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iTunes Album Art Not Syncing to iOS Devices: Album Art Size Could be Limiting Factor

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A reader wrote to me the other day with an intriguing question: why was some of his album art not syncing to his iOS devices? He had ripped John Eliot Gardiner’s Bach cantatas pilgrimage CDs in Apple Lossless format, and scanned all the covers at 600 pixels. Yet none of these covers showed up on his iOS devices. However, all his other music displayed album art on iOS devices.

I asked him to send me one of the files, and I found that he had actually added album art at 2900 pixels wide; perhaps he had set the scanner for 600 dpi, and not resized the images to 600 pixels. When I added the track to my iTunes library and synced it to my iPhone, the album art didn’t display.

So, I set out to do some testing. I tried changing the size of the album art to see if that had an effect; sure enough, it did. I did some more testing, using the same track and the same album art. I tried at different sizes, to see where the cut-off would be. I named each file with the pixel size of the artwork, and the size of the graphic file that I was adding.

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It turned out that the files up to 2200 pixels displayed album art; the 2400 and 2900 pixel artwork did not display.

There are two possibilities; I need to do more testing to figure out which variable iTunes uses to decide whether to sync album art with music. It could be either the pixel size, or the graphic file size. In other words, it’s possible that iTunes has a limit of 2200 (or up to 2399) pixels, or that the limit is 10 MB (or up to just under 12 MB). My guess is that it’s the latter; I don’t think iTunes can calculate the pixel size of an embedded image, but it probably can figure out how much space it takes up. The 10 MB file size was rounded up; I think the actual file was 9.8 MB.

Finder001.pngIt makes sense that iTunes would strip album art if it’s very large when syncing to an iOS device. You might accidentally add a huge file as album art for an album, much larger than the size of the music file itself. (That was the case with the original file I received from my reader; the music file was around 5 MB.) To save space on an iOS device, iTunes may simply strip it. It would be nice, however, if iTunes could tell users when this happens.

So if you’re having problems with iOS devices not displaying album art for specific tracks or albums, select one of these files in iTunes, press Command-I, then click the Artwork tab. Drag the artwork to the Finder, then select it and press Command-I. The info window will show you the file size and the pixel size of the artwork, as you can see in the screenshot to the left.

If the artwork is larger than the sizes I mentioned above, try reducing it to see if it still doesn’t display. I don’t guarantee that my limited test will work all the time; in fact, if it doesn’t work for you, post a comment.

Update: French website iGen did some tests, and found that the limit is around 10 MB for the album art file. They found that pixel size didn’t matter, but they also found that a graphic of 10.3 MB was synced, and another of 10.1 MB didn’t sync. My guess is that those are the Finder sizes, and include the amount of space taken up by thumbnails; it looks like the limit is around 10 MB per file.

The iTunes Guy Looks at Inconsistent Buttons, Faulty Gapless Playback and Home Videos

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itunesguy-thum-100004188-gallery.jpgiTunes has many quirks and inconstancies. In this week’s column, I look at a few of them. Why do Next and Previous buttons display only sometimes when you view track tags? Why does iTunes funnel videos into the Home Videos category? And why isn’t gapless playback working on iOS devices running iTunes Match?

Read this week’s Ask the iTunes Guy.

iTunes 11.3 Brings iTunes Extras for HD Movies

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HT6307--extrasbadge--en.pngApple has released iTunes 11.3, whose main new feature is iTunes Extras for HD Movies.

iTunes 11.3 includes all-new iTunes Extras for HD movies. iTunes Extras can include behind-the-scenes videos, short films, high-resolution image galleries, director’s commentary, scenes, and more. These immersive iTunes Extras can also be enjoyed on Apple TV with Software Update 6.2 now, and will be available on iOS 8 this fall.

New iTunes Extras will be automatically added to your previously purchased HD movies as they become available – at no additional charge.

It’s interesting that these will be available for free, and added to movies you’ve already purchased. It’s not sure how you’ll know, though. If you have iTunes in the Cloud turned on – which I don’t recommend, because iTunes will change the tags of some of your music files – perhaps they’ll just show up in your library. Otherwise, you may need to go to your Purchased page in the iTunes Store to see them.

Apple has also announced that iTunes Extras will be playable on iOS, with iOS 8, and on the Apple TV, with the latest version of its software, 6.2, which was released in late June.

iTunes Extras are odd. It was clear that they are intended to replace the bonus features on DVDs and Blu-Ray discs, but the fact that you couldn’t previously play them on an Apple TV was inexplicable.

So head to the App Store app, or to Apple’s iTunes Download page and grab the latest version.

Update: You’ll see an iTunes Extras badge next to your movies in iTunes:

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iWant: Badges on iTunes Playlists Showing How Many Items They Contain

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When you look at your iTunes library, you can instantly see how many items are in each library: Music, Movies, Podcasts, etc.

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I wish iTunes could do the same thing for playlists. Instead of showing playlists just by name, they could append tags to the right of them, like this:

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It could be useful sometimes to be able to see, at a glance, how many items a playlist contains, for both smart and regular playlists.

It’s not a big deal, but for some iTunes users, it could help manage a large library.

How to Add Liner Notes to iTunes

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iTunes can store PDF “digital booklets,” or liner notes. You may get some of these when you purchase albums from the iTunes Store, but if you download music from other sites, and get liner notes, you need to add them to your iTunes library.

It can be a bit tricky, though, since dragging them to your iTunes library doesn’t add them in the right place. Here’s how you can add PDFs of liner notes to your iTunes library, and store them with their albums.

I recently downloaded a new recording of Handel keyboard suites, played by Danny Driver, from Hyperion Records. Hyperion includes both PDFs and ePubs of their liner notes with their downloads; I keep the PDFs. You can see some of the files, with the PDF at the top of the window:

Handel The Eight Great Suites.png

I find it easiest to work with a “Temp” playlist in iTunes. I drag my tracks into that playlist, then I can tag them easily. So here’s what I see when I drag that album, and the digital booklet, into iTunes:

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You can see the digital booklet at the top of the list. Select all the tracks, press Command-I, then apply the same album name to them; the digital booklet has no tags other than its name. Change any other tags you want at the same time.

You’ll see that the digital booklet shows up with the album:

Ember 2.png

If you select the digital booklet, then press Command-I, you’ll see its tags:

Handel The Eight Great Suites 2.png

That’s all there is to it.

Note: sometimes, I’ve found that the digital booklets don’t stay with albums. In that case, select the booklet, press Command-I, and check the tags; in some cases, iTunes seems to lose them.

iTunes Match, Play Counts and Last Played Dates: It’s a Jungle Out There!

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how_it_works.jpgOne of the promises of iTunes Match is that you can access your iTunes library from the cloud, and listen to all of your music on any computer or iOS device that’s linked to your iTunes account. For many users, this works fine, because they simply want to play random songs, or choose specific albums to listen to. But for those who create playlists – especially smart playlists – this can be a huge headache.

It’s very common to create smart playlists based on criteria such as how many times one has listened to specific tracks (play counts), or how recently (last played dates). iTunes Match should sync this information across devices, but it is unreliable.

I can create a contact on my Mac and see it appear on my iPhone in seconds, but when I play a track on my iPod Touch (using iTunes Match), the play count and last played date aren’t synced to my iTunes library. It doesn’t seem that hard to do, yet this feature is fraught with problems. There are many long threads on Apple’s support forums — here’s one that’s currently 31 pages long – about users trying to get this to work.

Some users see this information sync; for others it rarely works. Some see it sync in 12 hours, for others it may take days. For some people, it worked reliably for a while, then stopped at a certain time, often on a date when an iTunes or iOS update was released.

One suggestion on the Apple forum is:

The last time we dissected this here, it looked like it was taking playing a song to completion 12 hours after the start of the last listening session, and then all songs played in that 12 hour window would be updated.

Users shouldn’t have to mess with something like this; it should be transparent, and, ideally, automatic. We shouldn’t have to set reminders to play a full song to get this to work.

I’ve written how I feel that Apple has neglected iTunes Match. In that article, I concluded:

For a service that should “just work,” iTunes Match has disappointed many who hoped that their music would be transparently matched and synced. iTunes Match seems like another neglected Apple service. While it’s only $25 a year, iTunes Match should work a lot better than it does.

Perhaps the company has given up on it, now that an Apple streaming service may be in the cards. It’s a shame that something as simple as recording what you’ve listened to and when is too difficult for Apple to get right.

The iTunes Guy Finds Out Why iTunes Changes Your Tags, and More

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itunesguylarg-100001724-gallery.jpgIf it’s every-other-Friday, then it’s iTunes Guy time again. In this week’s column, I look at three persnickety questions. Why on earth does iTunes sometimes change the tags of content in your library? Can you back up your iOS devices to a different folder than the default location? And if you accidentally delete all your movies, how can you get them back? Read on to discover the answers to these three questions.

Read this week’s Ask the iTunes Guy column on Macworld.

The iTunes Guy Looks at Match, Car Stereos and Queuing Playlists

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itunesguy-thum-100004188-gallery.jpgIn my latest Ask the iTunes Guy column for Macworld, I examine an iTunes Match problem that happens to some people, where their music isn’t available from a Mac. I also look at two questions which can be resolved using AppleScripts: One about queueing playlists, and another about exporting playlists to listen to on a USB stick connected to a car stereo.

Read this week’s Ask the iTunes Guy.