Exploring iTunes

When you launch iTunes, the iTunes window opens (see Figure 16.1). If you read through the previous chapter, this window should look familiar to you; iTunes and iPhoto share many interface features.

Figure 16.1. iTunes provides complete control over your music.



If you don't see the Browse pane, click the Browse button to open it.

The iTunes window consists of three panes?Source, Browse, and Content?and the control and display area that surrounds those panes. The Browse pane can be hidden or shown; the other panes are shown at all times (unless you minimize the iTunes window, which you will see later in this chapter).

The first time any user launches iTunes, the iTunes Setup Assistant opens and configures iTunes for that user. For example, the assistant asks you to accept the license agreement, configure iTunes for playback of Internet music, determine whether iTunes should automatically connect to the Internet to download song information, and automatically locate relevant files on your Mac and add them to your Music Library.

The Source Pane

The Source pane shows the available music sources. When you want to work with a source, for example to listen to it, you select that source on the Source pane. As you work with iTunes, you will see the following sources:

  • Library? The Library contains all the music you have added to iTunes and enables you to access any of your music quickly and easily. Because you can import audio CDs to your Mac, you can add all your music to the Library?no more fussing with individual CDs. You can also add music from the Apple Store and the Internet to your Library. You can browse and search the contents of the Library and play any music it contains.

  • Radio? The Radio Source enables you to listen to Internet radio broadcasts.

  • Audio CD? When an audio CD is inserted in your Mac, you see its icon in the Source pane. You can listen to it and add it to your Library, which iTunes calls importing, so you never have to use the CD itself again.

  • Playlists? Playlists are collections of songs you create and listen to. They enable you to create your own music collections that contain exactly the songs you want to listen to in the order in which you want to listen to them. You can add any music from your Library to playlists, and you can have as many playlists as you want.

  • Smart Playlists? Smart playlists use a set of expressions you create to collect songs in a group (unlike playlists, which you create by manually adding music to). You define the expressions used for each smart playlist you create. Smart playlists can be dynamic, meaning songs can be automatically added to them based on the expressions you create.

  • Music Store? Apple's Music Store enables you to find and purchase music online. You can preview music and then buy it. When you do so, that music is downloaded to your Mac and added to your Music Library. You can buy entire CDs or individual songs.

  • Purchased Music? This is a special playlist that contains all the music you have purchased from the Apple Music Store.

  • Shared Music? With iTunes, you can share music with other people on your network and other people can share music in their Libraries with you. When you select a shared source, you can listen to music in other people's Libraries.

  • Music Player? You can use iTunes to manage music players, such as MP3 players and, more importantly, an Apple iPod. When you connect a music player to your Mac, it appears as a source.


You can change the relative size of any of the panes by dragging its resize handle, which is a small circle in the center of the border between the panes.

The Browse Pane

The Browse pane provides a way for you to browse your music by genre, artist, and album (refer to Figure 16.1). When you select a source, you can browse that source in the Browse pane. As you select items in the pane, the contents of what you select are shown in the Content pane (explained in the next section). The more specific you make the Browse pane, the more specific the selection of song results in the Content pane. For example, if you click a specific genre, the artists associated with that genre are shown in the Artist column. Similarly, if you select an artist in the Artist pane, that artist's albums are shown in the Album pane. When you select an album, that album's songs are shown in the Content pane.

The Browse pane can be shown or hidden for different sources. And you can choose to show or hide the Genre column within the Browse pane.

To show the Genre column when you are browsing a source, do the following steps:

  1. Select iTunes, Preferences or press graphics/mac.gif-,.

  2. Click the General tab if it isn't selected already.

  3. Check the "Show genre when browsing" check box.

  4. Click OK. Whenever you browse a source, the Genre column is shown.


You can use the Source Text and Song Text pop-up menus on the General pane of the iTunes Preferences window to set the relative size of the text used in the Source pane and Content pane, respectively.

To show or hide the Browse pane for a source, select that source and select Edit, Show Browser or Edit, Hide Browser, respectively. When the Browse pane is hidden, the Content pane expands to fill the right side of the iTunes window (see Figure 16.2).

Figure 16.2. Press graphics/mac.gif-B to show or hide the Browse pane (also called the Browser); compare this figure to Figure 16.1.


The Content Pane

The Content pane displays the contents (the songs) of the source selected in the Source or Browse pane. Along with song name, the Content pane can show a variety of other information for each song, including track number, time, artist, album, genre, and much more. You can choose to display different columns for each source.

To customize the information for a source, do the following steps:

  1. Select the source whose Content pane you want to customize by clicking it in the Source or Browse pane. Its contents are displayed in the Content pane.

  2. Select Edit, View Options or press graphics/mac.gif-J. The View Options dialog box appears (see Figure 16.3). The name of the selected source appears at the top of the dialog box, as does a check box for each column that can be displayed in the Content pane.

    Figure 16.3. Using the View Options dialog box, you can customize the information displayed in the Content pane for any source.


  3. Check the check box for each column you want to be displayed when you are viewing the contents of the selected source.

  4. Click OK. Each time you view the source, the columns you selected are shown.


The first column in the Content pane does not have a column title and always appears. It is the Playback Order column, which indicates the order in which the songs will be played in the selected source. Because you can reorder the songs in playlists (and even for CDs), this is not to be confused with the track number.

The columns in the Content pane work similarly to those in a Finder window in the List view. You can sort the pane by a specific column (such as Track #) by clicking its column title (the column title by which the pane is sorted is highlighted in blue). You can drag columns to the left or right to change the order in which they appear, and you can resize a column by dragging its right border. Just like the view options you set, the changes you make to the columns themselves are retained for each source.

In many cases, you have to use the Content pane's scrollbars to see all the information it contains.


One of the nice features of iTunes is that it automatically connects to the Internet and downloads information about CDs you play; music you purchase from the Apple Music Store includes this information, too. You can add or edit a song's information manually as well. This information enables you to understand many aspects of your music and more easily customize your music.

Controls and Display Area

Surrounding the panes on the top and bottom is the control and display area. In this area, you see various controls you use to perform actions, along with the display area that presents information about what you are doing (see Figure 16.4).

Figure 16.4. Surrounding the panes of the iTunes window are the controls and displays you use to work with your music.


In the upper-left corner of the window are the playback controls, which include rewind/jump to previous track; play, stop, or pause; fast forward/jump to the next track; and the volume slider. These are self-explanatory, and they change depending on the context (for example, when you are playing a CD, the Stop button appears, but when you stop the music, it becomes the Play button).

In the top center part of the window is the display area. This area shows information about what you are doing at any moment in time. For example, when you are listening to music, it shows information about the song that is currently playing. When you are importing music into your Library, it shows information about the importing process.

The display area also has several modes; you can change these using the Mode button. What this button does depends on the action you are performing at that particular time. For example, when you are listening to music, one mode displays a graphic equalizer representation of the music playing. In another mode, it shows the title of the track that is playing along with a progress bar. When you are importing a song, the display area shows a progress bar for the import process. In certain situations, this area also contains a Stop button you can use to stop what is happening (such as when you are importing MP3 files). You will see examples of these modes in the various figures in this chapter.


When you are playing music, the name of the track, artist, and album it comes from rotate above the time display; you can change from one to the other by clicking the text. You can also switch from the remaining time display to the total time display or elapsed time by clicking the time being displayed.

To the right of the display area is the Search tool. You can use this to narrow the results shown in the Content pane for any source you select, such as your Library or a CD:

  1. Select the source in which you want to search.

  2. Click the Magnifying Glass icon and select the attribute by which you want to search. Your options are All (the default), Artists, Albums, Composers, and Songs.

  3. Start to type in the Search tool. As you type, the results shown in the Content pane are narrowed down so it shows only songs that contain the text you type (the text can be in any of the columns shown in the pane). The more letters you type, the more specific the search becomes.

For example, to find all the songs in your Library that have the word strange somehow connected with them, you would leave All selected and type strange in the Search box. The Content pane would then show only those items whose name, artist, or other data contain that text. In this example, if you had selected a source containing the song "Strangers in the Night" and also had a song by Eddie Strange, both of these songs would appear in the Content pane.


After you perform a search, the Clear button (which is a circle containing an x) appears at the right end of the Search tool. Click this button to clear the search and cause the Content pane to display all the contents of the selected source.

In the upper-right corner of the iTunes window is the Action button, which changes depending on the source selected. When an audio CD is selected, the Action button becomes the Import button, which enables you to add songs from the CD to your Library. When a playlist is selected, it becomes the Burn CD button, which enables you to burn a CD from a selected playlist. When the Library, Music Store, or Shared Music is selected, it is the Browse button that shows or hides the Browse pane.

Along the bottom of the window are more controls and information (see Figure 16.5).

Figure 16.5. iTunes provides all the tools you need to get the most out of your music.


At the bottom of the window, the following features are available (from left to right):

  • New Playlist? Click this to create a new playlist. If you hold down the Option key while you click it, you create a new smart playlist. You will learn much more about playlists later in this chapter.

  • Shuffle? When you click this, the tracks of the selected source are played in a random order. This is reflected in the Content pane because the songs are reshuffled to reflect the random order in which they will be played. Click the button again to return the selected source back to its previous order.


    To determine whether iTunes shuffles by song or album, use the Song or Album radio button on the Advanced pane of the iTunes Preferences dialog box.

  • Repeat? The Repeat button enables you to repeat whatever you are playing. If you click this button once, the source repeats until you stop it. If you click this button twice, the source repeats one time.

  • Show/Hide Album Art? When you click this, the Album Art window appears underneath the Source pane. The album art associated with the currently playing song is shown in this window. Music you purchase from the Apple Music Store has album art associated with it. You can also add graphics to this field for any music in your Library.

  • Source Information? In the center of the bottom of the iTunes window information about the currently selected source is shown. You can see how many songs are included in the source, the total playing time, and the total file size of the source's tracks. This information is especially useful when you are burning CDs or managing a music player.

  • Show Equalizer? This opens the iTunes Equalizer that enables you to control how music sounds. You will learn how to use this later in this chapter.

  • Show/Hide Visualizer? This opens a funky, 60s-style window that displays visuals to accompany your music. More on this shortly.

  • Eject? As you can probably guess, this ejects the selected source, such as an audio CD or a music player.


If you have an Apple Pro keyboard or are using a PowerBook or iBook, you can eject a selected source by pressing its Eject key.

When a music player is connected to your Mac, you see additional buttons related to that player, such as the iPod Options button. You will learn about these later in the chapter.

The commands for many of iTunes' controls, such as Shuffle, Repeat, and Eject, also appear on the Controls menu along with additional controls, including Volume Up, Volume Down, and Mute. Also, keyboard shortcuts are available for many of them (you will see these in the "Mac OS X to the Max" section at the end of this chapter).

To the left of the Eject button is the Show Visualizer button. If you click this button, the center part of the iTunes window becomes a throwback to the 1960s and you see visual effects while the music plays (see Figure 16.6). You can control the size of the Visualizer and turn it off or on by selecting the commands on the Visualizer menu. You can also add additional visual effects to iTunes and switch among them.

Figure 16.6. If you want to see as well as hear your music, use iTunes Visualizer mode.


When you display the Visualizer, the Action button becomes Options. If you click this, you can set various preferences relating to the appearance of the Visualizer, such as the frame rate, whether song information is displayed, and so on.

When iTunes was originally released, Apple hyped this as one of the application's big features. Although it looks cool for about 10 seconds, I have never used it for longer than that period of time. Perhaps if you like to look at something while you listen to music, you might find this feature more useful than I do.


If you leave iTunes open and Visualizer on, but no music playing, you get some pretty interesting visual effects.

    Part I: Mac OS X: Exploring the Core
    Part III: Mac OS X: Living the Digital Life