Dealing with iTunes font sizes, file types, and missing files

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It’s time for another grab bag, selected from the many questions I get from readers. In this week’s column, I look at some questions about font size in iTunes (spoiler: your options are limited), identifying music file types in iTunes, finding which tracks iTunes has lost track of (spoiler: there’s an easy way), and moving podcasts to another Mac.

Q: I’m having trouble seeing the type in iTunes. Is there a way to change the font and/or size in its display?

I’ve long lamented the limited font and size options in Apple’s OS X and various applications as I, too, have vision that is far from 20/20.

iTunes does offer a limited option to change the size of its fonts. Open iTunes’ preferences, click the General icon, and then check Use large text for list views. This makes the text in both the sidebar and the main window larger. Unfortunately, you have no other options, and can only choose from those two sizes.

There's just one setting to adjust font size in iTunes.

I doubt Apple wants people “skinning” iTunes, choosing their own fonts, because that could cause issues with the way certain things display. But it should at least allow for more size options for those of us who want to more easily read texts in the app.

Q:I import CDs in Apple Lossless format, and then make an MP3 version of each track. In my older versions of iTunes, the Apple Lossless and MP3 files were easily distinguishable because each track was followed by its filetype. I could then select only the MP3 files and copy them onto my iPod. In iTunes 11, there is no information visible onscreen except for the track title. So, I have a pair of tracks with the same title, but no way to know which is the ALAC and which the MP3 unless I display the Info window for that file. Is there any way to get iTunes to show filetype and other info onscreen, as it used to do?

It’s not that iTunes doesn’t display this information, but the default views in iTunes 11 don’t show much metadata any more. You only see a track’s title and number, a rating (if you’ve set one), and its duration. You need to switch views to see the kind of information you want.

You can choose to view columns for any iTunes metadata if you’re in Songs view in your Music library, or List view in a playlist. (You can also see metadata in columns in similar views for other media types.) Once you’ve gone into one of those views, press Command-J to bring up iTunes’ View Options palette and choose which columns to display; the one you want is Kind under the File section, which shows the type of file and its codec. You might also want to choose Bit Rate in the same section, as Apple Lossless files have higher bit rates (generally from about 400 kbps to 800 kbps) than MP3 files (which don’t go higher than 320 kbps). The bit rate can be another way to identify files quickly.

Q: I have a large iTunes library that recently suffered partial loss of tracks due to a faulty backup. I still have the database, so I know what tracks should be there, but the only way I know to find out what’s missing is to click through every tune individually to see if it is still available. Is there any way to generate a list of all the tracks that are missing?

Not within iTunes, but Doug Adams has a great AppleScript called List MIAs (payment request) that can make a list of all tracks that are “missing in action,” or not found in iTunes. You run the script and it creates a text file that you can then use to check your files to find the missing tracks.

The List MIAs AppleScript goes through all the tracks in your iTunes library to find any that iTunes has lost track of.

Look through the resulting text file and see if you can find the files it lists, then add them to your iTunes library.

Q: My girlfriend and I have long used the same home computer for her music collection and my podcasts. We now want to each have our stuff on separate computers. Since podcasts are free, I assume there are no copyright or DRM issues with her maintaining her account and migrating her purchased music to a new machine while I import my podcasts into a new iTunes account on a new machine, but I’m not clear how I can do this while still maintaining the hierarchical, folder-organized, and regularly-updating structure of my podcasts (rather than just copying all the files and having them import in a big mess like the Music folder).

The easiest way is to simply copy the files from one computer to the other. The default location is in your home folder, in /Music/iTunes/iTunes Media/Podcasts.

After you’ve copied this folder to the new computer, drag it to the iTunes window, and iTunes will add all the podcasts. You’ll have to subscribe to each of them afterwards, but you can have the exact same podcasts on the other computer as you did in the shared library.

The files will get organized in folders by podcast, in the Finder, if you check the Keep iTunes media folder organized option in iTunes’ Advanced preferences.

If your only use of iTunes is for podcasts, you might want to have a look at Vemedio’s Instacast, an excellent tool for managing podcasts on OS X ($20) and iOS ($5). You can sync your subscriptions, and your played status, between your Mac and your iPhone or iPad. And if you only listen to your podcasts on iOS device, you can forgo iTunes altogether with just Instacast for iOS, Apple’s free Podcasts, Jamawkinaw Enterprises’s $2 Downcast, or another podcast listening app.

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