Apple released iTunes 11.2 yesterday, and this includes a number of changes to podcast management. Unfortunately, my Take Control of iTunes 11: The FAQ was just updated, so the information in this post is not in the book. (The perils of writing about technology…) So if you have my book, this post will tell you what’s new.
Unplayed Episodes: This isn’t new, because iTunes already had an Unplayed tab. The difference is the tab is now called All Unplayed, and it shows all unplayed episodes, even if they are unchecked. I check and uncheck podcast episodes according to what I want to sync to my Mac, and before this update, the Unplayed tab only showed unplayed checked episodes, and now it shows them all. (I check and uncheck episodes to sync a smart playlist to my iPhone. It’s conditions are: Media Kind is Podcast, and Kind Does Not Contain MPEG-4 Video File. I then check Match Only Checked Items.)
Access the Feed: You can now play podcasts without having to download them. Just double-click a podcast episode in any of the views, even if the cloud icon shows that it’s not on your Mac. It will start streaming. This is a good way to listen and not have to worry about downloading.
If you’re in List view, you can choose to show just a feed of the podcasts you’ve subscribed to:
If you’re in My Podcasts view, you can choose to view Unplayed, Feed or Saved:
If you only listen to podcasts on your Mac, you don’t ever need to download them (unless you want to save them; see below). The same is true for iOS: with the update to the Podcasts app, which reproduces iTunes’ behavior, you can choose to only stream podcasts, rather than download them. So using the feed may be a better solution for you. Just double-click the ones you want to listen to, and ignore the rest.
Saved Episodes: You can now save episodes. This isn’t new, but it’s become more automatic. When you update iTunes 11.2, it automatically marks any episodes you’ve downloaded as saved. To save new episodes, right-click on one, then choose Save Episode. This makes it much easier to maintain a podcast archive, while having iTunes automatically delete those episodes you don’t want to keep. (That’s next…)
Delete Played Episodes: iTunes was supposed to be able to delete played episodes in the past, but it didn’t work well. It’s too soon to say how it will work here. But you can set any podcast to delete episodes you’ve listened to. In My Podcasts, select a podcast, then click the gear icon next to its name.
If you turn on Delete Played Episodes, this should automatically delete them, 24 hours after they have been played. As you can see, there are other settings, such as whether or not iTunes should download episodes, and Limit Episodes, which lets you determine how many episodes should be on your Mac. This can be the most recent episode, several recent episodes, all those from the past week or month, or off.
So far, this looks like a more intelligent way to manage podcasts. You can stream them when you want to listen to them, instead of downloading them in advance. You could do that before from the iTunes Store – and you still can, if you search for a podcast and play it from its Store page – but this makes it simpler. You can save episodes if you want; just make sure to remember to do so. The only thing I don’t like is the way All Unplayed also shows unchecked episodes; I used checking and unchecking to determine what I sync to my iPhone, and it’s easier to see a list of checked podcasts.
So, if you’re a podcast listener, what do you think about the changes to iTunes? Have you encountered any problems?