Any iTunes Power Users Out There?

Last night I was explaining to Bruno and Ashlee that during high school I became a recluse to music. My stereo was stolen out of my car, and for several years after that I never replaced it. I quickly became accustomed to driving around town without music and that soon translated into driving long distances (four hour drives) sans music, as well. Since I didn’t have music going in my car, I then moved into having no music playing in my apartment(s). I was living life in silence – which I still sometimes do.

The past few years, really since I moved up to Kansas City, I’ve had a giant re-interest in music. I’m sure I’ve said it before, I’m not a music snob, nor do I know much about artists and their histories... I get most of my music by word of mouth from close friends (that’s the best way, isn’t it?). I’m also not a music freak. I don’t need music playing all the time for me to be sane. It was that reason that had made me succumb to the fact that I’d probably never own an iPod (if I didn’t have one by now, why would I ever get one?). Luckily, the agency I work for gifted us with iPods last holiday season... so I was off the hook, I finally had my iPod.

Ever since the creation of Napster and peer-to-peer sharing, I’ve been amassing a collection of music again. Then with the invent of iTunes, creating a library has been a semi-second hobby to me (along with many others).

But I recently realized that while I’m a user of iTunes, I don’t really use it to it’s fullest capacity. It made me wonder who actually DOES use iTunes in a power user sort of way? And what exactly would constitute an iTunes power user? Let’s delve some.

Side Bar: Library
Okay, so everybody probably uses this feature. If you own any music, it should be here. But the interesting question is, do you let iTunes keep your music folder organized (advanced preference)? I used to be very against this, but now I just let iTunes do what it wants to do. I’ve purchased music and tv shows from the iTunes Store, but not movies or games. I’ve downloaded podcasts to listen to, but not audiobooks and I’ve rarely used the radio function.

Side Bar: Store
I like the iTunes Store, but I’m not sure I use it to it’s fullest potential. Sure I purchase stuff there, but I don’t look at the Just For You section. I never visit the Music Videos section. I don’t care what songs are listed as the Top Songs. And I never go to the store to watch Movie Trailers. I recently made a purchase of an album that hasn’t been released yet (which will automatically download when it’s available). I also have over 190 items in my Purchased folder – for whatever reason, I’ve chose to not clear that out.

Side Bar: Devices
I’ll occasionally listen to CDs with iTunes, but even more sparsely, I’ll attach my iPod to make sure it’s all synced up. I couldn’t even tell you the last time it was brought up to speed. I bet there’s a new software update that I’m missing and several songs, too.

Side Bar: Shared
I use this extensively at work, otherwise I think I’d go crazy listening to my music all of the time. At home, I haven’t been able to use this once. Either no one shares their music at home (or turns on iTunes for that matter), or we’re all on separate networks that won’t allow that. I don’t know.

Side Bar: Playlists
This is an area that I know I rarely use. I think I’ve made a total of seven playlists, six for CDs that I made (which are still present in my playlist) and one for a road trip. I use Party Shuffle quite often, but all of the preset lists from Apple were trashed many moons ago. I’ve seen some people that have playlists for every artist. I thought about doing that once and spent several hours making the folders... but then I got bored and thought I could just use the search option to listen to a specific artist if I wanted to. Plus, for some reason, I didn’t want all those playlists on my iPod.

Preferences: General
Nothing too out of the ordinary here.

Preferences: Podcasts
I’m currently set up to keep all of my podcasts regardless of playback, which is stupid, I know. If I listen to a podcast, I should delete it because it’s online somewhere and I could get it again if I really wanted to.

Preferences: Playback
I don’t Crossfade Playback, I like hearing my songs begin and end. I do Sound Enhance, though I’m not really sure what that does. At work I Sound Check, but at home, for whatever reason, I don’t. I’m suspect if it really works. Smart Shuffle is set to "random."

Preferences: Sharing
I look for shared libraries, and I share my entire library (no password required, but good luck with those purchased songs – more on that later).

Preferences: Store
Buy using a shopping cart is the preference here, I’ve heard too many horror stories of those one-click shoppers and buying too much crap.

Preferences: Advanced
Like I mentioned earlier, I allow iTunes to keep my library sorted. I don’t use the Mini Player or do I ever use the Visualizer. I import my songs with the AAC encoder on High Quality (I don’t know what the best way is, suggestions?).

Preferences: Parental
Who cares?

Library Columns:
I wish I had a cinema display, because I’d really love to see all of the damn columns you can have displayed in iTunes... do we really need 29? No, I suppose not, that’s why you get to choose which ones you see (the ones I have displayed are starred *):

  1. Album *
  2. Album Artist
  3. Artist *
  4. Beats Per Minute
  5. Bit Rate
  6. Category
  7. Comment
  8. Composer
  9. Date Added
  10. Date Modified
  11. Description
  12. Disc Number
  13. Episode ID
  14. Equalizer
  15. Genre *
  16. Grouping
  17. Kind
  18. Last Played *
  19. Last Skipped
  20. My Rating
  21. Play Count *
  22. Sample Rate
  23. Season
  24. Show
  25. Size
  26. Skip Count
  27. Time *
  28. Track Number
  29. Year

Talking about columns brings me to another point. Who uses the rating system? I’m a guy and we LOVE rating things (see Netflix, YouTube, Digg, etc.), but I don’t use this feature at all. Who does and why?

Probably the one thing that I don’t do, but should, is that when I buy music from the iTunes Store, I don’t burn a CD and re-import the music. As of right now, I can only listen to my purchased music on my computer(s) and my iPod. If that doesn’t say that I’m NOT a power user, I don’t know what does.

Who’s a power user out there?

+ original post date: November 11, 2006 09:31 AM
+ categories: All About Seth, Computers, Music, Pop Culture, Web Stuff


(comments rss feed)

Seth, nice post. I like to consider myself a sort of iTunes power user. Having had an ipod since the 2nd gen monsters, I like to think I have iTunes under a bit of control. Playlists are definitely the stuff.. I use smart playlists like mad. Take a look at this screen shot and you can see how I use them. I like to keep my current favorites at the top of my list with a "-" before the name. Then comes my star rating playlists with ++ NOT RATED ++ including all the songs yet to be rated. Then my old standbys denoted by a xx before the name. Anyways, kinda long reply, but maybe it will give someone an idea for using iTunes powefully! Yeah.

+ author: Jason
+ posted: November 11, 2006 11:27 AM

I wouldn't consider myself a power user, but I like the dynamic playlists and rating system.

Any song I really like I give 5 stars, so iTunes sorts my playlists into "Top Country", "Top Rock", etc etc.

The auto playlists are a nice feature that are terribly underused when I compare to my friends and family, who routinely drag and drop hundreds of songs into different playlists.

All this, and I lost my iPod (nano,4gb,black). It's still super useful with iTunes/Airport Express/Home stereo though.

+ author: Brett Mitchell
+ posted: November 17, 2006 11:10 AM

I have thousands of classical tracks, and use dynamic playlists to keep my iPod full with a subset of my library. I keep the Library sidebar to a minimum with as few libraries listed as possible (music, movies, podcasts), and folders for playlists.

I let iTunes organize music in its folder, but I don’t have it copy music to its folder. On the Mac, if I want music to be in the iTunes folder, I add it to the iTunes library, then move it (in Finder) to the iTunes folder. Why? This way, iTunes takes care of duplicate folders. This also lets me keep giant folders of music separate for backup purposes and ease of use in editing and distribution programs. (I have these giant folders: iTunes, Pop for iTunes, Cuts, Speech, Audition Tapes, . . .) Otherwise, I have to drag-and-drop music I need to work on from iTunes to the Desktop to get them in the normal filesystem structure. This lets me use the files in non-iLife/iWork apps (such as Audacity or an FTP program, or, at the studio, Pro Tools, Logic, CSound, etc.).

There is no need to be a “power user” unless you are syncing with an iPod. With an iPod, you need dynamic playlists to make up for the lack or a good search on the iPod. Or, if you add a lot of tracks to the library, dynamic playlists help you place the tracks together so they are easily tagged.

I have a dynamic list system like this:
Important music (things I generally need for study) = most often played, and highest rated

Current music and recent music: tracks I have been listening to for the past day or so (so I can always)

Forgotten music: music that has not been played in weeks/months/whenever. This lets me find old gems I may not have rated.

Favorite Videos (separate because of the size of videos)

Podcasts: I create playlists grouping all news podcasts, all music podcasts, and other podcasts so I can go to playlists, and hear all the news for the day, or hear al of the music for the day. This is much better than driving around and clicking on each podcast as the last one finishes! This is much more refined than syncing your podcasts, too, because you can use the size and date limits to ensure the podcast playlists only take up x amount of space (whereas syncing podcasts only lets you limit the number of episodes for each podcast, or the freshness—a much rougher control).

If possible, turn your static playlists into dynamic playlists so you do little management, and can simply drop music into the library and trust that it’s going to be on the iPod at least for a few days—until you play it often, or rate it highly.

Sometimes I need to make 2 layers of playlists—list x limits what is in list a—to get around iTune’s restriction of allowing only AND or OR, but not AND/OR in playlist rule sets. I generally have a folder of rules playlists—things like “popular music,” “is video,” etc. Then, the real playlists can be a subset of all popular music (as in I like this popular), News Podcasts, etc. Why? The rules lists all have set “Match Any” and the real playlists have set “Match All” (and include Playlist is [a rules playlist]). In summary, I use 2 layers of playlists to let me apply Match All and Match Any to the same playlist.

I also have library management playlists:
most recently added tracks (and movies)
lossless (ALAC, WAV, AIFF)
The recently added tracks list lets me tag files or add album art to the newest files. The lossless category is good for me since I often make recordings (of myself in concert and rehearsal), and want to know when I accidentally send them to iTunes (so I can compress them for release or get them out of the library). And, sometimes I accidentally encode audio tracks as MPEG-4 Video; this list lets me know what I need to re-encode.

If you use dynamic playlists, you can have your favorite music on the iPod, can have fine-grainded control of podcast syncing, and can manage new additions with ease after setting up the rules. Star ratings help a lot, but the play count can substitute for ratings. (I love that you can easily rate tracks on the iPod.)

My favorite tools for playlists are: 2-layered playlists, limit playlist by size, and limit playlist to the x most recent tracks.

Static Playlists:
Grab and Go: tracks (and videos) I absolutely need that day. It doesn’t take extra space to have a track in multiple playlists, and this ensures a track is there.

Study Lists: I have lists for orchestral studies, music I’m writing about, music I’m playing this week, play-along CDs, etc.

Alarm Clocks: the iPod alarm can play off of the library or playlists, but not the On-the-Go playlist

I guess this is power use! The only real power tool in iTunes is the Smart Playlist (dynamic playllist). It’s much better than using Finder to select your music. For editing and multi-format compression, I recommend starting with and Max ( Max lets you deal with any format (and you xAct+Max lets you handle monlithic APE files.) If iTunes had a simple editor and a more flexible encoder, I’d call those tools power tools, too.

In short, iTunes is the Finder interface for AV, iMovie is the Finder interface for your DV and HD cams, iPhoto is the Finder interface for still pictures, and Finder is the Finder interface for any file you need third-party programs to edit. (Adobe Bridge is sort of the Finder interface for anything you make or use in the Adobe CS tools.)

+ author: dw
+ posted: June 7, 2007 01:54 PM

THAT was the most insanly detailed and sweetest comment ever. Now, if I only understood half of it.

+ author: Seth
+ posted: June 11, 2007 08:05 PM

post a comment



 Remember Me?

* (you may use HTML tags for style)

* Denotes required field