With macOS Catalina, iTunes is gone once and for all. Music, videos, and podcasts have new apps, and the Finder now syncs and backs up devices. Here’s what you need to know in the post-iTunes world.
However, iTunes hasn’t completely disappeared — Apple will still offer the classic iTunes app for Windows PCs.
Music is now found in the Music app
macOS Catalina includes a new app called Music that uses an app icon very similar to the one iTunes once used. Here you can stream Apple Music, access previously purchased music, manage your local music library, and make new digital purchases from the iTunes store. You can also find the Apple Music Video Library here.
The Music app is very similar to iTunes, although it’s been streamlined and scaled down to focus solely on music. If you have an Apple Music subscription, the app should automatically populate with your iCloud Music Library if you’re signed into your Apple ID in System Preferences > Apple ID.
The Music app will not display the iTunes Store or your star ratings by default. You can turn these features back on by clicking Music > Preferences, then turning on iTunes Store and Star Ratings in the General tab. These settings are very similar to the ones you once found in iTunes, including the ability to specify local media folders in the Files tab.
Click on the quote icon in the top right corner of the screen to view lyrics where they are available. You can also click on the list icon next to it to see which songs will play next. Enter the old iTunes mini player by clicking the album art in the Now Playing box.
If other users have shared their library locally, you’ll see a small drop-down next to «Library» in the sidebar. Click on it to open other libraries you can link to.
How to share music on macOS Catalina
If there was anything iTunes got right, it was library sharing — an easy way to share your music library with the rest of your local network by checking the box. Luckily, you can still do this; you just need to enable it in your mac’s sharing settings:
Go to System Preferences > Sharing.
Click on Media Sharing and give your library a name, then check the «Share media with guests» option.
Click «Options» to set an additional password. You can also specify if you want to share specific playlists or your entire music library.
You can also turn on the Sharing feature here, which allows you to seamlessly share your library with other devices signed in with the same Apple ID.
Other apps that share iTunes XML data
iTunes is often preferred by DJs and other media professionals for its direct approach to organizing music. Many third-party apps have been designed with the iTunes library in mind, allowing DJs to use their music library in third-party apps.
Removing iTunes in favor of Music has caused problems for many. Sharing XML data is supported in Music, but many third-party apps have yet to be updated to accommodate this change. Apple recommends that anyone using apps like Traktor and Serato (which can use iTunes XML data) wait until the developers fix their apps.
For now, you can still use Music’s XML data in third-party applications, but you’ll have to manually export each playlist using the options in the File > Library menu (remembering to change «Format» to XML). Any changes you make will not be synced to your music library, so this is a temporary fix.
Device sync is now done by Finder
iPhone, iPad and iPod devices are now managed entirely by Finder. This includes syncing media files, manually updating iOS, restoring factory settings, and creating local backups. Apple has essentially just moved the controls once found in iTunes to the Finder.
To manage an iOS device in macOS Catalina:
Connect your iPhone or iPad to your Mac with a Lightning cable.
Unlock your device and tap Trust, then enter your passcode when prompted.
Open a Finder window and scroll down the sidebar until you see «Tim’s iPhone» (or whatever your iPhone is called).
Click on iPhone and click «Trust» then wait.
You should now see your iPhone in a Finder window and an array of tabs for managing device and media settings. Under the General tab, you can check the «Show this iPhone when connected to Wi-Fi» box to enable wireless sync (keep in mind that this is much slower than using a Lightning cable).
These controls are virtually identical to those found in iTunes prior to his retirement. Here you can backup your iPhone to your computer, ideal if you are switching from an old iPhone to a new one. If you want to manage your iOS device backups manually, you will still find them in the folder ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/ .
Click on each of the tabs to manage music, movies, TV shows, and other content that you can sync with your iOS device. The Files tab lets you upload and download files to your app directories, a feature formerly known as iTunes File Sharing. Use drag and drop to copy files to and from your mobile device.
Note. Apple maintains backward compatibility with earlier versions of iOS, so you can sync devices prior to iOS 13 using Catalina and Finder. However, if you’ve updated your iOS device to iOS 13, you’ll need to use Catalina to sync and manage your device (earlier versions of macOS won’t work).
Listen to podcasts in the New Podcasts app
The new podcasts app is now used to manage podcasts. It looks almost identical to the Music app, except that instead of music, you’ll find new episodes of your favorite podcasts. Any podcasts you wish to sync to your iPhone must be managed using the Finder.
You can use the Podcasts app to browse the Apple Podcasts library, subscribe to new shows, and see what’s popular by tapping Top Charts. Go to Podcasts > Preferences to set options such as how often the app checks for new content, when new episodes are downloaded, and whether to automatically delete played episodes.
Downloaded podcast episodes no longer appear in the iTunes Library folder and instead can be found hidden in ~/Library/Group Containers/243LU875E5.groups.com.apple.podcasts/Library/Cache .
Watch video content on the TV app
The latest new app is called TV, and despite the name, it’s home to all video content that you can buy, rent, or subscribe to. This includes everything you’ve previously purchased from iTunes, new movies to rent, and the upcoming Apple TV+ subscription service.
Click on the Library tab to quickly access your videos. The other tabs are for browsing, renting, and buying new content. Click on a movie or series to watch trailers and learn more about them. You will also see a list of the cast and crew involved in the movie and you can click on any of them to see more of their content.
Launch «TV» > «Settings» and click «Files» to define your preferred media folder location. You can import movies and other content by drag and drop. Anything you download will be stored in your regular Movies folder as a MOVPKG extension that can be played by the TV app. Third party applications will not be able to view these files properly due to the DRM used.
Removing iTunes is one of the most drastic changes in macOS Catalina. Using dedicated apps for music, podcasts, and videos makes sense. Removing iOS device management from iTunes is a move that Apple probably should have taken a few years ago. Things now make much more sense.
These aren’t the only features we love about Apple’s latest desktop OSes. Find out what else is new in macOS Catalina and whether or not to upgrade now.
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