Editors Note 10-12-05: For an updated look at iTunes 6’s video functionality, see our iTunes 6 overview here. Though the video information below is outdated, the PDF tips are still timely.
Today, the world knows iTunes as a music management and jukebox program, but in recent months, Apple has quietly added features that allow iTunes to organize movies and book/magazine-style PDF files, too. These features were designed to allow the iTunes Music Store to sell more than just music, but you can use them to benefit from extra features that can enhance your own music library.
PDF (Portable Document Format) was developed by Adobe as a way to compress graphics, high-resolution text, and pixel-perfect layout designs into relatively small files that any computer could read. It was a great idea, and now PDFs are the most popular way to create and view digital versions of brochures, books, and magazines online.
After announcing the iPod U2 Special Edition in collaboration with the rock band U2, Apple released a “Digital Box Set” of U2’s backcatalog called The Complete U2 on October 26, 2004. This was the first iTunes musical offering to include a “digital booklet,” Apple’s name for a PDF version of a CD insert, and the company enabled iTunes to download and store the digital booklet alongside the rest of the U2 collection.
Since that date, Apple has released several albums with this type of addition, including Coldplay’s recent X & Y, Bruce Springsteen’s Devils & Dust, the Black Eyed Peas’ Monkey Business (but only with the “special edition” version of this album), and Faith Hill’s Fireflies, amoing others. It seems as though this is becoming the norm for high-profile releases, as Apple attempts to restore whatever missing elements that might be keeping some purchasers from choosing digital downloads instead of plastic.
Digital booklets that come with albums from the iTunes Music Store are listed along with the tracks of the album. If you select an album that contains a digital booklet in your iTunes library, you’ll see this:
The digital booklet, thus named, appears at the beginning of the list, and no time/duration is shown. In addition, its bit rate is “Unknown.”
You can view these PDF files easily: simply double-click a digital booklet to open it with your default PDF viewer, and read it like any other PDF. On a Windows computer, this should open Acrobat Reader, and on Mac OS X this will open either Preview or Acrobat Reader, depending on which is your default PDF viewer. (If you use another program to view PDF files, then that program should open.) You can print these digital booklets, or you can simply view them on-screen.
While digital booklets display together with their album, iTunes won’t copy them automatically to your iPod, since the iPod cannot display them. You can, however, copy them to any location – your iPod (if you use the iPod as a hard disk) or to another folder on your computer. Right-click (Windows) or Control-Click (Mac) the file, select Show Song File, and a Windows Explorer or Finder window will open showing the PDF file. Copy it wherever you want.
Now, you might think that if the iTunes Music Store can add PDF files to your iTunes library, then you could do so as well. You’re correct. You can add any PDF files you want to your library, either on their own or with albums. There are several types of music-related files that could be worth adding to your iTunes library in PDF format:
* Album notes that you have scanned
* CD inserts for music you have imported
* Lyrics for your favorite music
* Guitar tabs
* Band or orchestra information
* And, of course, more…
You can do this simply by creating a file in a word processor, then using a program or “export” command from the word processor to create a PDF file. Or, you can scan graphics and use a program to convert them to PDF format, to store photos in individual files.
To ensure that PDFs are stored with the specific album to which they belong, you must set their tags, as you do for any music file. Select the PDF file, then select File > Get Info. In the following illustration, you can see that the Coldplay X & Y digital booklet is listed with the appropriate artist, album and genre tags.
When you display the Info window for a PDF file, you’ll note that the Artwork tab is dimmed; you cannot add album art to the file.
Organizing PDF Files
While you can organize your PDF files by setting their tags to match their albums, you can also create playlists with them by dragging them to a manual playlist, or by setting up a smart playlist that looks for PDF files. To do this, create a smart playlist with one condition: Kind Contains PDF (or Kind is PDF Document).
This smart playlist will contain every PDF file in your iTunes library. If you became a PDF fanatic, or if you use iTunes to store many PDFs of lyrics or guitar tabs, you can create multiple smart playlists, where each one looks for PDF documents and also looks for files by artist, genre, or whatever you want. Just make sure to tag your PDF files accordingly.
Movin’ Pictures: Videos in iTunes
As you saw earlier, the Coldplay X & Y album includes not only a digital booklet, but also a video of an interview with the band. In order to differentiate videos from audio in your library, each video is listed in iTunes with a special icon (a video camera) next to its name.
Other albums sold on the iTunes Music Store include videos for songs, live performances, or other footage. Apple provides videos in MP4 format, since the MPEG-4 file format can contain both music and video. You can view these movies in iTunes, or you can open them in another video player, such as QuickTime Player or pretty much any other software that can read the MP4 format.
iTunes’ Advanced preferences let you choose how to view the video within iTunes. You can select from the main window, a separate window, or full screen. The main window is that tiny window at the bottom-left of the iTunes window, the one that shows album art. This is too small for viewing videos, so it’s better if you choose a separate window (in which case iTunes opens a video window in front of its main window) or full screen (where iTunes shows the video full-screen and blacks out any background).
If you’re viewing a video in the album art window in iTunes, you can display it in a separate window just by clicking it. From that window, you can right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac) the video to choose a different size: half size, normal size, or double size. You can also resize the video window as you would any other window.
Making an iTunes Video Library
It probably comes as no surprise that the things you can do with PDF files – display the files in the Finder or Windows Explorer so you can copy them elsewhere, change tags, and create playlists – also work for movie files. You can organize your movies any way you want, tag them, and create normal or smart playlists. And – for now – iTunes will not automatically copy movies to the iPod, so they won’t take up space on your portable player.
As with PDF files, you can add your own movies to your iTunes library. You may want to add music videos you have downloaded from the Internet, movie trailers, or video you have shot yourself. You may find that iTunes offers an easy way to organize videos, and, if you have a lot of files, you can take advantage of its interface and playlists to create a database of your own movies. iTunes will recognize a large number of standard video formats, including all those that QuickTime can play.
iTunes can also download and play “vodcasts,” or video podcasts. While not many of these are available yet, Make magazine has offered several episodes of its podcast in video form, and Rocketboom offers a daily video blog. This video feature in iTunes will certainly encourage others to try making vodcasts and video blogs, though the audience for them is at best small right now.
So while iTunes is primarily a music program, its ability to organize PDF files and movies can help you manage these types of content. Since video is clearly in the cards for a future iPod or other Apple portable device, it’s great that iTunes is ready to handle downloads, management, and playback. Play around with these features today and you’ll be ready for what comes next.