iWish: Multiple iTunes Libraries

The success of the iPod is creating new problems for many iPod and iTunes users. If you are a multi-iPod family, which is becoming increasingly common, you can no longer simply connect an iPod to your computer and sync your music automatically. If you have multiple iPods, you need to jump through some hoops to manage them. You can either create separate user accounts, each with its unique iTunes library, but end up with duplicate songs and waste space, or you can set one iPod to sync automatically, and the other(s) manually, which requires you to choose which music you want to put on the manually-synced iPods.

There is, of course, a solution to this, and Apple would be wise to introduce such a feature in iTunes: multiple libraries.With multiple libraries, iTunes would be able to manage different selections of music from the same set of song files. Say, for example, I want to have my 40 GB iPod copy all of my music. (Well, in my case it’s not all my music, since I have enough to put on three iPods…) I create one library, containing only the music I want to put on that iPod, and link the iPod to that library. iTunes should allow the creation of separate, named libraries, and the iTunes preferences should allow you to choose which library gets synced to each iPod.

I have one 40 GB iPod for classical music, and another for the rest of my music (jazz, rock, audiobooks, jam bands, etc.). So I’d create one library for my classical music and another for all the rest; when connecting each iPod, iTunes would be able to sync its music easily.

And if I then want to sync music to my iPod shuffle, without the Autofill feature or creating a special playlist for my shuffle, I’d simply switch to the library I set up for that iPod, and let it sync automatically.

Now, this scenario is rare – not that many people have several iPods for themselves, but it is common to have multiple iPods in a family. So each family member could create a library in iTunes, without having a separate user account (which most families don’t use anyway), allowing them to easily manage all the music they want. Husbands and wives could have their own libraries, each using only the music they like. And kids could also have their own libraries, syncing easily when they want to.

There are two advantages to this: the first is obviously the easier syncing of music from a single computer to multiple iPods. But the second is just as important: using a single set of music makes it much easier to back up all the music at once, and avoids having doubles in different user accounts.

Apple is always striving to make their software easier to use and more practical, and this is a feature that would be a boon to many iPod users. Let’s hope we see it soon.

26 thoughts on “iWish: Multiple iTunes Libraries

  1. You might use different Smart Playlists set to sync to each iPod. That’s how I
    would do it (and if I get an iPod Shuffle, probably will).

    • Yes, you’ve pulled the rug out on my iPod shuffle article. 🙂

      The problem, though, is that while this works for a shuffle, it wouldn’t work if
      you have 2 iPods with 40 GB each.

      • In your example, you could use the genre field to limit one iPod’s playlist to
        classical, and the other to non-classical.

        It does get tricky when you have two people with overlapping musical tastes
        who each want their own set of ratings, etc; that definitely would benefit from
        a way to store multiple sets of the library metadata pointing to the same
        copies of the actual music.

        • Well, yes and no. I’ve got about 40 GB of classical music (actually 120 GB, but
          only 40 GB in the library) and as much of other musics. Since I have multiple
          playlists on the non-classical iPod, that rules out the use of this strategy.
          Also, my classical music is on an external HD, for space reasons.

  2. You might use different Smart Playlists set to sync to each iPod. That’s how I
    would do it (and if I get an iPod Shuffle, probably will).

    • Yes, you’ve pulled the rug out on my iPod shuffle article. 🙂

      The problem, though, is that while this works for a shuffle, it wouldn’t work if
      you have 2 iPods with 40 GB each.

      • In your example, you could use the genre field to limit one iPod’s playlist to
        classical, and the other to non-classical.

        It does get tricky when you have two people with overlapping musical tastes
        who each want their own set of ratings, etc; that definitely would benefit from
        a way to store multiple sets of the library metadata pointing to the same
        copies of the actual music.

        • Well, yes and no. I’ve got about 40 GB of classical music (actually 120 GB, but
          only 40 GB in the library) and as much of other musics. Since I have multiple
          playlists on the non-classical iPod, that rules out the use of this strategy.
          Also, my classical music is on an external HD, for space reasons.

  3. I would also like this, but not for the iPod reasons. I have a LOT of audio in
    iTunes, including comedy and adult songs that I don’t want my kids to hear. I
    would like multiple libraries that I could "load" into iTunes depending on
    different factors, such as random play for "kid safe" music (so, for instance,
    Prince’s Erotic City does not play around my kids, while I myself may want to
    hear it on Random with the headphones on)

    Tim
    http://www.mymac.com

    • Yes, this would be a good thing. But I think a better option would be a
      checkbox for Do not add to shuffle play. You should be able to exclude tracks
      you don’t want to come up when you use shuffle play on an iPod. That would
      keep out MP3 audiobooks and radio shows I have, for example, as well as
      specific tracks that just don’t work in shuffle mode.

  4. I would also like this, but not for the iPod reasons. I have a LOT of audio in
    iTunes, including comedy and adult songs that I don’t want my kids to hear. I
    would like multiple libraries that I could "load" into iTunes depending on
    different factors, such as random play for "kid safe" music (so, for instance,
    Prince’s Erotic City does not play around my kids, while I myself may want to
    hear it on Random with the headphones on)

    Tim
    http://www.mymac.com

    • Yes, this would be a good thing. But I think a better option would be a
      checkbox for Do not add to shuffle play. You should be able to exclude tracks
      you don’t want to come up when you use shuffle play on an iPod. That would
      keep out MP3 audiobooks and radio shows I have, for example, as well as
      specific tracks that just don’t work in shuffle mode.

    • Well, since I wrote the story, iTunes added multiple libraries, so that’s clearly the
      best way to do so now.

      Kirk

      • Just bought a new iPod nano for my wife (I have 4G 60Gb) and she wants to add all her Abba, Spandau Ballet etc to iTunes. We only use the one user account, so I don’t want her choice of music in ‘my’ library – where is this multiple library feature you refer to as I can’t find it?
        I know that I’m a music fascist – but I am!!!

        • If you’re using a Mac, hold down the Option key when launching iTunes – you
          can then either create a new library or choose the one you want to open if there
          are several. If you’re on Windows, hold down the Shift key.

    • Well, since I wrote the story, iTunes added multiple libraries, so that’s clearly the
      best way to do so now.

      Kirk

      • Just bought a new iPod nano for my wife (I have 4G 60Gb) and she wants to add all her Abba, Spandau Ballet etc to iTunes. We only use the one user account, so I don’t want her choice of music in ‘my’ library – where is this multiple library feature you refer to as I can’t find it?
        I know that I’m a music fascist – but I am!!!

        • If you’re using a Mac, hold down the Option key when launching iTunes – you
          can then either create a new library or choose the one you want to open if there
          are several. If you’re on Windows, hold down the Shift key.

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