How I use iTunes
When I think about it iTunes is my most used application. I even use it more than a web browser. It is always open playing either music or podcasts. So since I use it so much I thought it would be a good idea to go through the different ways I use it.
iTunes is what I use to manage all my music. Whenever I have new music I drag it into iTunes and let it copy to it’s music folder and organise itself. I’ve a habit of then making sure all the information is 100% correct. Things like having the tracks all numbered in order, making sure the album art is there and the genre is correct. I have a set amount of different genre I use – Alternate Rock, Classical, Electronic, Game, Hip Hop, Indie Rock, J-Rock, Japanese, Punk Rock, Rap, and Rock. And if the album art isn’t there I do a web search for the Amazon page and use the album art there.
The Genius feature introduced in iTunes 8 and Genius Mixes introduced in 9 are ways of creating playlists just by choosing a starting song. It is made by analysing all you songs and sending this information to Apple. Apple use this information plus the ratings and their recommendation system to create a list of similar songs. It works quite well, for example I have a genius playlist based on Float On from Modest Mouse and it matches it with artists such as Death Cab for Cutie, The Shins, and Arcade Fire. It seems like that it matches artists that you would like based on the song rather than similar music. I don’t use it often since I prefer to just pick an album to listen to rather than songs from different artists.
I have a few smart playlists and normal playlists. Smart playlists allow you to specify a range of parameters which then automatically creates a dynamic playlist that updates as new music is added. For example I have a playlist of all music encoded at 320kbps, I used this in a past to pinpoint all the songs I needed to re-encode to a lower bit rate to make some more room on my iPod. Again I don’t use this feature that much but I am thinking of creating a few playlists for different situations i.e. One suitable for studying to.
I don’t use iTunes as the main way to manage my videos since they would need to be encoded to an iTunes compatible format. However I do use it if I want to have something to watch on my iPod Touch. Right now I have some Battle Star Galactica episodes and a couple of movies. I use the program Video Monkey for the Mac to do the encoding.
I’ve been using the Podcast function of iTunes ever since it was introduced, before this I used a standalone application that probably isn’t around anymore. It does a good job of letting you choose how you want to manage your podcast subscriptions. I have it update manually which allows me to choose which episodes to download and delete in my own time. I delete an episode once I finish listening to it for hard disk space reasons. You can let it do all this automatically if you don’t have the time to organise it yourself. My favourite view is the album art grid view over the crowded list or cover-flow view. iTunes does a good job of managing partly listened podcast and syncing this with your iPod. I particularly like the addition of a half filled circle to indicate a partly listen podcast.
Having audio files in the Audiobook section does a few changes to how they are played. They are skipped for consideration for the shuffle feature and remember the last play position like podcasts. I have Isaac Asimov’s The God Themselves and Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore waiting to be listened. I like to have the album art as the book cover which I also get from Amazon.
There is not much to this section, its just all your applications you have downloaded from the iTunes store for your iPhone or iPod Touch. More management options here would be useful.
iTunes U, Radio, Ringtones
I don’t use these sections at all but I might use iTunes U in the future if I’m out of audiobooks or podcasts to listen to.
In the past I kept a smart playlist of the music added since my last backup onto DVD. I don’t do this anymore as I’ve switch to a full system backup using Carbon Copy Cloner.