The macOS Now Playing Music Widget Could Do So Much More…

With the new media apps in macOS, one thing I miss is the ability to use a system-wide controller to play and pause music, to skip tracks, and to change volume. There used to be a lot of these, and for many years I used Sizzling Keys, which has been “retired.”

The Now Playing widget in Notification Center’s Today View is a partial replacement, but it only offers limited features. You can pause or play music, skip ahead and back, and drag a playhead, but nothing more.

Now playing

It seems that this widget could easily be improved, at least adding a volume control, or, perhaps, add an Up Next button, like in the MiniPlayer, and allow users to rate/love music as well. (The MiniPlayer’s volume control is behind the AirPlay icon; you can adjust the volume for each device where you are streaming music, or for playback on your computer.)

Mini player

And, no, I don’t want the MiniPlayer visible all the time; with Notification Center, I can just use a hot corner to display it. I have the top-right corner set so when I move my cursor there Notification Center displays.

It’s possible that adding an Up Next button, and the list it displays, wouldn’t work in this location, which is designed for static elements, but there could be at least a volume control in the Now Playing widget. Because when you’re playing music other than through your Mac’s speakers, the volume keys on the keyboard don’t affect music playback.

macOS Music App Brings Back the Column Browser

Apple has released macOS 10.15.2, and one of the big features in the Music app is the return of the column browser. As I wrote back in August, the loss of the column browser was devastating. It was the best way to navigate large libraries, and without it, it was painful to choose music.

Go to System Preferences > Software Update and get the latest version of macOS. Then, in the Music app, go into Songs view and press Command-B to display the column browser.

This update also fixes the issue where the iTunes Remote app on iOS didn’t work with the Music app.

Thanks, Apple.

The Next Track, Episode #162 – Apple’s New Improved macOS Media Apps

Doug and Kirk spend a half hour or so discussing Apple’s new apps that replace iTunes on the Mac. They rant, they praise, they shrug, they laugh, and they reminisce on what was, while imaging what could have been. It was a very good year.

Find out more at The Next Track website, or follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast.

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.

[yop_poll id=”1″]


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

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.

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.

Where the Catalina Music App Stores Album Artwork

When I updated my iMac to Catalina yesterday, I watched as the Music app slowly display album artwork. I have about 4,000 albums in my library – this is all local music, I don’t use Cloud Music Library on this Mac – and it took a couple of hours for the Music app to go through all the files and display the artwork.

But I couldn’t find where it was stored. In the past, there was an Album Artwork folder in the /Music/iTunes folder in the home folder. While that folder is still there – and isn’t needed any more – artwork is now stored in a different location.

But I couldn’t find it at first. I was looking for a folder around the same size; my Album Artwork folder was always around 4-5 GB. The new path for artwork is:

~/Library/Containers/com.apple.APMArtworkAgent/Data/Documents

For me, this folder is less than 1 GB, which is why I couldn’t find it previously. Interestingly, this folder no longer contains files with the extension .itc, which only a few apps could read, but the files are now the original .png or .jpg files that I added to my music files (or that came with purchases from the iTunes Store).


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

How to Export an XML File in the Music App in macOS Catalina

iTunes was long able to create an XML file, which was a readable dump of its library file, so the apps could access information about your library. This file was also useful to have as a backup; if your iTunes Library file got corrupted, loading the XML file could allow you to recover your library.

In the macOS Catalina Music app, you can no longer have this file created automatically, but you can create it manually. This can be useful if you’re a DJ and want to use it with software that hasn’t been updated to use the iTunesLibrary framework, or if you just want to have a backup of your library.

To do this, choose File > Library > Export Library, name the file, and save it.

Xml file

Again, there’s no way to automate this, but if you do need the file to use with a DJ app, you can just dump it before your set.


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

macOS Catalina and DJs: Yes, It’s a Problem, but There’s a Workaround, and Developers Can Solve It

A number of publications have been reporting about issues the macOS Catalina and DJ software. One example is this article in The Verge, which points out that the XML file – a readable version of the Music library file – is no longer generated automatically. (And lots of other publications picked this up without checking.) However, this article incorrectly states that it is not possible to generate this file manually. In the Music app, choose File > Library > Export Library, name the file, and save it.

Xml file

If necessary, a DJ can dump an XML file of their library before they begin a set and use it with existing software. Granted, it’s not as smooth a process, but it’s not rocket science.

DJs don’t use iTunes to play music, but they do use its powerful organizational tools to manage and find music, which is then played by specific apps for DJing. Those apps accessed the XML file simply to find the locations of files and play them; with the ability to dump an XML file, nothing much should change, other than the need to do this manually.

The Verge article says:

According to Apple, along with Catalina’s removal of iTunes, users are also losing XML file support as all native music playback on Macs moves over to the official Music app, which has a new library format. XML file support is a popular organizational feature for DJs who use it to sort tracks into playlists and utilize the “Share iTunes Library XML with other applications” option to seamlessly transmit data between apps.

I don’t know what “According to Apple” means; there’s no link, no any suggestion that this was an explicit statement. Because the library format is not new.

The big problem here is that developers, aware of this change since the initial beta release of macOS Catalina, have not done the necessary work to update their software. Apple provides an iTunesLibrary framework, available since iTunes 11, which allows developers to directly access the .itl file used to store information about the Music app’s library. Some developers of DJ apps have already made the transition. It’s not that hard to learn how to use this instead of using the XML file.

The Verge article frames this as Apple doing something bad, rather than a bunch of lazy developers not doing the essential work of supporting their apps.


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