iTunes' "hidden" features

Apple’s iTunes is, in the minds of many, the best media-management app out there. Sure, it has its limitations, but I haven’t seen anything else that makes it as easy to acquire and manage your media files, not to mention sync those files with a portable player—in this case, the iPod. (Check out our recent article on getting the most out of iTunes 7.)

That said, ask heavy users of iTunes for their biggest complaints, and you’ll soon compile a lengthy list of “I wishes"—as with any tool, the more you use it, the more things you find that it can’t do.

Many users are surprised to learn that you can address many of iTunes’ power-user shortcomings, especially those relating to media and metadata management, via AppleScript. But you don't need to know the ways of AppleScript to take advantage of this functionality; that’s where Doug’s AppleScripts for iTunes comes in. A labor of love put together by Doug Adams (no, not that Doug Adams), this massive resource serves as a comprehensive repository for iTunes-focused AppleScripts—currently 416 of them. You read that right: there are currently 416 AppleScripts for iTunes on Doug’s site; some written by Doug himself, others submitted by readers. It’s the Mac OS X Hints , if you will, of iTunes AppleScripts.

What kinds of scripts can you find on Doug’s site? Here are some of my favorites; most work by selecting the desired tracks in iTunes and then choosing the script from iTunes’ script menu. (All scripts include installation instructions, but you just drag a script into /Library/iTunes/Scripts or /Users/ your user name /Library/iTunes/Scripts to make it available to iTunes; you can even assign keyboard shortcuts to these scripts. )

  • Set Video Kind of Selected v2.0 : If you’ve got a bunch of videos that are mis-categorized (Movie, Music Video, or TV Show), you’ve likely figured out that you can’t batch-change this category; you need to open the info window, go to the Video tab, and then change the Video Kind—for each video, individually. Set Video Kind of Selected lets you make this change en masse; in addition, you can also batch-set the Show Name and Season Number fields, as well as auto-fill the tracks’ Episode Number (you just enter the starting number and the script will increase it by one for each subsequent track).
  • Quick Convert : If you’ve ever had the need to rip a particular CD or convert a particular track to a format other than your preferred—for example, if you generally rip to 160kbps AAC, but you want to rip a single CD to Apple Lossless—Quick Convert lets you do just that, without forcing you to delve into iTunes’ Advanced Preferences tab to adjust your settings (in fact, your original settings remain unaffected). It can even create a new playlist with the newly-converted tracks and, if desired, remove the originals. Unfortunately, you can’t choose a particular bit rate or other encoder-specific settings.
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  • Player Position to Start or Stop : iTunes lets you—via a track’s Info window—set a track’s beginning or end to a time other than the actual beginning or end of the song; for example, if a song has a long, boring intro that lasts 1:34, you can have iTunes always start playing that track at the 1:34 mark. This script makes the process of assigning start and stop times easier; just press pause at the desired point and then run the script.
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  • Make Bookmarkable and Make UN-Bookmarkable : The former script will change the selected AAC tracks’ file type to M4B and file extension to .m4b , which makes the tracks bookmarkable in iTunes—you’ll be able to resume playback wherever you left off. The latter script reverses this action.
  • New Play Count : Lets you manually assign a play count to selected track(s).
  • Artist to Album Artist : Useful for iTunes 7’s new “Album by Artist” sorting, this script copies the Artist tag to the Album Artist field of selected tracks.
  • Append to Selected Tag : Lets you append text of your choice to the beginning or end of existing Song Name, Artist, Album, Composer, or Comments fields.
  • Remove n Characters From Front or Back : Lets you remove a specific number of characters from the beginning or end of the Song Name, Album, Artist, or Composer fields. I’ve found this script to be especially useful in two situations: (1) when track names have track numbers at the beginning (e.g., 03 Track Name ); and (2) when album names have “(Disc #)” at the end—in these examples, you just tell the script to delete three characters from the beginning of the track name or eight characters from the end of album names, respectively.
  • Tracks Without Artwork to Playlist : When used on a playlist, a group of tracks, or your iTunes library as a whole, creates a new playlist that includes those tracks that don’t currently have album art. You can then use this playlist to manually add artwork without having to scroll through your entire library looking for blank covers. (Note that this script doesn’t work as well under iTunes 7 as it did under iTunes 6; it appears to look for tracks without embedded album art, whereas iTunes 7 stores album art retrieved via iTunes’ automated art-finding feature separately from the actual audio file.)
  • No Lyrics to Playlist : Works just like the previous script, but finds all tracks without lyrics and places them in a new playlist. A second script is included that will automatically remove tracks from the playlist once you’ve added lyrics to them.
  • Search/Replace Tag Text : As its name implies, lets you perform search-and-replace actions on particular tags. (This is an improved version of Apple’s own Replace Text in Track Names script.)
  • Copy Track Info to CD Tracks : If you originally ripped your CDs to MP3 or low-bit-rate files and you later decide to re-rip in AAC or higher-res formats, iTunes lets you replace older tracks with newer versions. However, this feature works only if you haven’t changed the older tracks’ tags—they must match the tags on the CD. If, like me, you’ve cleaned up the tags on many of your older music files, this script lets you copy the tags from your “cleaned up” music files and apply them to the CD’s tags, thus letting you replace your existing files.
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  • This Tag, That Tag Scripts : A set of four scripts that lets you clean up tags on poorly labeled tracks; for example, you can swap the artist and track name fields, or append the contents of one tag to the beginning or end of another.
  • Track Names to Word Caps and Track Names to Sentence Caps : These scripts change the case of track names: the first caps the first letter of each word, the second caps only the first letter of the first word. Useful for cleaning up those all-caps tags iTunes obtains via online disc-info databases.
  • Sundry Info To Comments : Copies either file name, file path, parent folder name, current playlist, volume, file comments, file creation date, database id, file creator, or file type to each track’s comment field.
  • I Hate That iTunes Done Chime! : Let’s you choose a different sound—or disable sound altogether—for iTunes’ “Done” alert (the one that plays when iTunes has finished ripping a CD or converting content).

That’s a bunch of great scripts, but what’s amazing is that there are nearly 400 more! If you’ve ever wished iTunes gave you more control over your media, be sure to check out Doug’s site; a quick search may find just what you’ve been looking for. (And if Doug’s site doesn’t satisfy your iTunes-script desires, Apple provides a sampling of its own that contains a number of useful add-ons.)

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