Tips for tweaking iTunes

Apple products earn well-deserved accolades for their clean, elegant designs, and the company's do-it-all jukebox application is no exception.

However, due to iTunes' uncluttered interface, many of the program's features are buried deep within menu items or aren't even documented. We've compiled a list of iTunes tips and tricks to help you maximise your musical enjoyment, no matter your experience level.

Change audio formats | Share your collection | Listen to Internet radio | Add album art | Pull the plug on the cross-fader | Keep your library spic-and-span | Time-saving EQ advice | Print CD covers | The secret world of hot keys

View full screenshot... Change audio formats
iTunes works seamlessly with Apple's überhip line of iPod MP3 players, but not everyone has jumped on the white-earbud bandwagon just yet. Owners of other popular MP3 players might be surprised to find the CDs they just ripped in iTunes won't play in their devices, since the program encodes tracks in the AAC format by default. However, you can change the output codec by clicking Edit > Preferences, then browsing to the Importing tab. Once there, you can choose among MP3, WAV, AIFF, and Apple Lossless formats, and set the bit rate to a higher or lower quality. If you've already accidentally ripped quite a few files into AAC, you can simply right-click any number of tunes in your library to convert them to MP3.

Share your collection
If you've built a LAN in your home or you're on a large corporate network, you can share music with other iTunes users. Go to Edit > Preferences, then click over to the Sharing tab. Once there, you can choose to share your entire selection of songs or only certain playlists by checking the appropriate boxes. You'll also find a field for entering your iTunes screen name, which other folks on your network will see each time they launch the jukebox. Sharing in iTunes only supports listening -- there's no transferring -- keeping it in the RIAA's good graces. Listen to Internet radio
Although this tip will likely be old hat to many users, iTunes' selection of streaming Net radio stations can be easy to overlook, particularly if you're on a corporate network with many shared music libraries. Nevertheless, you can access a plethora of stations from talk to jazz by clicking the Radio icon, which is located in the program's left pane, wedged between the Party Shuffle and Music Store options. View full screenshot... Add album art
Like the built-in radio stations, the album-art option has likely been discovered by anyone who has spent time digging through iTunes' interface. However, if you're firing up the jukebox for the first time, you might not know that the cryptic little icon fourth from the left (at the bottom of the screen) calls up the pane for displaying album art. iTunes lets you conveniently drag and drop images directly to the viewing window; you also can add art by right-clicking a song, going to Get Info, clicking the Artwork tab, and browsing your computer.

Pull the plug on the cross-fader
iTunes' cross-fading feature is enabled by default, which is fine for those who like to hear one song blend right into another. However, other folks might be annoyed that this feature can obscure the first few seconds of the next track. If you fall into the latter camp, head to Edit > Preferences > Audio. There, you can adjust the cross-fade time or disable it entirely by checking a box. This tab also lets you normalise your entire music library and apply iTunes' Sound Enhancer effect. Keep your library spic-and-span
The latest iteration of iTunes helps keep your music collection clean and your hard drive free of needless files by quickly locating duplicate songs in your library. To use this feature, simply go to Edit > Show Duplicate Songs. However, when deleting any file, you should use caution, since iTunes determines duplicates by artist and track name but ignores other fields such as album. Therefore, you could accidentally remove a song you actually want to keep, such as the live version of a tune that has the same name as the studio version. View full screenshot... Time-saving EQ advice
Listeners with eclectic tastes may find themselves constantly accessing the dedicated EQ icon to tweak settings for different styles of music. However, there's a much easier way casual iTunes users probably aren't aware of. First, go to Edit > View Options, which pulls up a list of fields the program can display in its library window. Check the Equalizer box to show that particular column. Once it pops up, you simply use the pull-down menu in your library to select the preset or user-customised EQ setting you'd like to apply to a particular tune.

View full screenshot... Print CD covers
Although iTunes won't let you design breathtaking, graphically intense CD covers, it does include a well-concealed feature that handles the basics. The program can generate no-frills cases from both playlists and CDs, which comes in handy if you're creating a custom mix for a friend. First, highlight either the disc in your PC's drive or the playlist in question. Then go to File > Print, which pops up a window that lets you choose from a few display styles and themes. Although this feature is a useful companion to the program's built-in CD-burning tool, it doesn't allow enough user customisation to take the place of a dedicated cover-creation app. The secret world of hot keys
If you've ever spent any time inside iTunes' menu items, you may have noticed the jukebox lists a number of hot keys for performing certain basic operations. For example, you can pause a track by hitting the spacebar or flip to the next song in your library by pressing Ctrl + left arrow key. What many users don't know -- and what Apple doesn't tell you in the documentation -- is that the program also lets you exercise a great deal of control over visualisations via quick keystrokes or combinations. Not only can you tweak the shape, effect style, and colour of the visualisations, but you also can save up to ten user-defined configurations for quick access to truly mesmerising combinations you've discovered. The chart below lists all known hot keys for when iTunes is in Visualization mode: View full screenshot... N: Switch between normal or high-contrast colours.
R: Generate a new visualisation pattern at random.
C: See visualisation information.
M: Toggle among Random, User, and Freeze modes.
Q/W: Move through the list of visualisation shapes.
A/S: Move through the list of visualisation effects.
Z/X: Move through the list of visualisation colours.
D: Reset to the default visualisation.
F: Change the frame-rate display.
T: Change the frame-rate capping.
H: Go to Help.
I: Display/hide track information.
Shift + 0-9: Save the current visualisation configuration as present.
0-9: Access user-defined presets.
Left/right arrows:Move forward or backward through the library.
Up/down arrows: Adjust the volume.
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trip121 posted a comment   

Wow thanks so much!!!! yes now i can make songs blend in together, i've always wanted to do that!


Tcapristano posted a comment   

Sorry but there's no tweaking here, just a plain users manual.

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