Top tips: get the most from iTunes and iPod

If you put a CD in when you’re not online, though, Gracenote can still get the info for you at a later date. Simply highlight the tracks you want data for, go to Advanced > Get CD Track Names and it’ll find it for you.

Backing Up Your iTunes Library

If you’re particularly fond of your iTunes Library – and we’re assuming here that you are – then you’ll probably consider backing it up at some point.

Yes, we all know that backing up your files is a boring thing to do when there are clearly so many more interesting things you could be doing, but if the worst does happen and your hard drive packs up – which has happened to us – then you’ll be very glad that you did.

Thankfully for you, iTunes makes the whole process as quick and painless as possible. Go to File > Back Up to Disc and follow the onscreen instructions. iTunes gives you the choice of backing up your entire iTunes Library, your purchases, or items that have been added since your last backup.

Then all you need to do is insert a blank disc and sit back and wait. When one disc is full, iTunes will prompt you to replace it with another blank one.

It makes sense to back everything up to DVD if you have a DVD burner on your computer – a 14GB iTunes Library will take around 20 CDs to hold everything – but even if you need to put everything on CDs, we strongly recommend that you take the time to do it.


Leopard gives you three new Visualizer styles to play with now, and they’re called Jelly, Stix and Lathe. Like patterns on previous versions of iTunes, you can press special keys to reveal a number of clever hidden tricks.

All three new patterns will display album information if you press [I], but Stix will add a further stick to the pattern if you press the Up arrow, while the Down arrow handily changes the speed. Best of all though, in our opinion, is Jelly.

This Visualizer style has a range of tricks, including different styles (again, simply press the Up or Down arrow), the ability to make the pattern bigger or smaller (press and hold [1] or [2]) or produce a glow (press [8], [9] or [0]).

Importing Songs

iTunes gives you a surprisingly large amount of control over how you import your tracks from a CD. Here are some of the best features:

  • Joining tracks - you can link songs together when you import them by highlighting the ones you want and choosing Advanced > Join CD Tracks.
  • Bit rate - the default bit rate for importing songs is 128kbps (kilobytes per second), which is fine for when you’re playing music through your Mac or basic iPod headphones, but you’ll notice the drop in quality from the original CD if you play your imported tracks through a decent set of speakers or headphones. If you increase the bit rate to at least 192kbps before you import the tracks from a CD then you’ll find that there’s a noticeable increase in the quality of them. Go to iTunes’ Preferences, click on the Advanced tab and then the Settings menu. Choose the Custom option and select 192kbps from the list.
  • CD options - you can even choose what the CD does when it’s inserted into your Mac. Go back to the Advanced section of iTunes’ Preferences and, at the On CD Insert menu, you can choose from Show CD, Begin Playing, Ask To Import CD, Import CD and Import CD and Eject.

Printing CD Inserts

One oft-forgotten feature of iTunes is the ability to print out case inserts for your own CDs.

If you’re burning off an album you’ve purchased from the iTunes Store, then iTunes can print out a sleeve with the album art on one side and the track listing on the other – and, as the artwork is usually high quality, the results are surprisingly impressive.

Alternatively, if you’re creating a compilation CD for someone, then you can choose one of the many different print options to print out a mosaic of album covers from the different artist.

Start by selecting the playlist you want to burn to CD and then press C+[P] to bring up the Print menu. Make sure that the CD jewel case insert option is highlighted – the other two options just print listings by song or album – and then choose your next option from the drop-down menu.

The default option is Text only, but you can also select Mosaic (which prints a collage of album art from the various tracks on the front and puts a song listing on the back), or have a combination of various text- and image-based choices.