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Become a Mac Power User: iTunes

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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, which is found in Applications ? Utilities. Once it’s open, type (or copy & paste) the following line into Terminal:

defaults write 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.’


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!

10 Responses to “Become a Mac Power User: iTunes”

  1. Apple España se limpia las manos, cuando un equipo tiene 3 – 4 AÑOS SIN GARANTIA. Los modelos PowerMac G5 (Early 2005) Dual Processor 2.7GHz / 1,5GHz PC-3200 / 250GHz 7200-rpm / ATI Radeon 9650 y PowerMac G5 (Late 2005) Processor DUAL 2.0 / 512Mb (533MHz) DDR2 / 160Gb 7200-rpm / NVIDIA GeForce 6600LE. ¡ESTAN EN LA ZONA DE PRODUCTOS OBSOLETOS PARA APPLE!

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  2. Another tip:
    When you use the hint to change the behavior of the store links they will behave exactly the opposite as before, i.e. now you can Option-click them to go to the store. But their new default will be to look inside your own library.

    Very sweet!

  3. bughunter

    A couple more tips:

    – Visualizer: If you’re still using Tiger, then you may want to download some visualizer options. My favorite is a trippy spectrum analyzer, Gaslight (

    – MiniMiniPlayer: I use the “Zoom” command (Ctrl-Option-Z) to toggle between full pane and a mini-controller, that will stay in the foreground if you set the proper preferences.

    Also, there are a plethora of add-ons that will give you global menubar and hotkey control of iTunes, regardless of what app is in the foreground.

    And my favorite power user feature is that many games (like WoW) offer hotkey hooks to basic iTunes functions (next, previous, volume up/down).

  4. Alternately, you can use the Option key when clicking on the little arrows, to view your own library, and not the iTunes Store.
    Pressing the Option key while selecting the File menu will allow you to “Shoe Exact Duplicates”.

  5. I’d like to also note that, by default, you can Option-click on an arrow to reveal it in the Library rather than in iTunes Store, without having to change the hidden settings.

  6. Playlist folders are useful for something other than just cutting down on the clutter: The folder is a playlist itself, containing all items in each of its child playlists or subfolders. This makes them a great (the only?) way to overcome the worst shortcoming of smart playlists: The fact that you can’t combine “match any” rules with “match all” rules in the same playlist. Create as many “match any” based playlists as you need and bunch them in a folder. The folder acts as a “match all” smart list combining the smart lists inside. You can play (and sync) that folder directly or use it as a condition of another smart playlist.