Ask the iTunes Guy: Inconsistent buttons and faulty gapless playback

iTunes has many quirks and inconstancies. In this week’s column, I look at a few of them. Why do Next and Previous buttons display only sometimes when you view track tags? Why does iTunes funnel videos into the Home Videos category? And why isn’t gapless playback working on iOS devices running iTunes Match?

Next and Previous buttons are inconsistent

Q: When I go to edit tags for a song in my iTunes library by pressing Command-I, sometimes Next and Previous buttons display at the bottom of the window; but sometimes they don’t. It seems random whether or not they show up. Can you tell me what’s going on?

It’s not random, but it’s certainly odd. These buttons display depending on which view you are in when you select a track and press Command-I.

with buttons

The Next and Previous buttons let you switch tracks to change tags without closing and reopening the Info window.

In the navigation bar of your Music library, you see different views: Songs, Albums, Artists, Composers (if you have checked the option to display this view in the General preferences), Genres, and Videos.

If you select a track while in Songs, Albums, or Genres view—or select a video while in Videos view—you’ll see the Next and Previous buttons (as long as there’s more than one item in the album or genre). You’ll also spy these buttons if you select a track from a playlist. If you select a track in Artists or Composers view, however, you won’t see them.

without buttons

In some views, the Next and Previous buttons don’t display.

I don’t know why Apple has chosen to do this, but it’s good to know that if you want to change tags and use the Next and Previous buttons you should avoid Artists and Composers view.

You’ll find similar behavior with other types of content. For example, when in your Videos or Audiobooks library, the Next and Previous buttons only display when you select an item in List view.

Videos added to iTunes library are Home Videos by default

Q: I don’t understand how iTunes decides whether imported videos are Home Videos or Movies. Is there some way to set all imported videos to the Movies category? It’s a pain to change them after they are imported, and I don’t always remember to do it.

Apple added the Home Videos category to iTunes 11, and it can be an annoyance to those who rip their DVDs and add them to their iTunes library.

Only those videos purchased from the iTunes Store get routed automatically into the Movies category. All other videos you import—whether you’ve shot them with a camcorder or iPhone, ripped them from a DVD, or downloaded them—get sorted as Home Videos.

You can change any of your videos from Home Videos to Movies or TV Shows by selecting them, pressing Command-I, and then clicking the Options tab. The Media Kind menu lets you make the change.

media kind

Change the media kind of your Home Videos to Movies or TV Shows from this tab of the Info window.

But you might want a way to see if you have any files that are considered Home Videos more easily than going to the Movies library and clicking on Home Videos. I’d suggest you create a smart playlist, which will automatically add any Home Videos. To do this, choose File > New > Smart Playlist, or press Command-Option-N. Choose the condition Media Kind is Home Video. Make sure Live Updating is checked at the bottom of the window. Any time you click on this playlist, you’ll be able to see any videos in that category, and you can change their Media Kind.

iTunes Match won’t play gapless

Q: Is there any way to set iTunes Match to play songs using gapless playback on an iOS device? It’s not working for me.

Gapless playback is a feature of iTunes and the iOS Music app that plays tracks meant to flow into each other with no pause or gap between them. The classic example of this is Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here—where each of the two album sides play without any silence between the tracks. But this is also the case with many other rock albums, most operas, and lots of electronic or ambient music.

iTunes does this automatically. At one time there was a Gapless Album tag, which you could enable to tell iTunes to also respect full song lengths when you use Crossfade, but this is no longer available.

The iOS Music app also plays gapless correctly for songs that you’ve synced to an iOS device, but, for some reason, it seems that gapless playback for devices using iTunes Match has been broken since sometime after iOS 7 was released. And this even applies to songs that you’ve already downloaded.

This would be understandable if, when you’re playing an album, the Music app failed to download the next track soon enough for you to play it on your device. But in my tests—even for albums that I’ve downloaded—the Music app inserts gaps. On my iPhone, however, which doesn’t use iTunes Match, I have no problem playing songs gaplessly.

My suspicion is that this is somehow related to the way Apple’s servers manage iTunes Match, rather than the Music app itself. This would explain why downloaded files don’t play gapless. I think the only solution is to hope that Apple fixes the issue.

Have questions of your own for the iTunes Guy? Send them along for his consideration.

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