Update podcasts in iTunes via script

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When it comes to updating podcasts, iTunes provides only a few options. Using the Podcasts tab in Preferences, you can set iTunes to update your podcasts daily, hourly, weekly, or manually. If you’re using daily, for instance, and you shut down iTunes in the evening, before the update has had a chance to run, then when you next connect your iPod, you may find that you don’t have any new podcasts to sync.

You can, of course, fix this by going to the Podcasts section of iTunes and clicking the Refresh button…but that’s a lot of work, especially if you normally leave your iTunes window in its miniature state. As an alternative solution, a one-line AppleScript can greatly ease the process of updating your podcasts—thanks to a couple of features of iTunes and the system.

First, you’ll need to create the script. Open Script Editor (in Applications -> AppleScript), and enter this one line:

tell application "iTunes" to updateAllPodcasts

Select File -> Save As, and name your script Update Podcasts (or whatever you like). The first trick to making this script super-easy to use is to save it in the proper folder. In the Save As dialog, navigate into your user’s Library -> iTunes -> Scripts folder. (If you don’t see the Scripts folder, click the New Folder button and create it—just make sure you’re in the Library -> iTunes folder first.) You can leave all the other settings as they are, and then click Save.

To see your new handiwork, switch to iTunes and you’ll see a new AppleScripts icon between the Windows and Help menu; activate it, and you’ll see your new Update Podcats script. This Scripts folder is one of iTunes’ hidden gems. Any AppleScripts you store here will appear directly in iTunes. You can drop in, for instance, one of these 10 AppleScripts for iTunes, which were chosen from more than 300 iTunes AppleScripts you’ll find at Doug’s AppleScripts for iTunes. (Dan Frakes also covered some useful scripts in this MacGems entry.) You can then access them directly from iTunes, making them amazingly easy to use.

But they can be even easier—you can assign keyboard shortcuts to these scripts, just as you would with a standard menu item. Quit iTunes and open System Preferences’ Keyboard & Mouse panel. Select the Keyboard Shortcuts tab, and click the plus sign at the bottom left of the window. In the new dialog that appears, set the Application to iTunes, and enter the exact name of your script in the Menu Title field ( Update Podcasts in this example). For the keyboard shortcut, enter whatever you’d like to use, but remember to make it unique—perhaps something like Control-Option-U. When it’s all filled in, it should look like this (I named my script with a “1” at the front, so it will float to the top of my scripts list):

Click Add when you have everything filled in, then relaunch iTunes. Activate the special AppleScript menu again, and you should see that your script now has a handy keyboard shortcut:

Obviously, you can do this with any of the other scripts you add as well, though you should probably limit your shortcuts to those scripts you use most often—too many keyboard shortcuts will just be confusing, instead of time-saving. Between the special AppleScripts menu, and the ability to add keyboard shortcuts to your most-used scripts, you can really customize iTunes to match the way you work with it.

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