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Apple's Free iTunes Rocks

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Apple’s Free iTunes Rocks

by Bob LeVitus, author of The Little iTunes Book

One of the things Steve Jobs announced at Macworld Expo in January was iTunes, the new MP3 player/audio CD burner that is now bundled with all Macs. You don’t have to buy a new Mac to share the fun; you can download a copy (for free) from the Apple Web site (

iTunes works with all systems from Apple released in August 1998 or later. It also requires Mac OS 9.0.4 or later, though Mac OS 9.1 is highly recommended. If you like music, and your Mac supports it, download your free copy of iTunes right this moment. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Got it? Good. Now let me tell you why it rocks:

I spend a lot of time sitting in front of my Mac. I like to listen to music while I work. I don’t like to spend a lot of time searching through CDs on my shelves and changing discs. I don’t usually like every single cut on a CD. So I do want to make “greatest hits” CDs I can listen to in my car.

iTunes resolves all these issues for me, and does it in a way that’s elegant and appealing. I find myself enjoying this program almost all day, almost every day. Here’s why:

First and foremost, iTunes allows me to create playlists of songs. I have “ripped ” (i.e. converted songs from audio CD to MP3 file) more than 1,500 songs so far. iTunes has a great browser feature that allows me to scan for songs by genre, artist, or album. Or, there’s a spiffy and fast search mechanism that finds all my Led Zeppelin songs before I can finish typing “l-e-d.”

Then, it’s a simple matter of drag and drop to create new playlists I can save and reuse. So next time I’m in that Zeppelin mood, I just open my “LedZep” playlist and listen to the Zep tunes in sequence or at random. With just a couple of clicks I can switch to my “loud Neil Young” playlist, or my “British Invasion” playlist. I love it--I can be my own disk jockey and it’s fast and simple.

(My 1,500 MP3 files require a little more than 8 gigabytes of disk space, but I have plenty of storage, so it’s not a big deal).

With iTunes, you can create your own greatest hits CD easily. This feature requires one of Apple’s newest G4 machines with built-in CD-RW or SuperDrive. Apple has also released drivers that allow iTunes to work with more than 25 third-party external CD-RW drives.

By the way, if iTunes sounds a lot like SoundJam, it is. SoundJam has some additional features--a graphic equalizer, custom “themes” (a.k.a. “skins”), more visual effects, and better sound quality. But it also costs $50 and doesn’t have iTunes cool browser or fast search features. Frankly, I think iTunes is all the MP3 player most people will ever want or need. (For what it’s worth, the same programmers wrote both iTunes and SoundJam.)

I think you’d be better off spending that $50 on a Keyspan Digital Media Remote device, which lets you control iTunes (or QuickTime Player, SoundJam, PowerPoint, or any program, really) via wireless remote control from across the room. It’s one of the coolest USB devices I own; it makes iTunes even better.

@ 2001 Bob LeVitus Bob LeVitus is a leading authority on the Mac OS and the author of 37 books,including The Little iTunes Book. E-mail comments to

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