Q: My iPod is primarily used by me at work, but when I take the family on long trips, I love to let my two (young) daughters use it.
Is there any way to temporarily limit them to only a very small set of kid-friendly albums (and prevent them from changing settings) without needing to empty and reload my entire iPod before and after the trip?
A: It’s not very well known, but yes, absolutely. Apple provides an official way to create feature-limited iPod menu systems, and although it’s intended for turning the iPod into a museum guide, anyone is able to take advantage of it. This trick will be perfect for small children, and won’t require any emptying and/or reloading of your iPod at all. Here’s how it works:
Begin by creating a new text file called “Main.linx”, and store it in your iPod’s “Notes” folder. This file will represent the iPod’s new main menu system in its entirety. Anything not present in this new table of contents simply will not be accessible.
Here’s a basic framework of what the file should look like:
At the top of this file is the optional “TITLE” tag, which allows you to specify some string of text that will be displayed as the iPod’s menu header.
Next, you can put any number of links to specific songs, albums, or playlists, using the model above. In the links above, notice the target of the link (HREF=“ipod:music?…) needs to point to the album, playlist, or song exactly as it is labeled in iTunes. The text between the “> A <” tags is the text of the link that will show in the menu: this does not need to match iTunes’ tags.
Finally, we need to create another file to tell the iPod to only allow access to this menu, and to hide the default iPod menu. This text file must be named “Preferences” (no file extension), and should contain only the following line:
Like the “Main.linx” file, this must be stored in the iPod’s “Notes” folder.
Once you’ve created these two files, simply eject your iPod and reset it by holding down the Menu and center buttons together. When it finishes rebooting, your iPod will be restricted to only the menu items specified in the “Main.linx” file.
To re-enable access to your iPod’s default interface, simply reconnect the iPod to a computer, move these two files out of the Notes directory, and keep them somewhere safe (the iPod’s root directory is fine) until you need them again.
For further detail on how to utilize the iPod’s Tour Guide Mode features, see Apple’s documentation here (PDF Link).