How to Use iTunes: Getting Started

  Matt Cone       June 6, 2007      Tutorials Mac Music

If you’ve just purchased your first Mac or iPod, you’re probably hankering for iTunes, Apple’s free media software. Like all of Apple’s software, iTunes is fun and easy to use. However, beginners still might need a little help. As new features have been added to iTunes over the years, the learning curve has gotten steeper. Even Mac experts can need help with iTunes these days!

In this tutorial, you’ll learn two different ways to add music to your iTunes Library:

You will also learn how to manage new songs by adding artwork, changing tags and creating playlists.

Importing Music From an Audio CD

You just bought your favorite artist’s most recent album, but you don’t want to use your old CD Player. What should you do? Import the songs into iTunes and play them from your computer. It may seem difficult and annoying, but it’s really easy to do using iTunes. The full process could take several minutes, depending on the number of songs to import and the processor speed of your computer, but you only need to do two things: insert the CD and click Import.

  1. First, open iTunes (it should be in the Dock or in your Applications folder in the Finder). If it’s the first time you’re launching it, an assistant will appear to help you set some basic preferences. We recommend that you leave all the choices to default and continue. Now you can see iTunes’ default window.

    The default iTunes window

  2. Insert the CD into your computer. Your Mac may take a few seconds to read it, then you should see this dialog:

    iTunes is asking you if you want to import this CD in your iTunes library

    If you don’t see this dialog box, just click the Import button in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen.

  3. Click Yes. iTunes will now import your CD. Once a song is completely imported, it should start playing. If you don’t want it to play, click the Pause button in the upper left-hand part of the window. You will hear the “Complete” sound when iTunes has finished importing your CD.

    iTunes is importing your CD

  4. Now that your CD has been imported, you can eject it. Click the eject button next to the name of the CD in the DEVICES section of iTunes’ toolbar.

    Eject your CD

  5. Now, click on Music in the LIBRARY section of the sidebar. The songs you just imported (and the ones you’ll add later) appear here and are ready to be played.

Adding Music Files from Your Mac

Let’s say a friend or family member just bought a new album and sent it to you. It’s waiting on your Desktop for you to add it to iTunes and release its full potential. Doing this is even easier than importing a CD: it’s just one step.

Drag a folder of songs or a group of songs from the Finder to iTunes until you see the green (+) sign and drop it there. If you drag it to iTunes’ icon in the Dock, the songs will copy in iTunes and start playing automatically. You can also select File > Add to Library… or press ⌘O from iTunes’ menu bar and choose the path to the songs.

That’s it! You’ve just learned two ways to add songs to your iTunes Library. Now, let’s learn a little bit more about managing your music.

Adding Artwork

You’ve added songs and imported CDs into your iTunes Library, and now the main list of songs is getting longer and longer and finding songs isn’t easy. At the top of iTunes’ window, there is a View section. Try clicking on one of the other two tabs and see what changes.

The iTunes View section

The list’s View just changed. The first tab displays songs in a list, the second tab by album, with the artwork, and the third tab in a list with the artwork in a separate view so you can choose your album by Cover Flow. But since you’ve just added or imported songs, there probably isn’t any artwork available (unless the songs you added were bought from the iTunes Store or already contained artwork). Don’t worry, artwork is really easy to add to an album:

  1. Search for the artwork on the Internet and copy the image you like by right clicking it and selecting Copy Image.

  2. Return to iTunes and select a song or a whole album (Shift-Click on the first and last song you want to select). Select File > Get Info (or press ⌘I). iTunes will ask if you want to get info for multiple items - click Yes. You will see a window containing information for all of the songs you selected:

    Information about multiple songs

  3. Click in the Artwork field, and select Edit > Paste (or press ⌘V). The image you copied before will appear in the field, and the check box next to it will be selected. This means that when you click OK, this information about the songs will change. Click OK.

  4. If you shift to Album View, you’ll notice that the artwork was added to the songs you had selected.

    You now have artwork for this album

Editing Tags

Every single item in your iTunes Library, be it music or video, contains tags. Tags are information about the items in your Library. For example, the Name, Artist, Album, Genre, etc., of a song are tags. This can be useful if the Name (or any information of a song) is wrong or misspelled, and you wish to modify it, or add information about a song. To change any of these tags:

  1. Select a song and select File > Get Info from the menu bar (or press ⌘I)
  2. Select the Info tab
  3. Edit a tag by typing in its text field
  4. Click OK. You now have new tags for your songs!

Using Playlists

Playlists are compilations of songs and/or video. They are useful if you want to choose music for a special occasion, like a birthday party. Playlists are arranged by alphabetical order in iTunes’ sidebar. They can also be organized into folders. To create a playlist:

  1. Click the + sign button in the bottom left-hand corner of the window.

    Click + to create a new playlist

  2. By default, the new playlist will be called “untitled playlist” and will appear at the bottom of the PLAYLISTS section.

    A new playlist

  3. Give your playlist a name indicative of its use (like “Birthday Party,” or “Stadium Arcadium” if you only want to have one album in the playlist), and then press Enter.

  4. Now it’s time to add music to the playlist. Select one or more songs in your library, and drag them to the playlist until you see the green (+) sign and drop them. You can also drag the artwork of an album directly on the playlist if you want to add the entire album. A red label will appear and display the number of songs you selected.

Smart Playlists

As their name suggests, Smart Playlists are smart. What does that mean? It means you can specify rules for any playlist, so that songs matching these rules are automatically added to that playlist. Let’s create one:

  1. Select File > New Smart Playlist… (or press ⌥⌘N). The following window appears:

    Choose your Smart Playlist’s rules

  2. This is were you specify the rules for the Smart Playlist. For example, we would like a playlist which contains songs from the Red Hot Chili Peppers whose rating is 5 Stars. To add rules, click the (+) sign on the right. Make sure the Live updating checkbox is checked.

    iTunes Smart Playlists

  3. Now the playlist is created, but since we haven’t rated any of our songs yet, the playlist is empty. This is why we checked the “Live updating” checkbox. The songs will automatically be added to the playlist if they match the rules after the playlist is created. Otherwise, only songs matching the rules before the playlist was created would be added to it. (To rate a song, select File > Get Info from the menu bar (or press ⌘I) and select the Options tab. Change the rating in the “My Rating” box and click OK.)

  4. Now that we’ve rated some songs, they have been automatically added to the playlist, without us doing anything else.

    Top-rated songs appear in this playlist

The Smart Playlists appear above normal playlists in the sidebar. You’ll notice that the Smart Playlist icon is different from the normal playlist icon: It’s purple and it has a little gear on it.

Subscribe to our email newsletter

Sign up and get Macinstruct's tutorials delivered to your inbox. No spam, promise!

About    Privacy Policy    Terms and Conditions

© 2023. A Matt Cone project. CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. Made with 🌶️ in New Mexico.