Ask the iTunes Guy

Kirk McEl­hearn an­swers your iTunes ques­tions

Macworld - - CONTENTS -

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.


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.


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. What’s up with that?

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).


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.


QI’ve got a lot of au­dio­books, and I’d like to find a way to tag the ones I’ve fin­ished as read. Is it pos­si­ble to do this?

AYou 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.


QWhen 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?

AIt 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 num­bers 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.


Q99 per­cent 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?

AUn­for­tu­nately, 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.

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