Ask the iTunes Guy
Kirk McElhearn answers your iTunes questions
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 (tinyurl.com/zakj695); 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 at tinyurl.com/hchjzoc. 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