Ask the iTunes Guy

Kirk McEl­hearn an­swers your iTunes ques­tions

iPad&iPhone user - - CONTENTS -

When your me­dia li­brary grows, you need bet­ter ways to view your con­tent in iTunes. In this month’s col­umn, we an­swer a cou­ple of ques­tions about view­ing me­dia. The first dis­cusses a bet­ter way to view mu­sic by

genre. The sec­ond ex­plains why some TV shows aren’t sep­a­rated by sea­son and how to fix this is­sue. With a lit­tle bit of work, you can view each of your me­dia kinds more ef­fi­ciently.

We also look at a ques­tion about how to quickly find Ap­ple Mu­sic tracks in the iTunes Store. Plus, we look at The Case of the Noisy Track from a ripped CD; an­swer a ques­tion about funny file names; and look at how iTunes sorts the names of artists and al­bums that be­gin with the word ‘The’. A bet­ter way to view mu­sic by genre

Q: I have a large mu­sic col­lec­tion that in­cludes many gen­res. I’d like to be able to see all my artists and al­bums in a par­tic­u­lar genre. For ex­am­ple: I’d like to lis­ten to some jazz but I’m not sure which al­bum, so I’d like to be able see at a glance which artists I have to choose from. The cur­rent choice seems to be an al­bum cover shot along with a list of songs on the al­bum. This lim­its the in­for­ma­tion in the screen to about one al­bum at a time. Is there any bet­ter way to view al­bums by genre?

A: iTunes of­fers sev­eral ways to view your mu­sic. You can view it by Artists, Al­bums, Songs, Gen­res, or Com­posers. All of those views, with the ex­cep­tion of Songs, dis­play a col­umn with a list of names. You can then click one of them – say a genre – to see its con­tents, but you need to scroll a lot to do so.

As you rightly say, this isn’t the best way to view mu­sic by genre, where you want to see as much as pos­si­ble.

There is a bet­ter way. We gen­er­ally view our li­brary by Songs (click Songs in the side­bar), with the Col­umn Browser vis­i­ble (choose View > Col­umn Browser > Show Col­umn Browser, or press Com­mand-B).

As you can see above, we’ve se­lected Jazz in the Gen­res col­umn, and have scrolled the Artists col­umn to choose Bill Evans. If we want to lis­ten to a Bill Evans al­bum, but we’re not sure which, we scroll the Al­bums list to make my choice. We could choose an­other artist in the Artists list, or we could browse all the al­bums by all my jazz artists by scrolling the Al­bums list. Songs view is a bit spar­tan, but it is great for drilling down in your mu­sic col­lec­tion.

There is an­other op­tion. Cre­ate a smart playlist with the con­di­tion Genre is Jazz and browse that to make your choice. You can choose any view you

View­ing my Jazz col­lec­tion in iTunes us­ing the Col­umn Browser

want for that playlist: you could choose Al­bums view and just see al­bum art­work if you’re the vis­ual type who chooses mu­sic based on cov­ers, or you can choose Artists or Songs view to see the mu­sic dif­fer­ently. You might not want to make smart playlists for all your gen­res, but there are prob­a­bly some where you want to be able to browse more ef­fi­ciently.

What’s the sea­son?

Q: I have sev­eral sea­sons of TV shows that iTunes has cat­e­go­rized as ‘un­known’ in my TV Shows li­brary. How do I fix them so the sea­sons dis­play cor­rectly?

A: When you want to watch one of your favourite TV se­ries, it’s good to have the episodes sorted by sea­son, so you can eas­ily see where you are in that se­ries’ time­line. iTunes does this, if the files are tagged cor­rectly, but we’ve found that for multi-sea­son TV se­ries that are sold in a ‘com­plete’ bun­dle, and for some other TV se­ries, the iTunes Store doesn’t tag them for sea­sons.

For ex­am­ple, if you buy The West Wing from the iTunes Store (it’s the only way to get that se­ries in HD) you’ll get one big list of 155 episodes plus an ex­tra doc­u­men­tary episode. If you buy The Wire, you get 60 episodes, plus three shorts.

When we pur­chased these se­ries, we had to man­u­ally ap­ply sea­sons to them be­cause the iTunes Store (in­cor­rectly) views them as a long stream of episodes, rather than a num­ber of sea­sons of episodes. This is easy to do, but it takes some time.

Start by find­ing which episodes be­long to which sea­son; Wikipedia is a good place to get this in­for­ma­tion. For The West Wing, most sea­sons had 22 episodes, but sea­son 5 had 23 episodes. Se­lect the first set of episodes – those for the first sea­son – then press Com­mand-I. In the Info

win­dow, en­ter 1 in the Sea­son field, and click OK. Do this for the other sea­sons.

If you want to renum­ber the episodes, so the num­bers they dis­play cor­re­spond to the sea­son and not to the over­all episode count of the en­tire se­ries, use Doug Adams’ In­cre­ment Num­ber Tags Ap­pleScript (; it can au­to­mat­i­cally ap­ply episode num­bers to a se­ries of files. After you do this, iTunes will dis­play both the sea­son num­bers and the episode num­bers cor­rectly. Buy­ing mu­sic from Ap­ple Mu­sic

Q: I en­joy lis­ten­ing to mu­sic through Ap­ple Mu­sic, and reg­u­larly come across some­thing worth keep­ing. I know I can just add Ap­ple Mu­sic tracks or al­bums to my iTunes li­brary and even down­load them, but I’m old-fash­ioned; if I’m go­ing to have some­thing in my li­brary and lis­ten to it reg­u­larly, I like to own it. There doesn’t seem to be a ‘Buy This’ or even a ‘View this in the iTunes Store’ op­tion for Ap­ple Mu­sic tracks and al­bums. I end up hav­ing to man­u­ally search the iTunes store for the same mu­sic that I al­ready had open in iTunes (Mac) or Mu­sic (iOS). Am I miss­ing some­thing ob­vi­ous, or is Ap­ple this un­in­ter­ested in selling me the mu­sic it thought I’d like to lis­ten to?

A: It’s there, but per­haps not where you’d ex­pect. If you right-click on a track in iTunes, you’ll see a con­tex­tual menu. Choose Go To > Song in iTunes Store. How­ever, there’s no way to do this on iOS. The only sug­ges­tion I have is that you cre­ate a

playlist for mu­sic you want to buy, then add the songs to them on your iOS de­vice. You can then go back to that playlist in iTunes on your Mac and check out the songs on the iTunes Store. Noisy CD

Q: I bought a used CD and ripped it to add to my iTunes li­brary. The last track has pops and skips. I bought an­other copy of the CD – it’s fairly old and out of print – and the same thing hap­pens. Is there any­thing I can do to fix this?

A: This is not un­com­mon with old, worn CDs. The last track of a CD is the one at the out­side of the disc, and that area is more likely to be worn

or dam­aged. When you try to rip a CD like that, you’ll get what’s called dig­i­noise, those pops and clicks that come from ar­eas where data isn’t read cor­rectly. Dif­fer­ent drives will re­act dif­fer­ently, and you may find that one drive can im­port the file with­out noise. Also, when you play it on a CD player, you may not hear that dig­i­noise, be­cause of the CD player’s er­ror correction. In fact, if you play the CD on a com­puter, through an op­ti­cal drive, the same er­ror correction is of­ten used, so you may not hear any noise ei­ther.

One thing you can try when im­port­ing is to turn on the Use Er­ror Correction set­ting in the Im­port Set­tings of iTunes’ Gen­eral pref­er­ences.

We use this all the time, to en­sure that there is as lit­tle dig­i­noise as pos­si­ble.

This said, you men­tion that an­other CD has the same prob­lem. This sug­gests that the ac­tual master used for press­ing the CDs may have been dam­aged. There are cases where that hap­pens; we’ve had CDs that have needed re­plac­ing from the man­u­fac­turer be­cause of press­ing is­sues. If it’s a used CD, how­ever, you won’t have many op­tions. Funny file names

Q: I have no­ticed that some punc­tu­a­tion marks in a song’s ti­tle ap­pear as un­der­scores in my song li­brary. And, the semi-colon is not al­lowed. Why is this?

A: macOS re­serves the colon and slash for file path sep­a­ra­tors, so it, and some other char­ac­ters, get con­verted in the Finder. iTunes knows how to dis­play these cor­rectly in song and al­bum names. The semi-colon is not al­lowed (in the Finder; you can use it in iTunes) be­cause it’s used for cer­tain shell scripts. If those char­ac­ters were in file names, they could break scripts and cer­tain sys­tem func­tions.

Ap­ple has a list of char­ac­ters that macOS doesn’t like at­zoc. You can use all these char­ac­ters in iTunes, they just won’t show up the same in the Finder. The ‘The’ Thing

Q: The word ‘The’ is ig­nored in a song’s ti­tle when sort­ing by Name but is used by iTunes to di­rect

the Artist’s name to be stored with ‘The’ in its folder in the Finder. Can you ex­plain this?

A: That’s the way iTunes sorts; it ig­nores the The un­less you ex­pressly tell it to sort that way. It as­sumes that you want to see, say, The Bea­tles at B in your artist list, not at T.

You can se­lect an al­bum, or even all the mu­sic by an artist, press Com­mand-I, then in the Sort­ing tab, type the name with the The.

In the file sys­tem, how­ever, noth­ing is ever ig­nored when sort­ing.

As you can see here, we’ve re­tagged our West Wing episodes. This is a mul­ti­ple item se­lec­tion of all of sea­son 1’s episodes, and we’ve en­tered 1 in the Sea­son field

Go to the iTunes Store to buy a song you’ve heard in Ap­ple Mu­sic

Go to iTunes > Pref­er­ences > Gen­eral, then click Im­port Set­tings. You can turn on er­ror correction when rip­ping CDs in this win­dow

If I want this al­bum to sort at the let­ter T, I can en­ter the al­bum name in the Al­bum field on the Sort­ing tab of the Info win­dow

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