iTunes 11 tips: the complete guide to iTunes on OS X

17th Mar 2013 | 12:00

iTunes 11 tips: the complete guide to iTunes on OS X

Faster, smarter and easier to use

Introducing iTunes 11

The iTunes app has taken on more and more roles since it started life as a simple jukebox. It's now responsible for syncing iOS devices, downloading and storing movies and TV shows as well as music, and even matching your music collection with iCloud.

iTunes had started to get a little bogged down with all these tasks so Apple has given it a major overhaul.

iTunes 11 has all sorts of new features as well as a fresh new look and feel, which makes managing your media easier than ever.

The system requirements are a little higher than before and you'll need OS X 10.6.8 as a minimum, and an Intel processor in your Mac. Users of OS X 10.7 or 10.8 will find it in Software Update, and anyone still on Snow Leopard can grab it from

The interface is a little different but don't let that fool you: it's faster, smarter and easier to use. There's the Up Next feature for example, which shows you previous and upcoming tracks and lets you jump to them easily.

And a great new Mini Player that has search and multiple AirPlay volume controls built right in. We think it's a big improvement on the last version of iTunes and we know you'll love it too. Read on to find out all you need to know about iTunes 11…

1. Media type chooser

The complete guide to iTunes 11

In the new default view you can choose to see only the media type you want, instead of all your libraries at once, which is often useful. Click on the Library chooser and toggle between music, movies, TV shows, books, apps and ringtones. If you use the Show Sidebar command to return to a more traditional view, you can see all the media libraries in a list, just like in previous versions of iTunes.

2. AirPlay volume settings

The complete guide to iTunes 11

As well as setting iTunes' master volume with the main volume slider, you can send audio over AirPlay in different ways. If you choose Single, your audio plays on your Mac. If you have any AirPlay-compatible devices like an Apple TV or Airport Express you are able to choose Multiple, and send the audio to those devices too. What's really great is that you can set the volume of each audio stream independently.

3. Up Next and Previous

The complete guide to iTunes 11

This new feature lets you see what's queued to play next and if you click on the clock icon, what has been played previously. You can play any track by clicking on it as well as re-ordering them, so you're not limited to a specific play order. Right-click on tracks in the library to add them to Up Next, making you a DJ. This new feature is supported in the latest Apple TV software as well as the latest iOS Remote apps.

4. Advanced search

The complete guide to iTunes 11

Searching your media libraries just got a whole lot better in iTunes 11. When you start typing in the search field, the program immediately scours even the largest libraries for relevant tags. Results are displayed by Artist, Album, Song and Playlist, and movies and TV shows are included too. If there are lots of results returned for your libraries, the Search window simply shows the top hits and gives you the option to view more results within any given category, meaning that everything stays nice and tidy.


The complete guide to iTunes 11

iTunes 11 works well with iCloud, and now has a Downloads button and window. The button becomes visible whenever you download content, be it from iTunes Match, a new purchase or a re-download of previously purchased material. Click the button to reveal the Downloads window, where you can disallow simultaneous downloads.

6. Movies and TV shows

The complete guide to iTunes 11

If you choose to view movies or TV shows, iTunes is now pretty good at picking up their metadata and choosing background colours automatically based on artwork, which it also does for albums. If media are properly tagged, it's able to sort them into seasons for you, and again there are links to the Store if you want, for example, to complete any series you may not already have. There's an Unwatched tab too, to quickly show you stuff you haven't yet viewed.

7. Mini Player

The complete guide to iTunes 11

One of the best new features is the iTunes Mini Player. Click this button and you get a small, sleek and unobtrusive window that controls playback. Better still, it has some integrated controls like full library search, Up Next and Previous and full volume and AirPlay controls available from its small window. It puts the most important playback features of iTunes right at your fingertips and takes up very little screen space, which is especially useful for laptops.

8. iTunes Store

The complete guide to iTunes

Click on the Store button to be taken to the newly redesigned iTunes Store to preview, buy or rent content as well as managing your Apple ID settings, billing information and so on. In this view the Search field changes to search the Store rather than your library. Music and videos in your library also have a new option to jump directly to that artist, band or series on the Store, which you can access by right-clicking on content.

9. iTunes Match

The complete guide to iTunes 11

iTunes Match is still there, but in the new view it has its own dedicated tab. In the old view, which you can still use, it lives in the list down the left-hand side. You can turn iTunes Match on or off from the Store menu in iTunes, as well as manually updating it to reflect changes you have made. Remember that the library on your Mac remains the master, and things that you change, add or delete here will be reflected across your iOS devices and other Macs signed in with the same Apple ID.

iTunes and iCloud

iCloud is Apple's online file storage, syncing and streaming system that is increasingly used to co-ordinate everything you do on your Mac and iOS devices. Every Apple ID gets 5GB of free storage space for backup and documents, and it's also used to synchronise your iTunes purchases so that they are available across every device signed in with your ID. iTunes 11 works with iCloud in a number of ways. One new feature is that your previous purchases now appear by default in iTunes 11, whereas before you had to dig into the iTunes Store to find them.

The complete guide to iTunes 11

You may have to authorise your Mac with Apple to enable this. If you're not using iTunes Match, you will be able to tell which albums or songs are previous purchases because they will appear with a small cloud icon in the corner of the album artwork. If you are using iTunes Match, many albums will appear with this icon.

There's a new option for Match users too: if you go to iTunes' View menu, you can now choose to show or hide music in the cloud, either viewing all your music or only the tracks you've downloaded or added locally. Everything you have ever bought with your Apple ID can be re-downloaded at any time for free, even if you have deleted the files from your devices.

There's another nice new touch: movie playback syncing. If you watch a movie on one device then pick up another, the movie will start playing from the same place you left off. This works for content bought or rented from Apple, and also for your own movies stored locally.

Got a match?

On the subject of iTunes Match, this is still present, of course, and now works more smoothly than before. For just £25 a year, Apple will effectively host your entire music collection on its servers. Go to Store > Turn on iTunes Match in iTunes and the software will analyse your music library, send the results to Apple and mirror your playlists across all your iOS devices so it's possible to access hundreds of gigabytes' worth of music wirelessly when signed in with your Apple ID.

Any music not found in the iTunes Store will be uploaded, and iTunes on your Mac remains the master list for managing playlists. Music can be downloaded in high quality to your Mac or your iOS devices.

What iTunes Match essentially does is references music that's already on Apple's servers - which is a lot of music - and when you go to play a track from your library, you play that track instead of your original copy.
iTunes periodically updates Match while running so new content that you add should be made available. It's an excellent way of accessing your music collection from any iOS device or your Apple TV, over a wireless or a cellular connection if you're away from home.

Get creative with iTunes Match

If you're crafty, there's a clever trick you can use with iTunes Match that's great for freeing up space on your Mac. Activate iTunes Match using your main iTunes library and wait for the matching to complete. Then, create a new iTunes library locally by holding down the alt key when booting, and turn on iTunes Match in this second blank library too using the same Apple ID. You get up to ten device authorisations per Apple ID.

All the music from your other library will be available to stream in the new library, but you can disconnect the original library containing gigabytes of music (or more accurately disconnect whatever drive holds the media files), since it's not being played from there.

Remember to add new music to the old library, match and then stream it from the new one and you have effectively offloaded your library into the cloud. Remember this doesn't work for movies, so consider adding movies to the new library, and storing them locally.

Automatic downloads

The complete guide to iTunes 11

Another way in which iTunes and iCloud integrate is when it comes to automatic downloads. First start by going into Preferences in iTunes and finding the Store section; there you can switch on automatic downloading of music, apps and books so that when you buy something on one device, it will automatically download to all other devices signed in with that Apple ID, and with auto downloads enabled.

This window also lets you set up auto downloading of pre-ordered purchases. However, remember that you won't always want everything to download to all your devices. If you download a TV series to your Mac there'll be plenty of space for it, but there won't be on an iPhone 16GB. And you might not want a 1GB game bought on your iPad to go to your iPod touch. By setting each device up separately, you can control what type of content gets automatically downloaded.

Getting media into iTunes

Handy hints for getting music, movies and podcasts into iTune.

Rip CDs at optimum quality

In the General section of iTunes' Preferences window, you will see an option labelled Import Settings; this governs the settings iTunes will use when ripping your CDs. Everything from lower quality MP3 to full quality WAV are available, but for most people, neither of these are ideal. This is because low-quality sounds are particularly poor, and uncompressed uses lots of space.

The complete guide to iTunes

Choose AAC Encoder and then select a Custom setting. As a guide, to achieve a good balance of audio quality and file size you should select a bit rate of around 192kbps and leave the Sample Rate and Channels set to Auto.

iTunes can import CD audio tracks in different formats and at all qualities from low to uncompressed. Somewhere in the middle is best.

Convert home movies

iTunes can play back movies in .mp4, .m4v and .mov formats, but your home movies may be in another format, especially if they are shot on a camcorder. iTunes won't let you import movies that it can't play, so you can use a third-party app like MPEG Streamclip from to convert to an iTunes-compatible format.

Once inside iTunes, movies can be optimised for Apple devices by going to the Advanced menu and choosing to create a version for your target device. It won't let you sync an incompatible movie so there's no danger of doing that.

If you want to make iTunes versions of DVDs that you already own, tools like Handbrake ( are excellent. iTunes 11 has a tag called Home Movie, which is helpful.

Send iLife content to iTunes

The complete guide to iTunes 11

Apple's iLife suite of applications is designed so that when you have finished a project you can export a version of it directly to iTunes and it will be compatible with your iOS devices.

Let's say you have written a song in GarageBand or made a movie in iMovie. You can choose to share these directly to iTunes and they will be compressed into the correct format.

From iPhoto on your Mac you can also choose to save selected pictures out as a slideshow formatted for any of Apple's devices, and have it automatically added to iTunes as well.

Copy when adding to iTunes

In iTunes' Preferences > Advanced section you will find an option to copy files to the iTunes Media folder when adding them to the library. This has up and down sides depending on how you manage your stuff.

If you copy when adding, data is duplicated, so you have to remember to delete the original files to stop your hard drive filling up. On the other hand, copying when adding ensures that if the original files are moved or deleted, iTunes will still have a copy. Which you choose depends on how good or bad your file management habits are.

Redeem Gifts with the camera

iTunes 11 has a neat new feature where if you have an iTunes Gift Card you can hold it up in front of your computer's FaceTime camera to take a picture of it. iTunes reads the code and recognises it, saving you typing out the long number and potentially making an error.

It requires a recent Gift Card with a box around the code, which helps iTunes recognise it properly. You can still enter codes manually if you prefer.

Managing playlists

Organising music and movies is essential. Here's how to do it better…

Use Smart Playlists

Smart Playlists are one of iTunes' best-kept secrets. Choose File > New > Smart Playlist and from the window add rules. Your first criterion might be Album Rating. Or BPM in the range 60-100, to display all downtempo music.

The more criteria you add, the more specific the list gets. There's a virtually infinite combination of things you can look for. You can also choose to limit the playlist to a certain number, and ticking Live Updating ensures the list refreshes itself.

Quickly create playlists

From any view in iTunes 11 you can select multiple items and create a new playlist containing those items by simply right-clicking and choosing New Playlist From Selection or pressing the apple key + alt + N. To select multiple non-continuous songs or videos, hold the apple key while clicking on them.

This works for albums in Album view as well, so you could create a playlist containing several albums. You can also click the Plus button at the bottom left corner under the sidebar to create a new playlist.

Tag your stuff

The complete guide to iTunes 11

Anything purchased from iTunes will be tagged, but things you import yourself may not be. Choose a track or a group of tracks in iTunes and then select File > Get Info. In the resulting window you can add all kinds of metadata and artwork as well as making volume adjustments, adding EQ presets and choosing to skip tracks when shuffling.

Editing metadata for multiple items that have come from different albums, for example, is a good way to make and tag your own compilations. In iTunes 11 there's a new tag available for videos called Home Movie.

Use the contextual menu

The complete guide to iTunes 11

Right-click on music or video in iTunes and you get a menu that provides access to useful commands such as Rate, Add to Playlist, Add to Up Next, Show in Finder, copy and delete. The Show in Playlist command is great for when you can't remember where you put a track. Show in iTunes Store jumps you directly to that artist's page on the Store.

Use the Up Next feature

Up Next is new in iTunes 11 and can be found by clicking on the icon to the right of the playback and track name display window. It shows which tracks are queued to play next, and you can jump straight to a track by clicking on it, delete tracks and re-order them.

It also makes you a bit of a DJ, since you can control playback without having to go into playlists. Create and edit temporary playlists, in effect, by managing the Up Next queue. Click on the clock icon in this window and you can see recently played tracks, as well as performing actions on them.

For any album or track in a playlist, right-click and choose Add To Up Next to place it into the queue. The new Remote app for iOS also supports Up Next, as does the latest Apple TV update.

Use two iTunes windows

In iTunes 11, go into the Preferences > Advanced section. Then tick the option that says Keep Miniplayer on Top of Other Windows. Go to Window and bring up the MiniPlayer from that menu. Now go fullscreen with the main iTunes window and the MiniPlayer will still float above it. You can have iTunes fullscreen on one monitor and the MiniPlayer floating as a controller on another screen.

Managing your library

With music and movie collections getting bigger, it's good to get organised

Move an entire library

The complete guide to iTunes 11

Even if your file management hasn't been the best, iTunes can still help you to clean everything up prior to moving a library. Go into Preferences > Advanced and make sure 'Copy when adding…' is enabled. Then choose File > Library > Organize Library. Tick the option to Consolidate Files, and also the Reorganize Files… box. This pulls any files currently located outside of the iTunes folder into it, and reorganises everything into correct subfolders. After doing this you may want to delete the external files, since they will have been duplicated. It's now safe to copy your Library folder to a different location or drive.

Store on an external drive

Hard-drive space is very precious, especially on your laptop or machines with smaller solid-state drives. However, you can easily offload your ever-expanding iTunes library to an external hard drive by simply dragging and dropping it from its default location in Macintosh HD > Users > Username > Music > iTunes to another drive.

Then in iTunes, go into Preferences > Advanced and in the iTunes Media Folder Location box, click Change and point the software at the new location. It's even possible to store the library on a networked drive, as long as it's mounted on your Mac.

One great tip is to connect a USB hard drive to your recent Airport Base Station or Time Capsule and use the Airport Disk feature to store the library there, out of sight.

Use keyboard shortcuts

iTunes 11 has some handy key shortcuts for switching library sections. Use the keys ç+1 through to ç+7 to toggle the view between the different media types. In order, they are music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, iTunes U, books and apps.

Maintain multiple libraries

The complete guide to iTunes 11

iTunes can be made to use different libraries, which is great if you want to use a smaller one on your laptop but a bigger one when at home. Hold down the alt key when starting iTunes and it will ask you to create a new library or choose an existing one. Using this trick you can create as many libraries as you want on different drives, then choose the relevant one when starting up.

Transfer between computers

If you have more than one Mac (or PC) at home you may want to transfer iTunes files between them. In iTunes' FIle menu, go to the Home Sharing submenu and turn on Home Sharing, which will require you to authorise with your Apple ID. Do the same on another Mac on your local network, and each library that has been shared should appear in the Shared section in iTunes.

Each computer must sign in with the same Apple ID. As well as streaming any music and video between these computers, you will also now be able to drag and drop to copy the same content between libraries. You can also have iTunes automatically import purchases made on one Mac to the libraries of others.

Home Sharing gets around the problem of having to sync mobile devices to one iTunes library at once by allowing you to share content between multiple libraries. It also works for streaming any of this data to Apple's devices around your home.

Delete inside your Library

The complete guide to iTunes 11

iTunes libraries can get a little unwieldy, not to mention the fact that they can use up your previous hard drive space. Also, you may not know that deleting something from a playlist does not delete it from the Library, so it will still hang around.

To delete stuff from the Library you can either right-click on it and choose 'Show' in Finder and delete the files from there or better still, go to the master Music or Movies lists at the top left of iTunes' sidebar view and filter using the search box to locate the data.

So you might search for an album name, then delete those files from the master Library list. This should prompt iTunes to ask you if you really want to delete the files to the Trash.

Share your photos

The complete guide to iTunes 11

Photo sharing is one of iTunes' lesser known features, but it is still an incredibly useful one. To use it for yourself go into File > Home Sharing > Choose Photos to Share With Apple TV.

You will now have the option of enabling sharing from iPhoto or any folder, including options for specific playlists and even sharing videos. These will then be shared to any second or third generation Apple TV using Home Sharing. You can also set your Apple TV up to use photos from iPhoto as its screensaver.

Share your library

If you wanted to enable streaming over your local network without using Home Sharing, go to Preferences > Sharing. You can then choose playlists to share, with optional password protection if you wanted to keep your content secure.

This feature will enable others to stream but not copy music, and does not require any authorisation with your Apple ID, so is good for networks such as businesses and universities as well as shared houses. Should you wish, you also have the option to have tracks played over Home Sharing count towards play counts, or not.

Duplicate files found

The complete guide to iTunes 11

As your music collection grows duplicate files have a habit of popping up. In iTunes 10 there was a very handy Display Duplciates feature accessible from the File menu, which enabled you to prune redundant files from your library.

In iTunes 11 this has gone, but apparently this was an oversight, and Apple will re-introduce it in a future update, hopefully by the time you read this. Until then, what can you do? There are two scripts available online that will do the same tasks – Duplicates and Exact Duplicated. Get them from

Managing devices

iTunes is important for managing iOS devices. Find out why with our top tips

Wireless sync

The complete guide to iTunes 11

Any iOS device running iOS 5 is able to sync wirelessly with iTunes, removing the need to connect using a USB cable. With the device connected, go to its Summary tab and in the Options section, choose to sync the device over Wi-Fi.

Or if you are using the new iTunes 11 view you can also access it by clicking on its button at the top right corner of iTunes. It will now appear in iTunes whenever both Mac and device are on the same network.

You can drag and drop music, movies and books or sync automatically just as when a cable is connected. Of course you can uncheck wireless syncing if you prefer to do things manually.

View multiple devices

iTunes 11 provides a new way to manage multiple devices, as well as revamping the look of the old device list, which is still available. If you have more than one device connected, say an iPhone and an iPad, either via cables or wirelessly, the button at the top right corner under the Search field will say, in this case, "2 Devices".

When you click on the button you see a floating window that lists the devices and how much space is available on them. They can be accessed or ejected from this window.

Transfer purchases and backup

If you are about to upgrade or format an iOS device, you will be prompted to back it up and transfer purchases off it prior to doing so. This is a very good idea, as these processes will copy all your user data and settings as well as any downloaded items to your Mac.

If you plug in a formatted device or a brand new one, say after upgrading an iPhone, you will get the option to restore all the old settings back to the new device, making the upgrade or restore process fairly painless.
In iTunes 11 the manual backup option appears as a button in the device's Summary tab as well as in the contextual menu when you click on a device in the sidebar.

Add content to an iPad

The complete guide to iTunes 11

There's a new way to add content to your iPad in iTunes 11. Connect the iPad either using a cable or wirelessly then click on its name from the top right hand corner. Then choose the On This iPad tab and click the Add To button.

A pane is revealed on the right-hand side that shows you the space available on your device. You will then be able to drag content from your library into this pane to copy it to the iPad. If your music is in the cloud, you will need to download a local copy before it can be transferred.

In truth, if you're using iTunes Match you will probably have it activated on your iPad and so be able to access your music through it anyway.

Optimise media for syncing

When you sync music and movies to a device, you may want to shrink them to save space. Many smaller screens will scale down content anyway, so huge files are just using dead space. In the device's options in iTunes' Summary section, choose to convert higher bitrate songs to smaller AAC files.

Movies can be converted to device-specific formats either from inside iTunes using the Advanced menu's video conversion tools, or a third-party utility such as Handbrake.

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