Apple + How To

iTunes 12.4 Annoyances and How to Get Around Them

Posted on June 7th, 2016 by

iTunes 12.4 Annoyances

iTunes 12.4 has been out for a few of weeks now, with a subsequent update to iTunes 12.4.1 to restore the option to Reset Plays, and users are settling into its new way of navigating. Overall, the update is a step in the right direction (see my Macworld review of iTunes 12.4), but not everyone is happy with all the changes.

Some iTunes users have found that a feature they depended on is missing, or has been moved; others find that the new "simplified" navigation isn't as simple as they would like. Here's a look at some of the annoyances in iTunes 12.4, and how to get around them.

The Unwieldy Media Picker

The most visible change to iTunes 12.4 is what Apple calls the Media Picker. This menu at the top left of the iTunes window replaces a customizable row of icons that allows you to switch from one media library (Music, Movies, TV Shows, etc.) to another. Here's what the previous version of iTunes offered to select a media library:


And here's the new Media Picker:


Personally, I find the new approach an improvement. One problem I found with iTunes 12 was that there were just too many buttons. You had to click on the left to choose a media library, then click in the center to choose a sub-library, then click the menu at the right to adjust how you viewed the content (by album, artist, genre, etc.). Now, there's a single menu at the left, and view options are in the sidebar.

But some people have complained that what was before a single click to switch libraries now takes two clicks. If that extra click really bothers you, I offer an even better solution: use keyboard shortcuts.

If you check the View > Media Kind library, you'll see that there are keyboard shortcuts to quickly access the different media kinds. These aren't new; they've been in iTunes for a long time, but most people don't use them. With these shortcuts, any media library is just a keypress away; and for most people, it's even quicker to press a keyboard shortcut than click a button.

To go to your Music library, press Command-1 (Control-1 on Windows). For the Movies library, it's Command-2. For Podcasts, it's Command-4. And for Apps, it's Command-7.

The Unchangeable Recently Added View

Also new in iTunes 12.4 is a Recently Added entry in the sidebar. (The missing sidebar, by the way, has returned as the main control for viewing your content within a library.) This replaces Recently Added sections at the top of the various views, such as Artists, Albums, and Genres, for music, and the different views for Movies, TV Shows, and Podcasts.

The problem with this new Recently Added view is that you can't change it. You can't choose how far it goes back, or even how you view it. You can only see albums; not artists, genres, or songs. With a bit of work, however, you can create your own custom Recently Added views by setting up smart playlists.

Choose File > New > New Smart Playlist. iTunes selects the media kind you are currently viewing at the top of the playlist. So if you're in your Music library, it selects Music as the media kind for the playlist. Next, add a condition with Date Added is in the last n days, weeks, or months.


Click OK to save this playlist. You could name it, say, Recently Added Music, and when you access it, you can choose how to view it. Press Command-J to display the View Options window, or choose View > View As, to view the contents of this playlist by Albums, Artists, Genres, etc.

You could create one playlist for each media kind you want to view in this way, or you could change the topmost menu in the smart playlist dialog to "all media," so it shows all your recent media.

Podcasts had a particularly useful Recently Added section, where you could see episodes that had been updated today, this week, and this month. You can create multiple Recently Added smart playlists if you want this type of granular information; and for podcasts, it can be useful. You may want to see only those podcasts that have been updated in the past day, to see which of your favorite podcasts have new episodes.

The Displaced Show Duplicates Feature

iTunes has long had a Show Duplicate Items feature, which lets you find duplicate music, movies, TV shows, etc., in your library. I covered duplicates in iTunes, and on the Mac, in this recent article.

Apple moved the Show Duplicate Items feature; it is now in the File > Library menu. This isn't the only menu item that Apple has moved. A number of functions that were previously available from contextual menus have been moved to menu bar menus, which has made the contextual menus trimmer and easier to work with.

How to Find Other Features

If you're looking for a feature and can't find it, use the Help menu. Click Help, then type the term you're looking for into the Search field. Search results display menu items at the top, and Help topics below. Hover over one of the menu items, and iTunes (or any OS X app) shows exactly where that menu item is with a big blue arrow. For example, if you're looking for the Update Genius function, here's where it is now.


You may find this tip handy as you struggle to find your marks with iTunes 12.4.

This is just a selection of the changes to iTunes 12.4. I have compiled a long list of minor changes to iTunes 12.4 on my personal blog; check it out and see what else is missing, has been moved, or has been changed.

Do you like the new Media Picker or preferred if Apple kept the single click action to switch media libraries? Do you find it annoying that you cannot change the new Recently Added view? What other annoyances or problems have you encountered in the new iTunes 12.4? Leave a comment below and have your say.

About Kirk McElhearn

Kirk McElhearn writes about Macs, iPods, iTunes, books, music and more on his blog Kirkville. He is co-host of the Intego Mac Podcast, The Next Track, and PhotoActive, and a regular contributor to The Mac Security Blog, TidBITS, and several other websites and publications. Kirk has written more than twenty books, including Take Control books about iTunes, LaunchBar, and Scrivener. Follow him on Twitter at @mcelhearn. View all posts by Kirk McElhearn →
  • John Cooper

    This version of iTunes broke one of the features I find most personally important: the ability to create smart playlists based on song rating. In 12.4, songs that I haven’t rated are given a “hollow-star” rating based on songs from the same album that I have rated, and there’s no way to distinguish these hollow-star ratings from real ratings in a smart playlist. So my “Favorites” playlist, which is years old, suddenly included hundreds of songs I don’t like.

    I thought these hollow-star ratings might be connected to album ratings, which I also don’t use and which are also automatically assigned. So I got the bright idea of searching for albums with ratings and removing these ratings in Album view. Unfortunately, this had the effect of erasing all the song ratings for those albums as well—literally thousands of ratings I’d assigned over the years.

    No problem, I thought. I have TimeMachine and a weekly cloned backup, so I’ll restore an older iTunes library and will have only lost ratings for the past three days. However, I found that because I have Apple Music and iTunes Match, iTunes would always instantly replace the older library with the newer, broken one. I tried disconnecting from the network, making the replacement, and even “touching” the old library after restoration to give it a newer Date Modified, but this didn’t work either. So I’m now about a week into going through my 12,000 songs and restoring ratings to as many songs as I know by name. It’s tedious and will take me several weeks more. But it has the benefit of reminding me of lots of music I forgot I had.

  • Andy Nic

    Incredibly annoying iTunes gets worse and dumbs down with every update. 12.5 is the worst. Why can’t you edit view options in recently added but can in ‘songs’? I can’t stand those massive square album artwork, what was so wrong with the old ‘slider’ to change size?
    And when did genres lose the artwork for each?
    The only bright side is they lost that custom colours which used to give me headaches!

  • Melvin

    Since Steve Jobs is gone, Apple is following the Micro(Brain)soft mindset of calling things more “simple” by adding more and more unnecessary steps.

    Its as if the programmers are more interested with finding something new they can add – to impress their boss they are earning their pay – than to see (or care) if what they do is logical and efficient for the end user.

    The best software is intuitive. The goal of a programmer should be to make their work so no one needs to read a manual, and to streamline options down to the least amount of input/clicks needed from the user.

    Making options truly optional, instead of the default setting, is not only common sense, but makes things a lot less frustrating and wastes less time. But nowadays Apple’s unimpressive programmers are deciding their new ideas need to be default. Thank you, but I like defining my own set up and putting options into menus where they can be accessed IF WANTED. O hate to say it, but I am moving away from Apple software as the programs get dumbed down more and more. i went to Apple to escape the insanity of Micro(Brain)soft and now am starting to see the same lame mindset being used by Apple.

    iTunes is getting further and further away from being intuitive and more and more like the “memorize this many steps to do something that could have been done in one click” of Windows.

    Another thing I hate is that the program automatically assumes you want the new look and you have to go online to figure out how to go back to the old one.

    Options like columns to be shown are difficult to locate. When you finally figure out how to set which columns will appear or not, you cannot just check them all at one time. You have to click on the columns submenu to make it show you the column names, make your choice by clicking on the column name you desire, and then the submenu closes!

    To make another columns show/hide, you have to reopen the submenu again and click on the name of the column to show hide.

    So for every column show/hide change you want, you end up having to reopen the submenu!

    Just how lame can you get? I am so sick of Apple slowly degenerating into the Micro(brain)soft mindset.