Music vs iTunes

This isn’t the royal “Music”, but Apple’s “replacement” for the software package called iTunes, which still persists on Windows, but has been cleaved into smaller bits in versions of Apple’s macOS with the release of 10.15, aka Catalina.

While Music looks very similar to iTunes, it does do things a bit differently, and with some surprises. I’m getting a little rusty remembering all of the things I disliked about the transition, but here goes.

Filtering your tracks with the Search bar doesn’t quite work how it used to. In the past, the Search field was in the top right of the iTunes window. It moved to the top left, and searches all, but the results aren’t a filter like they used to be, but more like a web search with results not necessarily in the format desired. Thankfully I got a tip from Rusty at SomaFM about turning on a filter search, which again goes in the top right, but only stays active briefly. Look for it under View > Show Filter Field. Handy.

Adding or managing your devices is now in Finder, believe it or now, and that’s OK. I was scratching my head at first, but realized that my iPad Pro was mounted in the sidebar of the Finder window, and when I clicked on it I was greeted with a very familiar interface last seen in iTunes. Playlist management is what I usually do here, adding and removing them week on week.

Library management can be a little tricky as well, if you’re used to storing it on another drive like I do. I prefer to have everything on something not tied to the computer, so if there’s an OS issue it’s unlikely to affect my music. This, and with a large library, SSDs are easier to plug in than to upgrade internally with some devices. My current storage solution is an external T5 Samsung 1TB SSD. It has been a RAID1 4TB external setup in the past, but performance wasn’t as good as it should have been.

A recent scare with regards to the library had me running around in circles trying to figure out what was going on. Music had not been adding recent files to my preferred disk for some reason, and a quick check in Preferences showed that the Media location had changed. I struggled to get things working right until Rusty gave me a clue about a change that had been made. iTunes used to have a file called iTunes Library.itl which is just an XML file with metadata, like the file’s location. Music moved this to a different location called Music Library.musiclibrary. No, really. You can open this with Show Package Contents and see the files inside that will look more familiar to those who’ve seen what iTunes did in the past.

As part of that exercise in frustration, which was ultimately successful, I found out that macOS gets very clever when keeping track of where music is moved to and from. Those tracks I’d wanted to add to my external Media disk were eventually just copied to the SSD, in a different folder, with the folder on the local machine being put in the macOS trash and emptied. Music just figured out where the files were and resolved the location of the files without my pointing there. Kinda neat, if a bit of a head scratcher.

So, Music isn’t the end of the road for those of us with big or huge music libraries to manage. It still supports Smart Playlists and all of the querying capabilities and filtering we’re used to. Devices are still supported. Yeah, it reset all of the playlist column preferences, of which I have hundreds, but those are easy to fix.

One of these days I might even run the current version of macOS and not be two versions behind, but not today. Not today. I miss Snow Leopard.