Note: Since iTunes 12.5 has changed a lot of the settings and interface elements, I’ve written a new version of this article that is up to date for iTunes 12.5
iTunes is often criticized for having strayed from its initially intended use, that of playing music. Lots of people like to say that iTunes is bloated, but I disagree. If you’re not using the other features, they don’t get in your way.
But you may be irked by even seeing the features you don’t want to use. If you want to use iTunes just for playing music (and, perhaps, syncing iOS devices), then you can hide many of the unwanted features and turn it into a lean music-playing app. Here’s how.
Hide other media libraries
At the top left to the iTunes window, you see a number of icons for the various media libraries: Music, Movies, TV Shows, Apps, etc. You can hide any or all of these icons, with the exception of the Music icon.
To do this, click the button to the right of the media icons, and then click Edit. Uncheck the icons you don’t want to see, and then click Done. Note that if you want to use Home Sharing to load an iTunes library from another computer, you should leave Shared Libraries checked.
The button will remain visible, and you can, at any time, choose to display any of the other libraries. Hiding them does not affect their content, so you may have movies in your iTunes library, but simply not want to see the icon. (You may, for example, have an Apple TV that streams them.)
Hide the iTunes Store and Apple Music
Update: With the release of iTunes 12.3.3, this has changed slightly. There are now two options in Restrictions, which allow you to choose to block either Apple Music or Connect, or both. I’m leaving the rest of the post as it was before the update, for those who may not have updated yet.
You can hide the iTunes Store and Apple Music, freeing up the navigation bar at the top center of the iTunes window. To do this, choose iTunes > Preferences, and then click Restrictions. Check iTunes Store, and then click OK. You’ll see that this also hides the Connect button; you know, that Apple Music thing where you’re supposed to “interact” with artists, but that you’ve probably never looked at…
Turning off the iTunes Store also turns off Apple Music, and removes the Radio button from the navigation bar. This is odd, but I guess it makes sense: Apple Music is related to the iTunes Store, in the sense that it is a subscription service. However, it does not turn off Apple Music entirely.
Hide iCloud Music Library and Apple Music
When you turn off access to the iTunes Store, you also hide Apple Music, even though it is technically still turned on. You can turn off Apple Music and iCloud Music Library if you wish. You may want to use either or both of these features; in that case, skip this step. If you use iTunes Match, you need iCloud Music Library to be active.
If you want to turn off iCloud Music Library, choose iTunes > Preferences, and then click General. Uncheck iCloud Music Library. You’ll note that if you hide the iTunes Store, then, even if Apple Music is checked in these preferences, it won’t display. So you can leave this checked or not; it won’t change the way iTunes looks.
If you want to retain access to the iTunes Store, but hide Apple Music, then don’t turn off the iTunes Store in the Restrictions pane, and uncheck Apple Music in the General pane.
What minimal iTunes looks like
After making all of the above changes, here’s what iTunes looks like:
As you can see, with the Music library selected, there are only two buttons in the navigation bar: My Music and Playlists. The iTunes Store doesn’t get in the way, nor do the media buttons at the left.
So, if all you want to do is play music, and not have to worry about accidentally clicking any of the many buttons, this minimal iTunes layout may be exactly what you need.
Learn how to get the most out of iTunes with my ebook, Take Control of iTunes 12: