Ask the iTunes Guy
Kirk McElhearn answers your iTunes questions
Apple recently released iTunes 12.6, and it addresses some issues that readers have been writing me about for some time. In this week’s column, I answer a couple of those questions and explain some of the changes in iTunes 12.6. Apple has – finally – brought back the ability to open playlists in their own windows. And the MiniPlayer, that small floating window that lets you control iTunes, has been updated. Read on to find out what’s new.
I also look at a number of questions about audiobooks. While the focus is on that specific media kind, many of the questions and answers can also apply to other types of media that iTunes manages. So even if you don’t listen to audiobooks, you may find some useful tips in this column. Playlist windows
Qi remember that, some time ago, i could open playlists in iTunes in their own windows. Will Apple ever bring that feature back?
AI get this question often, and just this week, when Apple updated iTunes to version 12.6, I was surprised to discover that this ability had been restored. Back in 2015, on my website, I wrote a series of articles about how I would fix iTunes, and part 3 was about multiple windows. I asked for both playlist windows and for the ability – long available in iTunes – to open the iTunes Store in its own window.
You can open a playlist in iTunes 12.6 in a window in two ways. The first is to right-click on a playlist and choose Open Playlist in New Window. The second is to press the Command key and double-click on a playlist. This is useful when you are working on a playlist and want to add songs from your library. You can have two windows open, and drag songs from your library to the playlist more easily. Or you can have multiple playlist windows open, to add songs to various playlists, or move them among existing playlists.
There are some limitations to this, however. These playlist windows don’t show in iTunes’ Window menu, so there’s no easy way to switch to and from these windows
when they’re hidden behind the main iTunes window. But you can cycle through the windows by pressing Command-~, so if you only have a few open, you can switch among them easily. While Apple followed part of my suggestion about multiple windows, they did not, however, restore the ability to open the iTunes Store in its own window. For now, you can only view the Store in the main iTunes window.
the new MiniPlayer
Qi’m used to using the MiniPlayer to control my listening with iTunes. But I updated to the latest version of iTunes, and it’s very different. I no longer see an artwork thumbnail, and it’s much larger than before. Why is this?
AiTunes 12.6 features a totally revamped MiniPlayer. You activate this by choosing Window > MiniPlayer. Bottom right is what it looks like.
By default, the previous MiniPlayer displayed without artwork visible, but with a small thumbnail at the left of the window. Now, the first time you invoke the MiniPlayer, you see artwork.
You can change this by hovering your cursor over the MiniPlayer window, which displays controls in the place of the track name, artist name, and album above, then clicking the ‘...’ button and choosing Hide MiniPlayer Large Artwork. You can also drag the window up from the bottom until the artwork disappears.
Click the Up Next button at the right of the control section of the window to display your Up Next queue, and have access to your listening history, and to lyrics, if they are available. This isn’t new, but the
display is much cleaner. (Note: the Clear button that used to be at the top of the list is now at the bottom.)
Try resizing the window in different directions. If you resize it enough vertically, then move your cursor away, the controls disappear, and just artwork displays. Keep dragging up and the artwork disappears, and you get that simple controller. And you can drag to the right or left to expand the window (and then contract it going in the other direction). CheCk, Please
QI had to reinstall iTunes on my Windows 10 PC. When I open iTunes, all my audiobooks are checked. Is there an easy way to uncheck all of them at one time?
AThere is indeed, but first, let’s talk about the little checkbox you see in iTunes. When you view any of your media in a list view (such as Songs view for music; Audiobooks view for audiobooks, with View > View As > Audiobook List chosen; and so on), there are little checkboxes to the left of each item.
You can check or uncheck any item by clicking its little box. You can also right-click on an item and
choose Check Selection or Uncheck Selection. You can also check or uncheck all the items in a specific view: select them all (Edit > Select All, or Command-A; or Ctrl-A
on Windows), right click, then choose Check Selection or Uncheck Selection. Make sure you don’t accidentally select, for example, your entire music library and check or uncheck these items.
WHICH BOOKS HAVE I HEARD?
Q I’ve got a lot of audiobooks, and I’d like to find a way to tag the ones I’ve finished as read. Can I do this?
A You can use the checkboxes I mentioned above to indicate books you’ve read (or listened to). Just uncheck the boxes next to the books (or parts of books) that you’ve completed. The only drawback is that you can’t see which books (or other items) are checked or unchecked
in grid view. If you prefer that view, there’s no way to differentiate these books.
However, if view your audiobooks in Playlist view – you can add all your audiobooks to a playlist, for example – unchecked items are dimmed, as in the screenshot below.
Finally, you could create a smart playlist to sort your unlistened audiobooks from those you’ve completed. Choose File > New > Smart Playlist, and choose the following conditions:
Plays is 0 when you haven’t played something to the end; it increments each time you play it. So a smart playlist would let you see just unlistened audiobooks at a glance.
THE CORRECT ORDER
Q When I rip a new audiobook from Cds, I rip each Cd as a single file. I then add them to a playlist, add that playlist to a playlist folder, and sync that folder to my iPhone. But when I do this, it resorts the multiple discs in
reverse order, so that the book starts at the end instead of the beginning. how can I fix this?
A It sounds like you may have the playlist sorted correctly, but not the playlist folder; it has its own sort order. You need to sort it in album order, but first, you need to make sure that each of the files is numbered correctly. You can number the files by selecting one at a time and pressing Command-I, then entering a track number. These should start at 1 for the first disc, then increment until the last disc. When you’ve done that, click the playlist folder in the iTunes sidebar, then press Command-J, or choose View > Show View Options, and choose Sort By Album.
LISTENING TO AUDIOBOOKS
Q 99% of my audiobooks are from Audible.com. I have a playlist in iTunes containing all my books. however, that playlist doesn’t show up on my iPhone in the Music app. When one book finishes I have to go into iBooks to select the next book to listen to. Is there a way to create an audiobook playlist that works in the Music app?
A Unfortunately, no. I, too, listen to mostly Audible audiobooks. I use a playlist to sync the ones I want to my iPhone, but then I need to play them from iBooks. Audible has its own app, which is pretty good, but it doesn’t let you make playlists. If, however, you rip your own audiobooks, you could listen to them in the Music app. You’d simply need to change their Media Kind to Music, and then set a genre, such as Spoken Word, so you can find them easily. You can sync them to an iOS device, and play them from the Music app.
Here are a few of my audiobooks in Audiobook List view; you can see the checkboxes to the left of each item. All but two of them are checked
Check or uncheck a group of selected items using the contextual menu
Here’s the MiniPlayer in its smallest form, showing controllers, which display when you hover your cursor over the window
Here’s a playlist in its own window open in front of the main iTunes window