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Key iTunes Features

Intuitive though it may be, iTunes packs a lot of features and power—enough that I could write an entire book about just this application. We have bigger fish to fry: getting the most out of your iPod. But part of frying those fish is learning about the key iTunes features that can make using and listening to your iPod more enjoyable. In this section, I examine those features.

iTunes preferences

Choose iTunes > Preferences on a Mac or Edit > Preferences on a Windows PC, and you open iTunes’ Preferences window. Some of the tabs within this window hold settings you should know about.

General

I’ve already mentioned that within the General tab, you specify what happens when you insert a CD. Elsewhere in this tab you’ll see options for showing or hiding certain items in iTunes’ Source list, including Movies, TV Shows, Podcasts, Audiobooks, Genius, Applications, Radio, Party Shuffle, and Ringtones. If you find iTunes’ interface too cluttered, disabling the items you don’t use will clean things up.

Playback

Here, you can determine where in the iTunes interface movies, TV shows, and music videos are displayed (in a separate window, for example) and the default language and subtitle language for movies. But the most interesting settings here are Crossfade Songs, Sound Enhancer, and Sound Check.

Crossfade Songs. This setting causes the end of each song to fade out and the beginning of the next track to fade in. For some people, this feature makes for a less jarring listening experience. You can set the length of the crossfade—from 1 to 12 seconds—with a slider. These settings don’t transfer to the iPod.

Sound Enhancer. This feature is a kind of audio filter that can expand and brighten the sound coming from iTunes tracks. It’s worth playing with to see whether its results please you. These settings don’t transfer to the iPod either.

Sound Check. In Chapter 2, I talk about the Sound Check feature on the iPod and how you have to enable it. This tab is where you do that. The feature’s job is to try to make volumes across all the songs in your library similar.

Sharing

iTunes allows you to easily share your music library or just specific playlists in it with other copies of iTunes running on a local network (and allows those iTunes libraries to be shared with you). You can share your library by enabling the Share My Library on My Local Network option. To seek out other iTunes shared libraries, enable the Look for Shared Libraries option.

Parental

Not all music and video is appropriate for all ages. Using the Parental tab, you can disable podcasts, radio, the iTunes Store, and shared libraries, as well as restrict content from the iTunes Store.

Advanced

The Advanced tab is where you tell iTunes the location of your media files and how to organize them. In Chapter 9, I put this tab to good use to shift an iTunes Library from a cramped startup drive to a more expansive external drive.

Info window

I talk about tagging a fair amount in this chapter. By tagging, I don’t mean playing the kids’ game, but practicing the subtle art of marking files with identifying bits of information (such as title, artist, album, and genre) so that you can locate and organize them more easily. You do all this in an item’s Info window.

To produce an Info window, just select any hunk of media in your iTunes Library—such as a song, video, or podcast—and choose File > Get Info. The resulting window contains several tabs. For purposes of this chapter, the important ones include the following.

Info

This tab is where all the tagging business takes place. Here, you find fields for such information as name, artist, album, composer, comments, year, and track number, as well as a Genre menu (Figure 4.7). iTunes is pretty good about filling in this information for you, but at times you may need to tag your own music—when a ripped CD isn’t recognized, for example, or when you’ve ripped someone else’s mix CD and iTunes can’t identify its tracks.

Figure 4.7

Figure 4.7 The Info tab.

Video

When you import TV episodes from sources other than the iTunes Store, that video may lack the proper tags—show name, season. and episode number, for example. The Video tab contains fields for exactly that information.

Options

Within the Options tab you can adjust a track’s volume so that it’s louder or softer, choose an equalizer (EQ) preset (see the nearby sidebar “EQ and the iPod”), and select an item’s media type. For videos, the media type will be movie, TV show, or music video; for audio files, it will be music or audiobook.

You can also impose start and stop times on a track. This feature is useful when you can’t stand the first minute of a song or podcast and want to skip over it automatically whenever you play it. Do that by enabling the Start Time option and then entering 1:00 in the text box.

Finally, cock a keen eye at the Rating field. Here, you can rate your tracks from one to five stars. (You can also rate tracks by clicking the Rating column next to a track’s name, as well as selecting a track and choosing a rating from the Rating submenu of the File menu.) Rating your media now is helpful for creating Smart Playlists later, basing those playlists on songs and videos you enjoy.

Lyrics

You recall that your iPod can display lyrics, right? This tab is where you enter them.

Artwork

iTunes is more than happy to seek out album artwork for you, but it locates artwork only for albums that are available from the iTunes Store. If you import an album that can’t be had from the Store, a generic icon appears in Grid and Cover Flow views. You can add your own artwork simply by dragging a graphic file into the artwork field in the Artwork tab.

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