If you’re busy grooving to your favorite tunes, you may not have realized that iTunes has some powerful printing features in addition to its music-playing abilities. You can print custom inserts for CDs you’ve burned from your playlists, create lists of your songs and albums to show friends, and even print a list of a backup DVD’s contents.
Plus, you can save any of these documents as PDF files that you can send to other people—for instance, as a hint about the kind of music you like (and what you already own) before your birthday or another gift-giving occasion comes up.
iTunes lets you print several types of documents, but you’ll probably find that jewel-case inserts are the most useful. They’re perfect when you burn an album purchased from the iTunes Music Store or when you create a custom CD for that special someone.
There are three kinds of inserts: text-only lists of songs, single-album covers, and mosaics. To get started, create a playlist for your CD and select it (for an album, you can navigate to it, using iTunes’ Browse mode. Click on the Browse button in the upper right corner of the iTunes interface or press Command-B). Then select File: Print, and you’ll find many options in the Theme drop-down menu.
Single Album If you’re burning an album and want to put its cover art on your insert, select Single Cover from the Theme menu (in addition to using the preceding methods, you can also choose what to print by selecting your entire library and using iTunes’ search box to isolate that album’s tracks). This theme puts that album’s cover art on the insert’s cover and then prints the track list over a faded version of the cover (for the inside of the CD case). While this insert won’t look as nice as the inserts that come with CDs purchased in a music store, it will add pizzazz to your jewel case.
Mosaic If you’re burning a compilation—a playlist of songs from multiple albums—then you might choose the Mosaic theme for your jewel-case insert. iTunes will scale your album art to fit as many covers as possible on the front of the insert (see top screenshot). It also prints a faded version of the mosaic for the track-list background on the interior side of the insert.
Although you can’t choose which album art goes where in the mosaic, you can adjust the number of tracks in your playlist to alter the look of the insert. If you prefer to just use one big cover, you can choose the Single Cover theme; iTunes will pick the cover of the selected song in your library or playlist.
Song and album lists
iTunes offers other options for printing song and album information. The Song Listing option lets you print a list of the selected tracks, using one of several themes. You can print song names and lengths, artists, and albums; you can add your ratings, last-played dates, and play counts; or you can choose the Custom theme, which includes all the visible columns in your playlist or library. The Album Listing option lets you print a list of songs by album or a list of all your albums and artists.
Albums While their purpose may not be as obvious, there are good reasons to print song and album lists. For example, you can print a list of all the albums in your library, take the list with you when you go shopping, and see whether you’re missing something by a particular artist.
To print song and album lists, select your library in the iTunes Source list (if you’re in Browse mode, make sure that you have all your genres, artists, and albums selected in the browse columns). Now select File: Print, select Album Listing, and choose a theme. You can choose Songs By Album, which prints a list of songs organized by album (see bottom screenshot), or List Of Albums, which prints just the names of albums and artists, along with the number of songs and total time for each album (as with the other printing options, you’ll see a preview to the right of the selection area). Be careful when you print one of these lists: they can be long if you have a large library, especially the Songs By Album list, which includes album art.
You can also print lists of selected items, such as all the albums by a certain artist (select that artist in the search box or in Browse mode) or in a certain genre, or the contents of playlists or smart playlists.
Songs Lists of songs are useful mostly for the control you have over what gets printed. As with album lists, you can print a song list of anything: a playlist, all the music by an artist, or the contents of a specific album. But with song lists, you can choose to print your ratings, the last-played dates, or the columns you have displayed in iTunes (which you can change by selecting Edit: View Options or by pressing Command-J). If you’re a DJ working from one or two iPods, for example, you might want to have a list of your songs in order of beats per minute (bpm). Engage the Print command, select Song Listing, and then choose Custom from the Theme drop-down menu (which uses the current display for the printout). You can check the results in the preview section of the Print dialog box. Print this file, and you can scan your music library at any time for songs that have a specific bpm. Song Listing printouts are also useful if you’re burning backup data DVDs of all your music and want to know which files are on which discs.
You can even print song and album lists from your iTunes Music Store Purchased playlist, to keep track of everything you’ve spent your hard-earned bucks on. Here’s another cool trick: If you click on iTunes’ Store preference pane and select the Buy Using A Shopping Cart option, you can add songs and albums to your shopping cart and then select them and print them as if they were a playlist. This is ideal for letting people know what you’re in the mood for the next time they want to give you the gift of music.
PDFs As with other OS X Print dialog boxes, you can also choose to “print” any of these lists to PDF files that you can view on any computer or send to friends. To create a PDF list, set up your list the way you want it, click on the Print button, and instead of choosing Print in the resulting window, click on the PDF button and select Save As PDF (the process varies slightly in versions of OS X older than 10.4). Now you’ve got a digital version of your list (or insert) that you can send across the Internet.
A CD jewel-case insert with a mosaic cover shows album art in color for all the songs in your playlist.
A list of your albums or songs can help you keep track of your collection when you’re away from your Mac.
When iTunes isnt enough
If you want to print a snazzy disc label to go with a CD insert, iTunes won’t help you. You’ll need to turn to an application such as SmileOnMyMac’s $30
DiscLabel 3.0, an easy-to-use program that helps you lay out both labels and CD inserts, import graphics, and tweak fonts for unique results. You can use the program’s built-in templates or design your own, and DiscLabel lets you add custom text to your CD inserts—something that iTunes doesn’t allow.
And what if you don’t want to print a list of your library’s contents but still want a way to share them? Try Trance Software’s free
iTunes Publisher 4.1, which lets you create Web pages with the contents of your favorite playlists, or even text files that you can import into a spreadsheet to organize your collection (you can also do this by control- or right-clicking on a playlist in iTunes and selecting Export Song List). iTunes Publisher gives you full control over which columns are included, you can create HTML pages by song or by album, and you can remove duplicates or add your own playlist notes (see screenshot).
Finally, here’s a trick that’s perfect for karaoke parties: print your own karaoke song lists with lyrics. You probably know that you can add lyrics to any track in your iTunes library (select a track, press Command-I, click on the Lyrics tab, and paste the words). AppleScript maven Doug Adams has created the free
Make PDF Booklet script, which lets you create a PDF booklet containing tag info from the selected tracks (or every track from the selected playlist), including lyrics, and then add the PDF to your iTunes library. You can print out the PDF, complete with lyrics, and pass it around at your next party—so there’s no excuse for people not to sing.
[ Kirk McElhearn is the author of several books on the Mac and the iPod, including iPod and iTunes Garage (Prentice Hall, 2004). His blog,
Kirkville, features articles about OS X, the iPod, iTunes, and more. ]
Publish a partial or complete list of your iTunes library’s contents on the Web with iTunes Publisher.