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iTunes 9.1 Brings iPad Compatibility and More

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As is commonplace whenever Apple releases a new iPod or iPhone OS device, the company has updated iTunes to support the new device, adding a bunch of small improvements at the same time.

Most important, iTunes 9.1 includes the capability to sync music, movies, and television shows to the iPad. Most of that is under the hood, of course, but iTunes 9.1 also changes the Advanced > Create Apple TV Version menu item to Create iPad or Apple TV Version; presumably it creates a version of a selected video file that's compatible with both the Apple TV and the iPad. Frankly, I'm wildly unimpressed with this interface; Apple should figure out how to do these conversions behind the scenes without bothering the user, as with the capability to convert song bit rates and photos. I realize the computation is far more intensive on the video side, but that's still a weak excuse for a bad interface.

iTunes 9.1 also adds the capability to organize and sync books that you've downloaded from the iBookstore through iBooks on your iPad, or that you've added directly to your iTunes library. The top-level Audiobooks item under Library in the sidebar has been renamed to just Books and now stores both audiobooks and EPUB books. (Although you can drag PDFs into iTunes, they won't appear in Books even if you set the genre metadata appropriately.) In the screenshot, I've imported EPUB versions of some of our Take Control books, and although they sync to an iPad, they can't be read in iTunes. (On disk, they're sorted into the Music folder by author, rather than appearing in a Books folder the way Movies, Podcasts, and TV Shows do.) A new Books tab that appears when you connect a device enables you to select which books will sync, though EPUB books currently don't sync to an iPhone or iPod touch.


The last change that Apple mentions is the capability to rename, rearrange, and remove Genius Mixes - an organizational godsend for those who like Genius Mixes but find them overly rigid. You can't restore a single deleted Genius Mix, but you can Control-click or right-click in the Genius Mix view and choose Restore All Genius Mixes to bring back those that you've deleted. Plus, next and previous track icons appear on the Genius Mix icon while it's playing, though there's still no way to see what songs it contains.

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But Apple failed to call out additional welcome changes. Most notable among these is iTunes 9.1's capability to convert higher bit-rate songs down to 128 Kbps AAC for syncing with an iPod, iPhone, or iPad. This feature will be most welcome for those who prefer to rip songs at high bit rates that consume more space than would be ideal on these space-constrained devices. Look for the "Convert higher bit rate songs to 128 Kbps AAC" checkbox in the Summary tab when your device is connected.


Other small changes - many of them in interface wording - abound. Chris Breen at Macworld has identified a number of them, including the addition of a Reset iTunes Store Cache option in the Advanced tab of the iTunes Preferences window. See his article for a full list.

Finally, while nearly all of iTunes 9.1's security content applies only to the Windows version, one fix does apply to Mac OS X, and resolves a seriously pesky bug: playing a maliciously crafted MP4 podcast could result in trapping iTunes in an infinite play-loop that persists even upon restarting the program.

iTunes 9.1 is a 93.6 MB download and is available for free via Software Update or the Apple Support Downloads page. It requires Mac OS X 10.4.11 or later.

 

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Comments about iTunes 9.1 Brings iPad Compatibility and More

Chris Pepper  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2010-03-31 19:17
You (and Breen) missed my favorite feature: you can now select folders of albums, rather than just individual albums, to sync to iPhones & Apple TVs (and presumably iPods and iPads).

I hope this means as I add monthly photo galleries to a folder, they will automatically be synched to all subscribing devices, rather than having to connect each device and manually check the album.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2010-04-01 07:06
Hey, that's very cool - thanks for catching and mentioning this; I'll work it into the article before the email issue.
Maintainer  2010-04-01 12:33
I wish you could choose a target bitrate. I'd much rather auto-downample to 256 or 192. I have a mongrel library that includes a bunch of lossless as well as +320 kpbs tracks. I wouldn't mind saving space by downsampling them, but I don't want to go as far down as 128.
Yes, I too wish for a customizable down-sample rate. For myself, I'd pick 160k or 192k in m4a, 192k mp3 as my targets, since I can hear artifacts in music down-sampled to lower rates. Perhaps next version? (I admit that, in the meanwhile, I've got a number of songs that have two copies in my iTunes: my original high bitrate rip I listen to from the computer, and the lower bitrate version that I have selected for my manual playlist sync to my portable(s).

For the 90+ MB size iTunes is getting to now, I'd hope for more user-choice customizability.

I think I will post this request to the Apple iTunes Feedback site.

Maintainer, I encourage you to do also :) - maybe Apple will hear us.
Tommy Weir  2010-04-03 15:33
If you've enabled Faces in Aperture (I presume the same applies for iPhoto) you can sync over the individual faces album in iTunes over to your portable device. So you can take your daughter's photos and have all of them sync over. :-)
Charlie S  2010-04-05 18:28
This version has taken away the ability to select all within Podcasts and mark all as played. It requires you to select only items that are new or the menu choice is gone.
Lou Judson  2010-04-05 19:10
Thanks for the informative article. Since I use Tiger on G4 and G5s and don't have an iphone, ipad, iTouch or anything like them, I now know I can skip this update and not have to deal with all the silly features you bleeding edgers seem to need. I'm jusy old fashioned and like my iPod classic and my Powerbooks... The only reason I got itunes 9 at all was because they made it impossible to use the store without it!
Grover  2010-04-07 08:09
I'm not sure I understand what you're suggesting Apple do about converting video for Apple TV and iPad use. If they handled it the way they handle photos and videos, syncing your iPad would take hours with just a few TV shows. If they converted everything ahead of time (say on import) to deal with that, your iTunes library would increase by an order of magnitude if you have any significant number of video titles.

Video is still relatively storage and processor intensive. Music and pictures are not. So while I agree there's some hassle involved, the limits of space and time actually seem like pretty good excuses to me.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2010-04-07 10:02
Let's see, off the top of my head... Apple could make the conversion a per-file option that was as simple as checking a box in the Info window or in the file list. Then, iTunes would convert the files in the background, hiding the fact that there's a second version from the user, and would present only converted files for syncing to the iPhone. Now you convert a file, then you have two seemingly identical ones to manage, and you have lots of things "available" for syncing that can't actually be copied to the iPhone.