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4.1. Introduction to iTunes

As the MP3 music craze of the late 1990s swept across the globe, software programs for playing the new music files on the computer began to pop up around the Internet. Many Windows fans fondly remember WinAmp as their introduction to MP3 software; early adopters on the Mac side likely recall programs like SoundApp, SoundJam MP, and MacAmp.

When iTunes debuted in January 2001, Apple reported that 275,000 people downloaded it in the first week. The iTunes software proved to be a versatile, robust all-around music management program made exclusively for Macintosh. And it was free.

Even in that first version of iTunes, Mac fans could import songs from a CD and convert them into MP3 files; play MP3s, audio CDs, and streaming Internet radio; create custom playlists; burn audio CDs without having to spring for extra CD burning software; zone out to groovy animated laser-light displays in the iTunes window while songs played; and transfer music to a few pre-iPod, Mac-friendly portable MP3 players.

When the iPod arrived in October 2001, iTunes 2 accompanied it, now with iPod synchronization, an equalizer for enhancing different types of music, a crossfade feature, and the ability to burn MP3 CDs.


Although iTunes 4 is the latest and greatest version of the program, it only works with version Mac OS X 10.1.5 or later and Windows 2000 or later. If you're running Mac OS 9, you'll have to stick with iTunes 2. (Earlier versions of the Mac OS don't work with iTunes or the iPod.) Most of the iTunes features listed in the remainder of this chapter—and throughout the book—refer to iTunes 4.

The marriage of iTunes and the iPod was a match made in heaven for fans of MP3 players, and Apple made the union even stronger in the summer of 2002 when it announced the new iPod models for Macintosh and Windows. iTunes 3 debuted simultaneously, with better integration with Apple's iLife suite (iPhoto2, iMovie 3, and iDVD 3). iTunes 3 also added software goodies like a one-to-five star rating system for favorite songs (Section 4.7.3), Smart Playlists (Section, a Sound Check feature designed to smooth out volume levels from song to song, a Join Tracks command that merges several tunes from one album into one uninterrupted track (Section 4.7.7), and so on.

With the launch of iTunes 4 at the end of April 2003 (October 2003 for Windows), Apple finally brought all the pieces of the digital music puzzle together. Now you can download perfectly legal music files from well-known artists using the Music Store feature and zip them over to your iPod in no time, all from within iTunes and without buying a single CD.

With 500,000 songs within its virtual doors (and counting), and more than 5,000 audio books, the iTunes Music Store is big enough to rate its own chapter in this book—Chapter 6.

iTunes 4 only works with Mac OS X 10.1.5 and later, or Windows 2000 and later. But with iTunes 4, you also get:

  • The new AAC format, which can make music sound just as good as the MP3 format but without taking up as much precious space on your Mac, PC, or iPod.

  • A music-sharing feature that lets you blast your music from any Mac or PC on your home network, to any others, all without any setup or configuration. (You can thank Apple's Rendezvous network-discovery software for this feature; it's built into Mac OS X 10.2 and later and provided to Windows by the iTunes installer).

  • The ability to burn your music collection to a blank DVD, which can hold 4.7 gigabytes of files.

  • A place in the main iTunes window to display artwork or images—like scanned album covers—as your songs play.

  • An easy-to-remember place to upload your voice memos if you have one of those handy Belkin Voice Recorder attachments.

  • A way to save those On-the-Go playlists you made on your iPod when you were out and about.

Many of the features in iTunes 4 also require Apple's QuickTime 6.2 software or later. (If you need to update iTunes or QuickTime, Apple keeps an area of its Web site devoted to news, updates, and downloads for QuickTime at http://www.apple.com/quicktime and iTunes 4 at http://www.apple.com/itunes.)

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