iTunes 9 full review - Page 3

Syncing and media: under new management

It isn’t just iPhone apps that get improved management tools. iTunes 9 also improves the options for choosing which media are synced to your iPhones and iPods. For example, the Music tab now lets you choose to sync any combination of playlists (Genius mixes and playlists included), artists, and genres.

So, for example, you can easily copy just your favorite three playlists, along with everything by your favorite band, and all tracks classified as Alternative; there’s even a search field for the Artists list to make it easier to find particular artists.

Similarly, for movies and TV shows, you can choose to sync recently added (watched or unwatched) items along with specific favorites, as well as movies and shows from selected playlists. And for photos, you can now choose any combination of specific albums, events, and faces (the latter being people identified using iPhoto’s Faces feature). Once you’ve made all your sync choices, the Music tab provides an option to automatically fill any remaining free space with music.

Unfortunately, the Apple TV doesn’t get quite as many new syncing options. You do get the new photo-sync options, along with new choices to sync playlists containing movies and TV shows, but the options for syncing music and podcasts remain unchanged.

iTunes 9 also includes two new options for managing your media on your Mac. The first is an option, for users of older versions of iTunes, to reorganize your iTunes media in the Finder. Choose File -> Library -> Organize Library, and then check the Upgrade To iTunes Media Organization option, and iTunes will rearrange your iTunes Music folder into a new iTunes folder with subfolders for Movies, Music, Podcasts, and so on. (This is now the default organization scheme for people starting off with iTunes 9 or creating a new library under iTunes 9.)

Although the feature mostly works as claimed, one of my colleagues found that it did leave a few artist-specific folders at the root of the new folder.

The main benefit of this new organization is that it makes it easier to find, using the Finder, particular types of media; the iTunes-8-and-earlier approach had folders for non-music media, but they were buried among separate folders for each music artist.

However, if you’re considering using this feature, there’s one potential caveat: many backup utilities—including OS X’s own Time Machine—will consider the moved files to be new files and back them up again, a lengthy and space-consuming process for those with large media libraries.

The other new media-management feature—and it’s a feature that’s been requested for years—is a folder, created inside your iTunes Music (or iTunes Media) folder, called Automatically Add To iTunes. iTunes 9 periodically checks this folder for new content and adds that content to your iTunes library. If iTunes finds content it can’t handle—for example, a good amount of video downloaded from the Internet—it places those files in a Not Added subfolder; inside that folder, each incompatible file is place in its own subfolder named with the date and time iTunes rejected the file.

This Add To iTunes folder would appear to be the ideal location for saving media files you download from the Internet—say, as the destination for Amazon Downloader, or for podcasts download via an RSS reader—but Apple recommends not placing incomplete files in the folder, which limits the feature’s usefulness somewhat.

Finally, if you’re a fan of Smart Playlists, iTunes 9 finally brings nested conditionals. Yes, this means you can create playlists that match any or all of several groups of criteria.

NEXT: Sharing and share alike

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