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How to View Your Content in iTunes 12

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how to view content in iTunes 12

iTunes 12 sports a new design, and has changed the way you access your content. It can be a bit disconcerting at first, finding your way around and understanding how you can view content in iTunes 12, so we decided to take a close look at the various ways to view your music, movies, TV shows and more in iTunes 12.

Switching libraries

iTunes stores different types of content in different libraries: Music, Movies, Apps, Audiobooks and more. The first change in iTunes 12 is the way you access these libraries. At the top left of the iTunes window is a small navigation bar, displaying icons for each of the different content libraries. As you can see below, my Music library is selected; following that are icons for movies, TV shows, podcasts, audiobooks and apps. Click the … button to view a menu showing all available libraries; check the ones you want to display in the navigation bar. (The house icon at the left of the navigation section displays if you have turned on Home Sharing, for accessing other iTunes libraries on your network.)


View options

Once you’ve selected a library, you have a number of view options, and this can be confusing in iTunes 12. There are three places you need to look to adjust these options to suit the way you want to view your content. The first is the library navigation bar at the top-left of the iTunes window (or the View menu). The second is the central navigation bar, above your content. And the third is the View Options menu at the far right of the window. All three of these controls combine to create the different views you use with iTunes 12.

The central navigation bar gives you four options: My Music, Playlists, Radio and iTunes Store. (If you have an iTunes Match subscription, you’ll also see a Match button.) Radio takes you to iTunes Radio, and the iTunes Store takes you to where you expect. But My Music and Playlists let you view your Music library in different ways.

If you click My Music, you’ll see all your music, and you can refine the way it’s presented by clicking the View Options menu, at the top-right of the iTunes window. (You can also display this menu by choosing View > View Options, or by pressing Command-J.)

In the screenshot below, I’ve chosen to display my music by Albums, sorted by Artist, then by Title. You can choose to view music by Songs, Albums, Artists, Composers or Genres, and for each of these choices, you can choose from one or two sort options. You can also choose to Show Recently Added; this puts a section at the top of your library showing items you’ve added in the last month, 3 months, etc., according to your selection in that menu.


Remember the sidebar that was in previous versions of iTunes? There’s a way to get that back in iTunes 12: click Playlists. You’ll get a view like this:


You can then choose the way to display the rest of your content, just as above, but the display with the sidebar visible is different from the one without. When you click Playlists, it’s a new view, not just the same view with the sidebar visible. You could display your music by albums when the sidebar is not visible, and view it by Songs when you show the sidebar. This is a bit confusing at first, but take some time to figure out the best way to view your music, and whether on not it’s helpful to you to see the sidebar.

List views

You can choose to view any type of content in a list view. This is a more compact view, where each item—song, movie, TV show—shows up as a single line in a list. This is a great view when you want to see a lot of content, rather than, say, Albums view, where you only see one graphic for each album.

To view items in lists, go to the View Options menu, then choose Songs, if you’re viewing your Music library, or choose Movie List, TV Show List, etc., for other types of content.

Use the Column Browser

It’s not new in iTunes 12, but it’s good to know that you can use the Column Browser when viewing your music in Songs view, or other content in list views. This lets you browse music by genre, composer and/or artist, then album, for example, to find what you want to listen to.


To use the Column Browser, display your music in Songs view, then choose View > Column Browser > Show Column Browser. The Column Browser menu lets you display different columns for different types of content. For example, you can use it to view TV shows by Season, or other types of content by Category (the equivalent of genes for certain types of content).

Views for content other than music

I’ve mostly discussed music, but other types of content have view options that are more specific to their content. For example, for Movies or TV Shows, you can choose to view My Movies or My TV Shows, and you can also choose to view Unwatched content. Podcasts allow you to view all your podcasts, or podcast stations you’ve set up.

One more thing…

You may have noticed that the text in iTunes is a bit small. You can change both the list text and the sidebar text, but you need to go to two different places to do so.

To change the list text size, choose iTunes > Preferences, click General, and change the size in the List Size menu.

To change the sidebar text size, you need to change a system-wide setting. Open System Preferences, click General, and change the Sidebar Icon Size menu. This applies to iTunes, but also to the Finder, Mail, iPhoto and other Apple apps.

So, take some time to go through the many view options in iTunes 12. You’ll find the best ways to view your content, to make it easier to find, and easier to enjoy.

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About Kirk McElhearn

Kirk McElhearn writes about Apple products and more on his blog Kirkville. He is co-host of the Intego Mac Podcast, as well as several other podcasts, and is a regular contributor to The Mac Security Blog, TidBITS, and several other websites and publications. Kirk has written more than two dozen books, including Take Control books about Apple's media apps, Scrivener, and LaunchBar. Follow him on Twitter at @mcelhearn. View all posts by Kirk McElhearn →