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Tips & Tricks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Hiding Purchased Books in iBooks 3

iBooks 3 introduces a new Purchased Books feature that gathers all of a user’s iBooks that have been purchased from the iBookstore into a single collection for quick and easy access, allowing books not already on the device to be easily downloaded from iCloud at the tap of a finger. For users who may not want to see some or all of their purchases right in the iBooks app, however, the good news is that you can either turn this feature off entirely, or selectively hide individually purchased items from the Purchased Books collection. To disable the collection entirely, simply go into the iBooks section in your iOS Settings app and toggle off the option to Show All Purchases; the Purchased Books collection will disappear entirely, although you can still download your purchases via the iBookstore as you could in prior versions of iBooks.

On the other hand, if you simply want to hide one or more specific items from your previous purchases, you can go into your iTunes Store account, using iTunes on your computer, and hide it from the Purchased section in there. This works in much the same way as it does for apps, described in our Ask iLounge article on Deleting unwanted apps from iCloud.

Be sure to check out Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iBooks 3 for more on this and what else is new in Apple’s latest iBooks update.

Sharing Photo Streams as a Web Site

The new Shared Photo Streams feature in iOS 6 is a great way of quickly and easily sharing photos directly with friends and family directly into the Photos app or into iPhoto or Aperture on OS X. For those who don’t own a Mac or iOS device, however, Apple also allows you to publish your Shared Photo Stream as a public web album directly from your device. When creating a Shared Photo Stream, simply toggle on the Public Website option—you can even leave the “To” field blank if you only want to share your Photo Stream on the web. Once the Shared Photo Stream has been given a name and saved, simply tap on the blue arrow beside the Shared Photo Stream name to return to the sharing screen where you will see the URL displayed along with a Share Link button to easily allow you to send the link out to friends and family via e-mail, Messages, Facebook or Twitter.  The web version of the Shared Photo Stream uses a fixed Apple template that cannot be customized, with photos presented in a tiled view in order by date added to the Shared Photo Stream with the most recent at the top. You can also toggle the Public Website option on for any of your existing Shared Photo Streams or turn it off at any time if you want to make your Shared Photo Stream private again.

Downloading Genius Mixes from iTunes Match

By placing a user’s entire music library in the cloud, Apple’s iTunes Match service makes the Genius Mixes feature particularly useful, since these mixes now have your entire music library to choose from without potentially taking up a lot of space on your iOS device—tracks are downloaded and played on-demand as you listen to a given Genius Mix. This works great if you’re on a good Wi-Fi or cellular data connection, but users who are frequently offline or have limited cellular data plans may find this option less appealing. Fortunately, the iPhone and iPod touch Music app do allow you to use your Genius Mixes offline, at least partially, by using any already-download portions of a Genius Mix and even allowing you to pre-download a Genius Mix on demand. Simply go to the Genius Mixes section in your Music app and you should see a small iCloud download icon in the top left corner of the screen. Tapping on this will download 25 selected tracks from the current Genius Mix, making them available for offline listening. The Genius Mix will also include any additional tracks that have already been downloaded to your device from other albums or playlists, or simply from normal listening; if the iCloud download icon doesn’t appear for a given Genius Mix, this means that there are already enough tracks on your device and there’s no need to manually download additional tracks to listen to the Genius Mix offline. Note that the manual downloading option is unfortunately not available in the iPad Music app.

Removing Devices from iTunes in the Cloud

If you’ve subscribed to iTunes Match, or used any of your computers or iOS devices to re-download or automatically download purchased content, these devices become registered to your iTunes Store account. While there’s normally little need to worry about this, Apple does enforce a maximum limit of ten (10) devices that can be used to access iTunes in the Cloud with a single iTunes account, which can become a problem for larger families and those who regularly upgrade or replace devices. Fortunately, you can easily remove these devices from your account if you’ve hit the maximum or simply want to clean out devices you’re no longer using. Simply go to your iTunes Store account settings by selecting View My Account from the Store menu in iTunes, and then choose “Manage Devices” from the Account Information screen. This will display a list of all of the devices currently associated with your iTunes Store account for use with iTunes in the Cloud features with a “Remove” button beside each one. Keep in mind that removing a device in this manner does not automatically disable features such as iTunes Match on the device—you’ll still need to do that directly on the device.

Manually Backing up your iOS device

With the release of iOS 6 scheduled for next week, it’s a good idea to make sure you have a current backup of your device before taking the update plunge. While most iOS updates install without any problems, preserving your existing data, making a backup is always a sensible precaution. iOS 5 devices can be configured to use either iTunes or iCloud for automatic backups, but not both. However, if you’re normally backing up to iCloud, you can still easily make a manual backup in iTunes any time you like; simply right-click on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch in the iTunes Devices list and select “Back Up” and iTunes will immediately make an on-demand backup of your device, even if you’re normally backing up to iCloud. Automatic backups to iCloud occur once every 24 hours provided your device is plugged in and on a Wi-Fi network, however you can also check the last backup time for your iCloud Backup and force a manual backup to iCloud as well by going into the Settings app on your device and choosing iCloud, Storage & Backup and scrolling down to the bottom.

Sorting and Filtering Apps in iTunes

If you have a lot of apps in your iTunes library, it can sometimes be a challenge to keep track of them all. While finding an individual app is easy enough simply by using the search box, sometimes you may not know the name of the app you’re looking for, or you may simply want to browse through your list of apps by genre or see which apps have recently been purchased or updated. iTunes actually makes this pretty simple since the Apps section can be viewed and organized in the same manner as any other part of your iTunes library. Simply switch to a “List” view from the View menu, and you can sort on any column, add more columns, and even call up the Browser view to quickly filter by device type and genre.

Hiding Categories in the iTunes Source List

The iTunes Source list on the left side of your iTunes window helps keep your content organized to make it easier to browse by content type, such as Music, Movies and TV Shows. However, not every uses every type of content, and there’s an easy way to hide those categories you don’t actually need to see.  Open your iTunes Preferences, and on the General tab you will see a list of checkboxes; simply uncheck the categories you don’t want to see in your iTunes Source list and they’ll vanish from view. These same settings can also be used to hide and display additional features such as Ping, iTunes DJ, Genius, and Shared Libraries.

Filtering Content Listings in iTunes sync settings

If you’re syncing your iPhone, iPad or iPod to an iTunes library with a large collection of apps or media content you may have grown weary of the seemingly endless scrolling required to find that one app, artist or movie that you’re looking to sync to your device. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to filter these long lists of content on at least some of the sync screens in iTunes. If you’re on the Music, Apps, Movies or Books tab, the standard iTunes Search field in the top-right corner of the iTunes window will become active allowing you to dynamically filter the list of content displayed in each of those sections; simply start typing in the search field and the list is filtered as you type, helping you quickly find the specific item(s) that you’re looking for. Sadly, this doesn’t work on all tabs—TV Shows, Podcasts and iTunes U seem to be left out—but it’s still a handy way to filter down long content lists in at least some categories.

Taking control of iTunes’ visualizer from the keyboard

iTunes’ built-in visualizer has been improved and changed many times over the years, but one thing that’s been constant in recent versions is a series of undocumented keyboard shortcuts for controlling it once the action’s started. While you can see a brief rundown by hitting the /? key, here’s a quick list: Tap M to change the current mode, P to change the palette, I to display track info, C to toggle auto-cycle on and off—it’s on by default—F to toggle freeze mode, N to toggle the mysterious “nebula” mode, and L to toggle the camera lock on and off. Now there’s no excuse for staring at a particularly nauseating color combo for longer than it take to tap a key.

Changing your Apple ID email address

Not everyone sticks with the same email address forever — even though the Apple ID system was seemingly built with that idea in mind. Luckily, if you happened to sign up for an Apple ID using a non-Apple—as in not @mac.com or @me.com—address, switching your Apple ID to a new email address is easier than you might think. To do so, simply visit the My Apple ID page and then click on Manage your account. Once logged in with your current address and password, you’ll be able to change the name, password, email, physical address, and other information regarding your account. [via NYT]

Forcing an iOS device to Update or Restore

Typically, getting an iOS device to update is as easy as plugging it into your computer and hitting the Update button in iTunes—or even easier if you have an iOS 5 device, as you can handle the update directly from the Settings app. But what if you need to downgrade your OS, or install an Update image that iTunes can’t retrieve from the server—such as the just released iOS 6 beta? Doing so is easy. Simply connect your device to your PC or Mac, make sure you have the latest version of iTunes installed and the necessary update image downloaded, click on your device in the iTunes sidebar, and when the main tab appears, hold the option (on Mac) or shift (on Windows) key in and hit the Update or Restore button, then choose the location of the update image. Click done, and iTunes will begin its normal process of updating or restoring the device’s software, no separate download required.

Enabling Closed Captioning on iOS and iTunes

Most folks are familiar with Closed Captioning (CC)—the system for displaying text during a TV or video to help those with hearing disabilities follow along. But the system isn’t useful solely to them—if you’d like to watch a movie or TV show silently, for instance. Luckily, there’s lots of CC-enabled content available from the iTunes Store, and enabling the service on Apple’s devices is fairly simple. In iTunes on a Mac or PC, open up the Preferences, select Playback, and turn on the “Show closed captioning when available” option. On an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, open the Settings app, tap on Video, and turn Closed Captioning on. Last but not least, you can access the same option on the Apple TV by visiting the Settings menu, selecting Audio & Video, and then turning Closed Captioning on. Now you can enjoy your content—and some peace and quiet. [via OS X Daily]

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