions of iTunes, but you will no longer see all of your cloud-based content cluttering up your library.

Filtering Playlists with the Column Browser

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If you’ve been using iTunes for a while, you’re probably already familiar with the Column Browser that can be displayed in the category listing views to help filter your music by Genre, Artist and Album. What you may not know, however, is that you can call up the Column Browser in any list view, including playlists. To display the Column Browser for whatever playlist you’re currently looking at, simply press CMD+B (Mac) or CTRL+B (Windows), or select View, Column Browser, Show Column Browser from the iTunes menu. Further, in addition to the default Genre, Artist, and Album columns, you can use the View, Column Browser menu to add more columns for Kind, Composer, Grouping, Category, Show, and Season, with up to six columns displayed at once; available columns are context-specific, but since playlists can contain any type of content, all nine options will be available when working in a playlist view. As an added bonus, iTunes stores the Column Browser settings individually for each specific playlist.

Enabling Composers View in iTunes 11.0.2

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Apple released a relatively minor update to iTunes 11 this week, delivering mostly performance and stability improvements but also including one other small feature—the Composers View—that may be of particular interest to classical music fans with large, well-organized libraries. The new view basically replicates the Artists View introduced in the initial release of iTunes 11, with a left-hand sidebar that allows you to browse music by composer instead. Since it presumably would not be of interest to everyone, however, Apple chose to leave it disabled by default, but if you have a use for it, you can easily go and turn it on yourself with a quick trip into your iTunes Preferences—a new “Show Composers” checkbox now appears on the General page to allow you to toggle the feature on or back off again.

For more information, check out our Ask iLounge article on Accessing Composers View in iTunes 11.0.2.

Choosing your preferred video resolution in iTunes

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With the introduction of 1080p HD video support in iTunes last spring, in many cases users now have the choice of two different HD resolutions when purchasing and viewing content from the iTunes Store. While not everything is yet available in the higher, 1080p format, in those cases where it is you may still want to download or use the lower-resolution 720p version to save disk space or play back content on older, lower-performance PCs. iTunes provides two different settings for choosing your preferred video resolution; in your iTunes Preferences on the Playback panel, the “Preferred Video Version” allows you to choose which version to use for playback, subject to the availability of that version in your actual iTunes library. A similar setting on the Store page also allows you to choose whether to prefer a 720p or 1080p version when downloading videos from the iTunes Store.

It’s also worth mentioning that this setting affects which version gets re-downloaded when grabbing past purchases from your iTunes in the Cloud account, so you can actually switch this setting over and re-download a different HD resolution to keep both a 720p and 1080p version in your iTunes library—useful in cases where you may want to use the same content on iOS devices with different HD capabilities.

Showing Duplicate Items in iTunes 11

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iTunes has long offered a basic feature for identifying duplicate tracks, however when iTunes 11 was initially released, many users were surprised to find the feature had gone missing. Regardless of whether this was intentional or an oversight on Apple’s part, it quickly returned the feature in an update to iTunes 11.0.1. If you’re missing the Show Duplicates feature, be sure you’ve upgraded to the latest version of iTunes, and then take a look on the View menu. The feature itself works in much the same way as in prior iTunes versions, filtering your list view down to only suspected duplicate tracks and then letting you deal with this information as you see fit. Keep in mind that for music tracks, however, this is based only on the track name and artist, so if you’re a collector who wants to keep multiple, complete albums you may find that you always have duplicates in your library as far as iTunes is concerned. When viewing duplicates, a status bar appears at the bottom of the iTunes window to remind you that you are in this mode, along with a “Display all” button that can be used to return to the full track view.

Disabling Live Search in iTunes 11

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iTunes 11 introduces a new “Live Search” feature that is designed to allow you to search across your entire iTunes library when entering information in the Search field in the top-right corner of your iTunes window. As useful as this may be for some situations, not everybody will necessarily be a fan of the new search style, particularly as it can be somewhat slower with larger libraries.  The good news is that if you find the feature more annoying than useful, you can very easily turn it off: Simply click on the magnifying glass in the search field, and a drop-down menu will appear with an option, enabled by default, to Search entire library. Click on this option to turn it back off, and iTunes will return to the search behaviour found in previous versions, allowing you to filter only the displayed category rather than showing results from your entire library. As a bonus, you can easily tell which mode is enabled from reading the background text in the search field; the word Search will be followed by Library when the full “live search” is enabled or the current category name (e.g. “Music”) when using the older style filtered search.

Re-enabling the Sidebar in iTunes 11

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iTunes 11 introduces a significantly new user interface design, with the long-standing left sidebar essentially replaced by a set of drop-down menus.  If you’re more comfortable with the classic sidebar, however, the good news is that you can very easily turn it back on simply by going to the View menu and choosing the Show Sidebar option. This returns you to a somewhat more traditional iTunes interface, along with the added bonus that the colourful pre-iTunes 10 icons have returned. Note that the UI in this mode is actually a hybrid of the standard iTunes sidebar with the newer iTunes 11 layouts in the main panel, so you won’t get everything back from the classic interface, but it should definitely be a big help for experienced users having difficulty finding their way around the new version.  Note that the status bar can also be toggled back on from the View menu if you’re wondering what’s happened to the totals previously found at the bottom of each screen.

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