Sorting Photo Folders on Apple TV

Q: I use Windows XP as my home computer for iTunes. I had shared out about 10-20 folders of photos via iTunes for display on my Apple TV. Recently, I have added more folders of photos for display on the Apple TV. But now the folders of photos are no longer in alphabetic order since I added the new folders when viewed by the Apple TV. Within some folders, I did add some photos and take away photos in others. The folder names are almost all “yyyy Text” where yyyy is the year the photos were taken and text is a description like “Birthdays.” Some folder names are exclusively text like “School pics of Kid X.” I am getting some year-x pictures by folder name, then full text name folders, then year-y folders, and then year -x again.

Why aren’t they alphabetical?

– Bob

A: Unfortunately, sorting for photos shared from iTunes to Apple TV or iOS devices has been somewhat inconsistent over the years, and the problem is even worse when syncing photos from folders rather than using a photo management app such as iPhoto, Aperture or Adobe Photoshop Elements.

For a number of years the sort order presented for a set of photo folders to an Apple TV or iOS device by iTunes was seemingly random. In reality, iTunes was simply handing off the folders and photos in whatever natural order the file system had them stored in, which was effectively unsorted. The end result was a photo order that, while logical to a computer, generally made no sense to anybody actually trying to view the photos.

Recent versions of iTunes have improved this somewhat, although for actual folders on Windows it remains a bit inconsistent. Specifically, when first syncing a Pictures folder to an Apple TV, iTunes will initially present the folders in alphabetical order, with numbered entries last (as iTunes does for other media content).

However, as you add and remove additional folders, this changes and iTunes falls back to using the natural file system order for your subfolders. This will often simply be the order in which the subfolders were created or moved into the main Pictures folder, but for various other technical reasons such as file system type (FAT32 vs NTFS), this could also eventually become a more random order.

The good news is that there is a fairly simple workaround to return to alphabetical sorting of your folders. In the main “Pictures” folder that you have selected for synchronization, you should see a subfolder named iPod Photo Cache. This folder is simply used to store optimized copies of photos that you are sharing with your Apple TV and iOS devices; remove this folder and iTunes will simply rebuild it, effectively resetting your photo synchronization settings back to their original defaults in the process.

To do this, select Choose Photos to Share from the Advanced menu in iTunes, disable the photo sharing options, and then go into Windows Explorer and delete the iPod Photo Cache folder.