In this week's column, I look at some interesting questions about getting apps for iOS devices that aren't using iOS 7, about viewing album art in playlists on iTunes, and about keeping certain tracks from rearing their heads when you're listening in shuffle mode. I also explain how to set up smart playlists to sort your music by the first letter of artists' names.
Obtaining older versions of apps
Q: I have an iPad 2 that I don't want to upgrade to iOS 7 because it would be too slow. My wife has an iPhone 4 that she is keeping on iOS 6 for the same reason. When we go to iTunes, it shows us apps that are incompatible with these devices. Is there any way I can get the older versions of apps if I need them?
The iTunes Store will allow you to download the "latest compatible version" of an app that you have previously purchased, as long as the developer has kept it available in the iTunes Store. To get these versions, go to the Purchased list in either the App Store app on iOS, or in the iTunes Store in iTunes. Select the app you want, then click Download. If the compatible version is still available, you'll be asked to confirm that you want to download it, and you'll get that version, not the current one.
Creating artwork within playlists
Q: I put a lot of effort into making sure that I have high-quality album art for all of my tracks, which I want to see in all of my playlists. iTunes defaults to not showing album art for new playlists and I haven't been able to figure out how to change this. It's pretty frustrating to have to manually set this for each playlist. Am I missing something obvious?
Alas, no. However, it's worth pointing out that you can display album artwork in playlists, which many people don't know.
To do this, select a playlist, then press Command-J, or choose View > Show View Options. You'll see a floating window which lets you choose which columns to view in a playlist, but also gives you the option to show artwork, to always show it, and to choose its size.
When you turn on artwork, you'll see it displayed at the left of the window. You can resize its column — which also shows the name of the album the song is part of — by dragging the column divider to the left to only show the artwork.
Excluding content when shuffling
Q: I want to shuffle all my music but I keep getting my stand-up comedy recordings in the mix. Is there a way to keep these on my iPhone but not have them played in shuffle mode?
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