Record Store Day & Our Favorite iTunes Tips and Tricks

I’m a music geek. From the first time my brother took me to Tower Records to buy my first LP (Run D.M.C.’s Kings of Rock), music has been a huge part of my life. Tomorrow is Record Store Day, the highest of holy days for music fans. Independent record shops around the world are hosting special events, and hundreds of artists and labels are releasing special products to celebrate—everything from limited-edition vinyl runs of classic albums, to new material on CD and even cassette tape. If you’re curious, you can check out the list of Record Store Day releases or find a participating store near you.

Naturally, iTunes is constantly running on my Mac, churning through my music library, which is fast approaching 200 gigabytes. The latest version, iTunes 11, has some great new features, as well as some old favorites that have gone missing (apparently I’m not the only one who misses iTunes DJ). Out of the box, it works pretty well, but here are some of my favorite tricks for getting even more out of iTunes.

Smart Playlists

These have been around since iTunes 3.0, so they’re not exactly new. But many people don’t use them, and they’re one of iTunes best features. Unlike a regular playlist, which plays the same songs over and over, a Smart Playlist can update itself based on criteria you set, so you’re not hearing the same stuff every day. One of my favorite Smart Playlists is called Long Lost. It scans my library for songs I like, but haven’t heard in a while. Here’s my recipe:

Depending on how often you listen to iTunes, you can tweak the Last Played and Last skipped settings to longer or shorter time periods to give yourself a good mix of songs. Once I listen to a track (or skip it) it’ll fall off the list for a while, making sure that I don’t get sick of hearing the same tunes over and over.

Since I tend to rate tracks I like using three, four, or five stars, I limit this list to tracks with a rating greater than two stars, but you can adjust to fit your rating style. If you’d like to get started using iTunes star ratings, I Love Stars makes it easy to rate your tracks as you listen.

Show Duplicate Items

For some reason, Apple left duplicate-searching out of the first version of iTunes 11, but Show Duplicates is back in later updates. You can find it in View > Show Duplicate Items. For quick and dirty library pruning it works, but it only searches on Artist and Title. Before you delete any duplicates, make sure to add the Album column to your view (View > View Options) so that you can weed out alternate versions of songs from live albums, singles, or compilations.

Alternatively, you can hold down the Option key and Show Duplicate Items will change to Show Exact Duplicate Items, which will match duplicates based on Artist, Title, and Album information.


The new MiniPlayer is one of the best features of iTunes 11. To display it, click View > MiniPlayer, or click the rectangle icon in the upper-right corner of the iTunes window. The new version offers playback controls like before, but it’s turbocharged with search capabilities and the new Up Next queue. Adding tracks is simple, just right-click and choose Play Next or Add to Up Next. Play Next puts that track next in your queue, while Add to Up Next adds the selected song to the end of your queue. Clicking on the Up Next icon (the three horizontal lines, like items in a list) displays what’s on tap, and you can rearrange songs simply by clicking and dragging. If you use OS X’s Spaces, you should check out this tip for using MiniPlayer in multiple Spaces.

One Step Back

iTunes 11 features a lot of changes to the interface. If you absolutely can’t live with iTunes 11, you can always roll back to the previous version.

Happy Record Store Day everyone, and happy listening. If you’ve got a favorite iTunes trick, or recipe for a great Smart Playlist, let us know. Comment on our Facebook page, or tweet us @DollyDrive. And don’t forget…you can even set up Dolly to back up (or sync) your iTunes Library automatically. We’ve mentioned it here on the blaaaag before, but if you missed it, check it out!

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