Ask the iTunes Guy: Missing artwork, shuffling iTunes 12, and gifting movies

laptop user

Today's Best Tech Deals

Picked by Macworld's Editors

Top Deals On Great Products

Picked by Techconnect's Editors

It’s time for a grab-bag column. Some of this week’s questions deal with iTunes 12: What do you do when album art disappears? How do you mark TV shows as watched? And how do you play music in shuffle mode in iTunes 12? I also look at a question about gifting a movie you’ve purchased from the iTunes store, and an app-updating problem with iOS 8.

Disappearing album artwork

Q: I’ve noticed in iTunes 12 that some of my albums don’t display artwork, even though I’ve manually added album art to all my music. I also found this with some of my movies. Is there any way to get the artwork back?

I’ve seen this too; only with a few albums, but with most of my movies. What worked for me was quite simple (though it can be time-consuming if you have to do this for a lot of albums or movies). Just select a movie or the first track of an album that doesn’t display artwork and press Command-I. I’ve found that if there is artwork in the file, it displays at the top of the Info window. Just click OK or press Return, and it should display correctly in iTunes.

Over the years, I’ve had a number of problems like this. I’ve discovered that deleting the album artwork cache folder can remedy such problems. To do this, go to the Music folder in your home folder (the one with your user name and the house icon), open the iTunes folder, and you’ll see an Album Artwork folder. Inside that folder you’ll find a number of sub-folders—you may see Cache, Cloud, Cloud Purchases, Download, Remote, and others. Delete the Cache folder (don’t delete the others). Quit and relaunch iTunes and the app will rebuild its artwork cache.

itunes album artwork folder

Deleting iTunes' Cache folder can remedy some issues with album artwork not displaying.

Shuffling genres

Q: After getting used to playing songs randomly by genre in iTunes, the new iTunes 12 seems to have dropped this option. I see that it’s still available in iOS 8 on our iPads. Is there any way to access music by genre for random playback in the new version of iTunes?

Yes, this is possible, but you access it in a slightly different way than before.

Select your Music library by clicking on the icon with the musical notes at the top-left of the iTunes window. Next, click the View Options menu at the top-right of the iTunes window and choose Genres. You’ll see a column of genres at the left of the iTunes window. Click on a genre and—at the top of the window, next to the genre’s name—you’ll see a play button, followed by a shuffle icon. Click that icon to start random playback.

genre shuffle

Click the shuffle icon to play music from a selected genre at random.

Giving an iTunes gift

Q: Is there a way to gift a movie I purchased on iTunes to a friend without giving them access to my iTunes account?

I replied to this reader by email, pointing out that you can send any item in the iTunes Store (with the exception of podcasts, which are free) as a gift. Just click the arrow next to the price and choose Gift this Movie or Gift this Album.

But the reader explained that she didn’t want to buy a copy, but instead give a copy of the movie to a friend to watch. Alas, that’s the whole point of DRM (digital rights management), which is applied to movies, TV shows, apps, and audiobooks on the iTunes Store. If you give someone a file that you bought, they can only play it back if they have your Apple ID and password. You may want to give those credentials to your spouse, partner, or significant other, but you most likely don’t want to give other friends a blank check to potentially use those credentials to buy anything they want on the iTunes Store. And, it’s illegal to share content that way. So, to answer your question, no, there isn’t.

Marking TV shows as Watched

Q: In iTunes 12, How do I get TV shows in the Unwatched column marked as Watched?

They should automatically get marked as Watched if you’ve watched them on your computer, on an Apple TV that uses your iTunes library, or on an iOS device you’ve synced them to, once you sync that device again.

If you have TV shows that you’d like to mark as Watched, right-click or Control-click one of them, and choose Mark as Watched.

mark as watched

You can manually mark any TV show or movie as Watched using the contextual menu.

Updating apps

Q: I have an iPhone 5c and my apps won't update. When I tap Update in the App Store app, it just takes me to the app without updating. Any suggestions?

I’ve seen something similar on a couple of my iOS devices: the App Store app shows a number of updates available—with a badge on the icon—and, when I open the App Store app to update those apps, I briefly see the word Update, but it then switches to Open. I think there’s an issue in iOS where the App Store app isn’t correctly refreshing the information about app updates. In other words, it doesn’t record the fact that you’ve already updated apps until you open the App Store app.

Note that the normal behavior for the App Store app is to display badges to show you that apps have been updated, then show you those apps. But after you’ve viewed them once in the App Store app, it should no longer display the badge.

So, in your case, it’s most likely that the apps have already been updated, and that there’s just a glitch in the App Store app.

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

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon