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.

After iTunes: macOS Catalina and the New Media Apps

macOS Catalina was released yesterday, and users are starting to discover this new operating system. It has plenty of interesting features, but there’s one big change for people who use their Macs to manage and play media. iTunes has been replaced by four apps, each of which manages a specific type of content:

  • Music: This app, which retains the core features of iTunes, manages both a local music library and a library in the cloud. It also gives users access to Apple Music, which offers streaming of more than 50 million tracks. The Music app can also store and play back music videos.
  • TV: video management features in iTunes, the TV app lets users manage a local movie and TV show library, as well as providing storage for home videos (these can be videos of your family, as well as rips of DVDs you own). In addition, it is the gateway to Apple’s large offering of movies that you can buy or rent from the iTunes Store and Apple TV+, Apple’s forthcoming streaming service, which will offer original content starting in late 2019.
  • Podcasts: Just as iTunes managed podcasts, allowing you to find, subscribe to, download, and listen to episodes of your favorite podcasts, the Podcasts app does this, and nothing more.
  • Books: The Books app, which has existed for a few years to manage ebooks, has expanded its reach, and now manages audiobooks, which had previously been the purview of iTunes.

In addition, the interfaces of these apps have been simplified, though there are two distinct styles of interface. The Music app is fairly minimalist, with all navigation done from the sidebar, whereas iTunes 12 required a combination of the sidebar, the Media Picker (a pop-up menu above the sidebar), and a series of tabs at the top-center of the window, to navigate different types of content. The Podcasts app presents a similar stripped-down look, but the TV and Books app do have tabs at the tops of their windows to allow you to navigate between local content and that from the iTunes Store.

For while the iTunes name is gone on the Mac desktop, the iTunes Store still exists, and is broken up into content-specific stores in each app (with the exception of the Podcasts app, which features a podcast directory, but doesn’t call it part of the iTunes Store). And the iTunes Store is not going anywhere soon, for two reasons. First, because Apple has a lot of content to sell you; and, second, because Windows users are not seeing this split into four apps. For them, iTunes continues to function as before, and Apple has not said whether they are bringing these new apps to that platform.

There are other changes: features that have been removed or replaced.

But one of the biggest changes is that the locations where media files are stored has changed. This is especially important for people with large libraries, notably with lots of podcasts and audiobooks. These latter types of content are stored on your startup disk, inside you home folder, and it’s not easy to move them to an external drive.

So, before you upgrade to macOS Catalina, if your media is important to you, read the articles linked above so you know what’s changed before you take the leap.


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