Syncing one iPad to multiple libraries

Q: My family really loves the iPad we just purchased. It has a ton of pros, but the biggest con is that I can’t sync photo’s from both my wife’s iPhoto library and my iPhoto library. We have one iMac and we use different profiles. To me it’s not really a multi-user device that the entire family is supposed to share if you can’t get the family pictures and other content on it. The same goes for music or videos that either she or I have purchased from a separate iTunes account. Do you have any thoughts on this? Am I the only one who thinks this is odd? I haven’t read much news on this in the tech press. Thanks and best wishes.

Syncing one iPad to multiple libraries

– Marc

A: To be fair, the iPad isn’t really designed to be a multi-user device any more than a laptop computer is, and in fact the iPad syncs with iTunes in much the same manner as an iPod touch does. You’ll therefore find that you have most of the same options and issues with syncing.

For your media content, you can set the iPad to manual mode by going into the “Summary” screen and selecting Manually manage music and videos. This works for the iPad in the same as it does for an iPod, and will allow you to manually add content to your iPad from more than one iTunes library simply by dragging and dropping the content to the iPad icon in iTunes. Note that you will lose the ability to automatically update ratings and play counts in manual mode, and will also need to ensure that you manually re-transfer tracks to your iPad whenever you make changes to the tags in iTunes.

Applications and photos are a different matter, unfortunately, as these always sync automatically regardless of the “Manual” setting in iTunes. Note that it doesn’t matter if content has been purchased with different accounts, as you can easily store content from up to five separate iTunes Store accounts on a single device, but rather that the content is stored in two separate libraries.

In this case, you will need to basically choose an iTunes library to be your “primary” library and transfer all of the applications that you want on your iPad into that library. Since you’re on the same iMac, this is really just a matter of physically copying the applications from the “Mobile Applications” folder in the secondary library folder and importing them into the primary iTunes library via drag-and-drop or using the Add to Library option on the File menu. You can then set up the iPad to sync applications from the “primary” iTunes library.

The same applies to photos—all of the photos you want on your iPad have to come from a single source: Either a single iPhoto or Aperture library or a single folder of photos on your computer. You basically need to pick a “primary” iPhoto library and ensure that all of the photos you want on your iPad are in that library.

Ultimately, however, unless you have a need to keep your photo and music content separately, consolidating your iTunes and iPhoto libraries may be the simplest solution in the long run. You can easily relocate your iTunes library to a shared folder such as /Users/Shared that can be accessed by both profiles on your iMac by following the instructions in our tutorial on Transferring your iTunes Library.