Tips & Tricks
Although many users are likely focused mostly on HD videos these days, Apple has still been taking steps recently to increase the quality of the SD video content in the iTunes Store, pushing the envelope beyond what older traditional iPods can handle. If you’re still using an iPod classic or iPod nano for storing and watching videos, you may start running into an error message that “high-quality SD video is not compatible with this iPod” when you try to sync or transfer your videos.
While iCloud backups provide a certain degree of convenience, many users will quickly go beyond the free 5GB of storage that Apple provides. Unless you’re already paying for more iCloud storage, or willing to shell out for a larger plan just for backups, you’ll be happy to know that iTunes still provides a handy alternative to keep your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch backed up to your Mac or PC, and in fact even has a key advantage over iCloud for transferring data to a new device.
- July 16, 2015
Despite Apple having already released iTunes 12.2.1 to fix some of the problems reported with Apple Music and iCloud Music Library, you may find that tracks sometimes remain stuck in a “Waiting” state, particularly if you were an iTunes Match user before subscribing to and enabling Apple Music. These tracks not only end up being unplayable in your iTunes library, but the process may in fact block the syncing of playlists and other data to iCloud Music Library, resulting in an inconsistent experience on your iOS devices and other Macs or PCs running iTunes.
In many cases this happens because the iCloud Music Library updating process in iTunes effectively stops, but the good news is that you can force an update of the iCloud Music Library. While the equivalent options for iTunes Match and Genius were previously found on the iTunes Advanced menu, in the case of iCloud Music Library, Apple has hidden this option on the File, Library menu – simply look for Update iCloud Music Library to resume the process.
Selecting this option will begin the updating process and hopefully fix at least some of your stuck tracks, but in our experience it can sometimes take a few attempts before they all get cleared up. If this doesn’t work, other tricks you can try are disabling iCloud Music Library entirely from your iTunes Preferences, and then reloading iTunes and re-enabling it, or signing out of your iTunes Store account, restarting iTunes, and then signing back in. Unfortunately, none of these solutions seem to work in all cases – clearly there are still some bugs in the underlying iCloud Music Library system – but they’ve helped in some cases and are definitely worth a try if you’re having problems.
One of the new features introduced alongside Apple Music and the iCloud Music Library in the latest versions of iTunes and iOS is the ability to now specify an image of your choice to represent any of your playlists. By default, iTunes and iOS will simply use a collage of the album artwork from the tracks in your playlist, but you can actually add any photo you want instead.
In iOS 8.4, this is done by opening the playlist, tapping the “Edit” button, and then tapping the artwork, at which point you’ll be prompted to either choose an image from your photo library or take a photo with your device’s camera.
You can also do this in iTunes while editing a playlist by clicking on the artwork image. On OS X you’ll get the same image picker used for contact photos, allowing you to choose one of the stock photos, browse for an image on your Mac, or use your Mac’s camera to take a picture. In either case, the image you’ve chosen will sync with the playlist between your devices — but be aware that once you’ve done this, there doesn’t appear to be any way to get back to the default album artwork collage, as there’s no “remove image” option to be found anywhere.
If you’ve ever had to contact Apple for iPhone service, or had to call your cellular carrier to make changes to your account, you’ve probably been asked to provide a cryptic number to uniquely identify your iPhone. In Apple’s case, your serial number is used to track warranty service, and with your cellular carrier, your IMEI, or International Mobile Station Equipment Identity, is a number that uniquely identifies your mobile phone number on the cellular network. You can easily find these by going into your iPhone Settings app and choosing General, About, and then copying them to your iOS clipboard by tapping and holding on them, but this doesn’t really help if you need to access these numbers from a desktop computer, such as when you need to paste into an online form in a web browser.
The good news is that if you need to get at these numbers from your Mac or PC, there’s an easier way than emailing the number to yourself — as long as you’ve associated your iPhone to iTunes on your computer, you can find these numbers hidden away on your device’s “Summary” screen. The Serial Number is readily shown right beneath your iPhone’s phone number, but if you click on the phone number field, it will toggle between your phone number and your IMEI as well as your Mobile Equipment Identifier (MEID), and SIM card’s Integrated Circuit Card Identifier (ICCID) with each click. Similarly, the Serial Number field can also show your Unique Device Identifier (UDID), Exclusive Chip Identification (ECID), and Product Type. You can right-click on any of these numbers to copy them to your clipboard, making it easy to grab them and paste them into any form where they may be needed, or easily read them off and recite them back to your carrier’s customer service provider without having to take your iPhone away from ear.
While the rise of subscription music services has replaced traditional purchased music downloads for many users, there are still those who may prefer to build a collection of music that they can keep without any monthly expenses, and with every new iTunes Store and iOS iteration, Apple adds new features to make it even easier to discover and buy music (and other media content) from the iTunes Store. While you probably know about iTunes’ Wish List feature, which lets you save items that you may want to purchase later, you may not realize that iTunes and iOS 8 will automatically keep track of music you’ve listened to through other means — including songs you’ve previewed in the iTunes Store, songs you’ve listened to on iTunes Radio, and now with iOS 8, songs you’ve asked Siri to identify via Shazam.
All of this information is nicely collected in your iTunes Store account and can be viewed from iTunes on your Mac or PC, or the iTunes Store app on your iOS devices. On iOS, simply open the iTunes Store app and tap the lists button in the top right corner. Tabs across the top will allow you to choose between your Wish List, Siri, Previews, or iTunes Radio. From here you can preview or purchase any of the displayed tracks, or even play a track if you’ve already purchased it. If you want to clean the lists up, simply tapping the button in the top left corner will let you select and remove items from your Wish List, or
clear out your Siri, Preview, or iTunes Radio lists entirely.
If you’re on a Mac or PC, simply select your name near the top right corner of your iTunes window and choose “Wish List” from the drop down menu that appears. The main wish list is displayed across the majority of the window, as before, but new categories appear to show you items listened to or discovered via the other sources.
- November 26, 2013
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.
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.
- August 27, 2013
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.
- July 16, 2013
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.
- July 4, 2013
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.
- June 27, 2013
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.
- June 18, 2013
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.
- May 21, 2013
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.
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.
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.
- May 7, 2013
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.
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.
- April 16, 2013
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.
- March 7, 2013
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.
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