Become a Mac Power User: iTunes

itunes

We’ve posted Power User tips focusing on OS X as a whole (look for an update post for the not-far-off Snow Leopard) and the System Preferences. Today we’ll cast our gaze on iTunes. Listening to music on your Mac is like peanut butter and bananas — they just go together. iTunes is a fairly straightforward application, but it does offer some simple features, which may not be totally obvious to the casual user. So here are a few tips that should help to improve the iTunes experience.

Playlist Stuff

Chances are that you’ve got some playlists setup in iTunes already. I have many static and smart playlists set up, and it makes for a lot of scrolling, depending on my listening mood. iTunes helps here, and allows you to create folders in which you can organize all of those lists. As a starting point, I use some high-level folders named “Genius,” “Smart” and “Stupid.” Within those folders, I’ve created more nested folders to further organize my playlists. It certainly helps to cut down on the clutter.

There are some great radio stations available through iTunes as well. In fact, there are somewhere between 3.5 and 4 metric crap-tons of Internet radio stations available, to be exact. So finding what you like can take some time — especially if you want to come back to it. So create yourself a “Radio” folder, too, and drag those radio stations you like into the folder for easy listening later on.

Smart playlists would seem like an obvious topic here, but we’ve covered them several times.

Those Arrows

iTunes ArrowsHave you noticed that when you highlight a song in iTunes, little arrows appear next to the song, artist and album name? Clicking on those arrows tends to lead to spending money in the iTunes Store, as they’re links to similar music that you can purchase. Apple puts lots of “help” in there for you to spend more of your money (I’m looking at you, Genius sidebar), and while I don’t know about you, I certainly don’t need any more help giving Apple my money! So here’s a tip that you can use to make those arrows point inward to your own iTunes Library. Once you execute this tip, the arrows next to the song and the album will bring up all songs from that album. Clicking the arrow next to the artist, brings up all songs by that artist. This is much more useful!

So go ahead and launch Terminal.app, which is found in Applications → Utilities. Once it’s open, type (or copy & paste) the following line into Terminal:

defaults write com.apple.iTunes invertStoreLinks -bool YES

Hit Enter. You’re finished.

Now your arrows work for you, rather than against you. If you ever want to switch it back, change the ‘YES’ to ‘NO.’

Visualizer

iTunes VisualizerSometimes listening to music isn’t enough to zone you out all by itself. The Visualizer (found under the View menu at the top of the screen) gives you some cool stuff to look at while you listen. In Leopard (10.5) there are five built-in Visualizer options:

  • iTunes Visualizer
  • iTunes Classic Visualizer
  • Jelly
  • Lathe
  • Stix

Once you select the Visualizer you want to see, you can press the hotkey Command+T to see it in action (usually while your music is playing). Pressing Command+F puts it in full-screen mode, rather than limiting it to the iTunes window size. Bonus: In both of the iTunes Visualizers, you can hit the “?” at any time and you will see a list of keys you can press to alter the Visualizer’s properties. There are some very cool results to be found with tinkering!

Find Duplicates

iTunes DuplicatesAs your music library gets bigger and bigger, it can grow out of control. I’ve been known to re-rip old CDs without realizing it. Or sometimes I’ve duplicated a track as a different file format. Before long, I’ve compiled a great deal of duplicate tracks in iTunes. Apple was nice enough to give us a “Show Duplicates” menu item. It’s right up there under the File menu. The only problem with this feature is its keying off of song title — so as I’ve got Dave Matthews Band tracks that are both studio recorded and live, they show as duplicates, even though they’re different song files. But it’s a good place to start. Once you’re done with that view, you can press the button at the bottom of the iTunes window to “Show all” again.

The Mini Mini Player

iTunes Mini-playerYou’ve likely noticed that when you click the green + button (next to the – ‘minimize’ and X ‘close window’ buttons) it doesn’t actually expand the size of the iTunes window as you might expect. Instead, it makes it into somewhat of a mini iTunes player window. That’s obvious enough. But if you click the lower-right corner and size the window down further, you’ll get rid of the text feedback portion that tells the song title, leaving only the Last Track, Play and Next Track buttons. This small configuration is ideal for stashing in a corner of the screen if you like to have access to the control buttons at all times (and haven’t installed one of the many great third-party plugins to solve such a problem).

There you have it, folks. Some quick and simple ways to get a few extra drops of goodness from iTunes. So next time you listen to your music, you might as well fire up “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” because you’re an iTunes Power User!

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