Poll: What Do You Think of the New macOS Media Apps that Replace iTunes?

iTunes has been split into four apps in macOS Catalina: Music, TV, Podcasts, and Books, with syncing handled by the Finder.

What Do You Think of the New macOS Media Apps that Replace iTunes?
254 votes

Learn more about the new media apps that replace iTunes in macOS Catalina in my new book, Take Control of macOS Media Apps.

Bug or Feature? Screen Time on macOS Catalina Isn’t Reporting Actual App Usage

Screen Time is a feature that Apple added to iOS 12, which allows you to keep track of how much time you spend on each app you use, how many times you wake up your iOS device, and how many notifications you receive. This data can help you cut down on your device usage, and you can use Screen Time to set limits for your kids.

Screen Time was also added to macOS Catalina, with the same features. However, it doesn’t seem to work correctly. Rather than showing which apps are frontmost when you work, it shows how long apps are open:

Screen time 1

I keep a number of apps open all the time: Mail, Messages, Fantastical, Omni Focus, Music, and a few others. So counting them as actual “screen time” makes no sense.

In the above example, all these apps were open all day – obviously, the Finder is always “open” – so the data is essentially useless. Is this a bug or a feature? I would think that Screen Time should only record that time when apps are frontmost.

Screen Time also records “Pickups.” While this makes sense for an iOS device – how many times you picked up your iPhone and woke it up – it really makes little sense on the Mac. A pickup on the Mac is the number of times you woke the device from sleep, or restarted it.

Screen time 2

And the apps listed in the lower pane are supposed to be the first app that you used when you awakened the Mac, but seem to be just the frontmost apps when the Mac is awakened. So if I put my Mac to sleep with Safari frontmost, when I wake it up, it will be counted as a pickup. On iOS this makes sense, because when you wake up your iOS device, you are on the home screen, so you have to actively choose which app you are going to use. Also, it doesn’t seem to be reliably updating on the Mac; right now, I’ve put my Mac to sleep a couple of times yet when I awaken it, it doesn’t add to the number of pickups. And it’s not counting the System Preferences app, which I’ve used several times after waking up my Mac to view Screen Time.

Finally, it records notifications, as does iOS. While iOS notifications can be a disturbance, since they appear on the device when it’s not in use, this isn’t the case on the Mac. If the Mac is asleep, notifications won’t display; they will, however, if your screen is dimmed, or if a screen saver is active. In any case, is there any value to counting these notifications, especially here where I have Music set to notify me of track changes?

Screen time 3

While Screen Time is a useful feature, notably for setting limits for kids, its information isn’t very reliable. Say you have a child who has a game open in a window, or hidden, but isn’t playing; in the meantime, they’re working on their homework. All the time the app is running counts as usage time. There’s really no way to get any reliable information about which apps are really used.

And, for example, I might want to track my time using certain apps to bill clients, but with Screen Time, I’d have to remember to quit the apps when I switch to another app, and that is somewhat futile, because I certainly won’t remember.

It’s worth pointing out that Many Tricks’ Time Sink does this quite efficiently: by app, but also by window, so you can easily record exactly what you’re doing, especially if you are billing clients by the time you spent working for them.

Intego Mac Podcast, Episode 105: Developing a Security Mindset

After a couple of news items, about Apple sending browsing data to Tencent in China, and a Google exec warning people to be wary of its smart home devices, we discuss Josh’s talk at the MacTech conference about developing a security mindset.

Check out the latest episode of The Intego Mac Podcast, which I co-host with Josh Long. We talk about Macs and iOS devices, and how to keep them secure.

New Book Now Available: Take Control of macOS Media Apps

Take Control of macOS Media Apps cover 768x994Are you bewildered with the new Catalina apps that replace iTunes? Befuddled by Apple Music? Do you want to customize the Music app sidebar? Wish you could organize your podcasts? Wondering what the difference is between loves and stars? In this book, I explain not only how Apple’s new media apps work, but how normal people can make the Music, TV, Podcasts, and Books apps do what they want.

In macOS 10.15 Catalina, Apple finally did away with iTunes. In its place are three new apps – Music, TV, and Podcasts – with audiobooks now handled by the Books app and syncing of mobile devices handled by the Finder. Where once iTunes was an all-purpose media hub, now you may use up to five apps to accomplish the same things. The new apps also add more features (while, sadly, removing a few things too).

Take Control of macOS Media Apps is your guide to this new, post-iTunes world. Kirk McElhearn, whose earlier books on iTunes 10, 11, and 12 collectively sold nearly 14,000 copies, is back with a new book that shows you how to manage your music, videos, podcasts, and audiobooks in Catalina.

Whether you just want to play your media, or you want to go deeper with special features like Genius, Shuffle, Up Next, Apple Music, and iTunes Match, this comprehensive guide has the answers you need.

Kirk also looks at various ways of bringing audio and video into Apple’s media apps, tagging songs and videos so you can find them more easily later, creating playlists, sharing your library over a home network, and syncing media with your iPhone, iPad, or iPod.

Get Take Control of macOS Media Apps from the Take Control Books website.

Note: This book covers Apple’s media apps in macOS Catalina exclusively. It does not cover iTunes for Windows; the Music/TV/Podcasts/Books apps for iOS and iPadOS, or iTunes running in earlier versions of macOS.

When Apple Music Matches Its Own Music Incorrectly

Since the early days of iTunes Match, and then later with Apple Music and iCloud Music Library – now called simply Cloud Music Library – there have been issues with tracks added to your library not matching correctly. Here is one example from 2015, when I added a big collection of music by Frank Sinatra to find that it matched as eight different albums.

I recently added a new collection of music by Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark called Souvenir. Looking in the Recently Added section of the Music app, I see this:

Omd souvenir

Night Café contains one track, The Punishment of Luxury contains 13 tracks (including the first track twice), and the other edition of the same album contains two tracks.

What apparently happens when you add music from Apple Music to your library is that it then gets matched; in other words, it gets added from the cloud, then the Music app tries to match it. Even though the metadata on the original album is correct, the matching process, which uses acoustic fingerprinting, re-matches tracks with different albums. In some cases, these are the original albums, in others, different collections.

But this doesn’t make sense. Since I haven’t downloaded those tracks yet, why are they being matched again? And why incorrectly? As Apple Music tracks – this information is in the files – why would anything change which albums they come from?

This is one of the more frustrating issues with Apple’s music could, because you simply cannot trust it to match your music correctly. The fact that it happens to Apple Music tracks is really quite odd, because those tracks should never change. This is one of the reasons why I still refuse to put my personal music library, which is carefully and precisely tagged, in the cloud. I use my second Mac to store my cloud library, and add some music from the main library on my iMac. The fact that Apple consistently makes this kind of mistake befuddles me.

The iPad is an ergonomic disaster for traditional computing work, and needs full pointer support right now – Revert to Saved

“From day one, the iPad to me never felt like a device purely for consumption. As half the tech industry fell over itself to claim you could ‘never do real work on an iPad’, I saw everyone from artists to technicians doing real work on an iPad. What people really meant was that the iPad didn’t have a full version of Microsoft Word, because that is the only ‘real work’ in the whole world. Or something.

That said, I’ve always wanted to do more work on an iPad than I actually do. The big blocker for me has always been interaction. Simply put, the iPad is an ergonomic disaster for long-term ‘traditional’ work.”

I’ve been thinking about this recently, especially because of the many problems in macOS Catalina. I’m suffering from tech fatigue lately: I’m tired of having to troubleshoot so many problems. My iMac, since I upgraded it to Catalina, is very unstable. I still can’t use CarPlay in my car because something in iOS 13 broke it (or because there’s corruption in my iCloud account; I’m waiting for Apple to get back to me). It seems that every day, there’s a problem with an app, with authorizations to access files on the Mac, with some hardware device not being compatible.

The iPad is the ultimate thin client, and it eliminates a lot of these headaches. I have friends who lament the iOSification of macOS, but I look forward to things working more smoothly. It’s not that iOS is perfect, but that its limits make it a lot easier to work with.

But as this article says, the iPad is not ergonomic. I’d been considering getting Apple’s smart keyboard folio for my 11″ iPad Pro, but at £179, it’s really overpriced, and the position of the device isn’t ideal. What I want in a keyboard for an iPad is the ability to place the device in portrait mode. This is possible with this Logitech keyboard, but a friend who has many keyboards says that the touch isn’t right. It’s not expensive, so I may try it anyway.

But Apple needs to consider the longer term use case of the iPad. Not everyone will be able to work with it handheld, and placing it flat on a desk is very bad ergonomics. I’m not sure what the solution is – it’s certainly not in making bigger iPads – but Apple would do well to try to solve this.

Source: The iPad is an ergonomic disaster for traditional computing work, and needs full pointer support right now | Revert to Saved: A blog about design, gaming and technology

Use Half-Star Ratings in macOS Catalina’s Music App

The macOS Catalina Music app, which replaces music functionality from iTunes, offers two ways of rating your music: you can either use stars or “loves.” The latter binary option suits people who only want to flag their favorites, but the five-level option for stars is for those who like more granular judgments of their content.

You can go further; you can use half-star ratings as well. To do so, open the Terminal app in Catalina (it’s in /Applications/Utilities), paste this, then press Return.

defaults write com.apple.Music allow-half-stars -bool TRUE

You can then apply half-star ratings by carefully clicking on the stars when visible. If you click on the left side of a star, that counts as a half star; if you click on the right side of a star, that gets recorded as a full star.

If you want to turn this off, run the following command in Terminal:

defaults write com.apple.Music allow-half-stars -bool FALSE


Learn more about the new media apps that replace iTunes in macOS Catalina in my new book, Take Control of macOS Media Apps.

The PhotoActive Podcast, Episode 53: Focus Stacking

You can control depth of field in a photo using narrow apertures, but what do you do when that’s not enough to get everything in focus? For macro and some landscape photography, the answer is focus stacking, a technique that blends several images shot at different focal lengths. Kirk and Jeff talk about how it works and when you’d want to use it.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at the PhotoActive website. You can follow The PhotoActive on Twitter at @PhotoActiveCast to keep up to date with new episodes, and join our Facebook group to chat with other listeners and participate in photo challenges and more.