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10 ways to use iTunes contextual menus

Here’s a scenario shared with me recently by a friend:

iTunes user: “You know, I’d really like to do [something or other] with iTunes.”

Friend: “Sure. Just Control-click on a track, and use the contextual menu.”

iTunes user: “What contextual menu?”

After my friend, an iTunes expert, told me this story, it made me realize that many iTunes users not only don’t realize how powerful the program’s contextual menu is, but also may not even know it’s there. Since Mac users are less accustomed to contextual menus than Windows users, many don’t even know these menus exist. Here are 10 things you can do quickly and easily from the contextual menu.

(Before starting, here’s how you bring up the contextual menu. Move your pointer over a track, or select a group of tracks in the iTunes window and move the pointer over them. Then Control- or right-click. If you have a multi-touch mouse or trackpad, there are other ways; for example, you can tap with two fingers on a trackpad to bring up this menu. See the Mouse or Trackpad preferences on your Mac for more.)

1. Create Genius playlists

If you select a track, you can start the Genius from the contextual menu; just choose Start Genius, and iTunes will create a new Genius playlist of songs in your iTunes library based on the selected track.

2. Add to iTunes DJ

As you flip through your library, you may want to add some songs to iTunes DJ for a party, or just for your day’s listening. You can do this by dragging them onto the iTunes DJ entry in the iTunes sidebar, but you can also do so from the contextual menu. The Add To iTunes DJ item adds the selected track(s) at the end of the iTunes DJ list; Play Next In iTunes DJ puts the selected track(s) at the top of the list and starts playing the first one right away.

3. Get Info

If you choose the Get Info item, iTunes will display the Info window for the selected track(s). (Although truth be told, I find it actually quicker to just press Command-I to bring up the Info window.) From there, you can use keyboard shortcuts—see “10 essential iTunes keyboard shortcuts”—to move around the various tabs.

4. Rate songs

If you choose the Rating menu item, you’ll see a sub-menu listing None, then from one to five stars. Set a rating by choosing the right number of stars from this sub-menu. Note that if you use half-star ratings, thanks to a script such as Doug Adams’ Assign Half-Star Ratings, you won’t see those as options in the Rating menu.

5. Use Ping

If you’re a Ping user (I’m sure there are still a few of you out there), you can like a song, or post about it, from the contextual menu. You can also show an artist profile, if one is available. If you choose Post, iTunes displays a window where you can post comments; it doesn’t take you to the Ping screen, so you can post without interrupting your listening. (Note that if you don’t have a Ping account, or have hidden Ping in iTunes’ General preferences, these menu items won’t display in the contextual menu.)

6. Show a track in the Finder

Do you want to see the actual file for anything in your iTunes library? Choose Show In Finder and a Finder window pops open with the item selected.

7. Get album artwork

If you don’t have artwork for the currently selected track(s), choose the Get Album Artwork menu item to tell iTunes to check on the iTunes Store for artwork. If Apple doesn’t sell that music, or your tags don’t match those in the iTunes Store, it might not find artwork. For more of dealing with album art, see our recent article, “Spiffy up your music with album artwork”.

8. Reset play counts

iTunes records the number of times you play each track. We’ve written about how you can use play counts (or plays) in smart playlists. Select one or more tracks, then choose Reset Plays from the contextual menu to zero out the play counts of those tracks.

9. Add tracks to a playlist

Select one or more tracks then, from the contextual menu, choose Add To Playlist. This leads to a sub-menu showing all your playlists (normal playlists only, not smart playlists). Choose a playlist, and iTunes will add the selected track(s) to the end of that playlist.

10. Show which playlists a track is in

Unsure if you added a song to a playlist? If you choose Show In Playlist for a track, you’ll see, in the sub-menu, which playlists contain that track. However, there are limits to this. If you have folders in the iTunes sidebar for your playlists, this will show the folders and the playlists within them. If you have selected the track from a playlist —that is, not from your Music library—this menu won’t show the currently active playlist. It will, however, show the folder containing that playlist (--Temp in the screenshot.)

Even more

There’s more in the contextual menu, but I’ll leave that to you to explore. iTunes’ help covers some of the other items in this menu. Remember, it is contextual; I’ve looked at what displays when you select music tracks; for other types of media, different menu items may display, though music files offer the most options.

[Senior contributor Kirk McElhearn writes about more than just Macs on his blog Kirkville. Twitter: @mcelhearn Kirk’s latest book is Take Control of iTunes 10: The FAQ.]

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