Top tips: get the most from iTunes and iPod

Smart Playlists

A great way to make a playlist based on a set of given variables is by creating a Smart Playlist.

Go to File > New Smart Playlist. Now you can add various conditions to narrow down your iTunes Library, simply by altering the pull-down menus and then adding new rules by clicking on the + symbol on the right side of the window.

If, for example, you want to instantly create a playlist featuring all your music from 1992, you can do this in no time! Just select Year in the first menu, is in the second one, and then type 1992 in the box on the right.

You can also limit the amount of tracks the playlist contains and even have live updating, so that iTunes automatically adds news songs that match the Smart Playlist’s criteria.

The range of playlists you can create is almost limitless, so you’re free to let your imagination run wild. For a good starting point, we recommend that you check out the, which has plenty of examples for you to try.

Playlist Tips

On a basic level, playlists are very straightforward – you just create a new one and drag your songs into it. This doesn’t duplicate them, as it only creates a link to the original file.

This means that you can make as many playlists as you like and it won’t affect your iTunes Library or your Mac’s memory. There are lots of things you can do with playlists, though, that might surprise you:

  • Saving playlists - you can save a copy of a playlist, then export it to another iTunes Library. As long as the songs are duplicated in the other Library, all the tracks will play fine. To save an individual playlist, select it and go to File > Export (picking XML from the drop-down menu); to save all of them, choose File > Export Library. Then, to import them into your other iTunes Library, select File > Import.
  • Searching playlists - if you have a massive playlist library, and you want to quickly check and see if a particular song is already in one of your playlists, right-click on that song and choose Show in Playlist from the list of options.
  • Organising playlists in folders - staying with those who have a large collection of playlists, it’s worth remembering that it’s easy to sort them into folders. Choose File > New Folder, give the folder a name and then drag all the playlists you want into it.

Adding Applescripts

As good as iTunes undoubtedly is, it’s worth knowing that it can be made even better by AppleScripts. For the unaware, these are small programs that can be added on to the main software to give additional features.

Rather than being standalone programs in themselves, AppleScripts are actually accessed and run directly through the main software.

There are hundreds of useful ones at Doug’s AppleScripts for iTunes, but here are just a few of our favourite ones to get you started:

  • Import iPod Audio Files - this first handy AppleScript was written by Doug himself and allows you to copy tracks from your iPod to your computer, adding them directly to your iTunes music folder. Sadly, it’s not compatible with the iPhone or iPod touch, but it has been updated recently to work with Leopard.
  • Find Album Artwork With Google - this does what you’d expect. Generally we’re pretty impressed with iTunes’ built-in album art finder, but there is still a surprisingly large number that it simply can’t find. This AppleScript will search through Google for you and try to come up with a suitable alternative.
  • Make Bookmarkable - if you’re looking for an even easier way to make your tracks bookmarkable, then this is the AppleScript for you! Quite simply, it changes the file extension of the selected AAC track to ‘.m4b’, which means that it’s then treated in the same way as an audiobook.

Transfer your library

If you’ve bought a new Mac, you’ll want to transfer your files across from the old one.

To move an iTunes Library you can easily burn it to disc, but unless you’ve got a large stack of DVDs, this could be a time-consuming and lengthy process.

The easiest way to move files from one Mac to another is with the Migration Assistant program.

You’ll find this tucked away in the Utilities folder in Applications on your hard drive and, as long as you’ve got a FireWire cable, you can simply connect the two computers together and the program will move across all your iTunes Library files for you.

Right Click Shortcut

If you want to quickly get information or alter any of the tracks in your iTunes Library, there’s an easy way to do it. If you right-click on the mouse over a highlighted song (or songs), or press [Ctrl] and click on the mouse if you have a single-button mouse, the Shortcut menu appears.

Here you can quickly get information on the song, change the rating, show the track in a Finder window (useful if you need to find its location in a hurry) or access all manner of other options.

One other useful and little-known tip is to right-click on the column headers. Then you’re able to auto-size all of the ones currently displayed or pick and choose from the full list.

iPhone and iPod Touch

Music Icons

If you’re lucky enough to own an iPhone, let’s kick off with a way to customise its display to suit the way you use it.