Searching and Sorting Content in iTunes

By Tony Bove

You can display your music under the Songs tab and other content under the List tab in iTunes. With just a little know-how, you can use the view options for the Songs tab or List tab to sort the listing of content items by column heading. You can sort items not only by headings for the name or album fields but also by composer, the date the items were added to the library, or other information that you can add to an item.

You can change the order of columns by clicking a column heading and dragging the entire column to the left or right.

At the very least, you can sort the content by the column headings you now use, such as Artist and Album, which correspond to the fields you can edit.

For example, click the Artist heading to sort the items in the list by artist name in A–Z alphabetical order — indicated by the little arrow in the heading pointing up. Click the Artist heading again to sort the list in reverse Z–A alphabetical order — indicated by the arrow pointing down. Clicking the Time column heading reorders the items by their duration in ascending order, from shortest to longest (arrow pointing up). If you click the Time heading again, the sort is in descending order, which is reversed, starting with the longest item (arrow pointing down).

iTunes also lets you sort the song list using the Album column. Click the Album column heading to switch it to Album by Artist — you can then click the heading arrow to sort in ascending or descending order. Click the Album by Artist heading to switch it to Album by Artist/Year. Click the heading one more time to switch back to Album, which sorts by album title.

You can make a column wider or narrower. While you move your cursor over the divider between two column headings, the cursor changes to a vertical bar with opposing arrows extending left and right. You click and drag the divider to change the column’s width.

You can also change which columns are visible by Control-clicking (on a Mac) or right-clicking (in Windows or on a Mac) any column heading under the Songs tab for music or the List tab for other content. The contextual pop-up menu appears with choices for column headings that can also be used to sort the content.

itunes column headings
Add or change column headings.

You might have to drag the horizontal scroll bar along the bottom of the iTunes window to see all these columns. You can display more, fewer, or different columns.

You can more easily see your choices for column headings by first selecting the type of content in the Library section of the source list and choosing View→View Options. Then select the columns that you want to appear in the list from the View Options dialog. Deselect the columns that you don’t want to appear.

To help you identify which songs were uploaded to iTunes Match in iCloud versus which songs were matched with songs in the iTunes Library, add the iCloud Status column in the View Options dialog.

Enabling the Kind column in the View Options dialog can help you keep track of different kinds of files, such as songs encoded in the AIFF, AAC, WAV, Apple Lossless, or MP3 formats, or videos encoded in the QuickTime or MPEG formats.

itunes view options
Change the view options for music (left) and TV shows (right).

iTunes keeps track of the songs, books, TV shows, and podcasts you skip — not to be polite, just to be useful. You can use this feature to sort the Music, TV Shows, and Books lists of your library, thereby making it easier to select and delete the items you skip. Add the Skips column in the View Options dialog and then click the column’s heading to sort the list by the number of skips.