Customizing iTunes sorting


Q: Question on the iTunes library: Why is the alphabetization not by surname. I would prefer Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers under P for Petty. Can I override this, or put in a comma, such as “Petty and the Heartbreakers, Tom”?

Customizing iTunes sorting

– Christine

A: Due to the wide variety of artist names, it would be difficult for iTunes to figure out exactly which tracks should be sorted by which words. For instance, does “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers” get sorted by Tom, Petty or Heartbreakers?

Fortunately, iTunes does provide a way for you to override this behaviour on your own. You could obviously just change the actual artist name as you describe, but this may not represent what you want the actual artist name to look like when you view it. Instead, iTunes provides you with the ability to enter how you think a field should be actually sorted without affecting the way that it’s displayed. To do this, simply select the tracks that you would like to see sorted differently, choose File, Get Info from the iTunes menu to bring up the multiple item information dialog box, and then choose the “Sorting” tab.

Customizing iTunes sorting

From here, you can type in whatever text you want iTunes to use when sorting the selected tracks. The actual displayed artist name will remain the same, but when sorting it will use the information in these “Sort” fields instead. Note that you don’t even need to enter the whole name as the information is never actually displayed anywhere—you just need to enter enough for iTunes to be able to actually sort it. For example, even just entering “Petty” would probably suffice in this case.


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Jesse Hollington

Jesse Hollington was a Senior Editor at iLounge. He's written about Apple technology for nearly a decade and had been covering the industry since the early days of iLounge. In his role at iLounge, he provided daily news coverage, wrote and edited features and reviews, and was responsible for the overall quality of the site's content.