The iTunes music library gives you multiple options to organize and listen to your music collection.

Screenshot by HowStuffWorks.com

The iTunes Interface

Here's an overview of the main iTunes interface (version 10) on a Windows machine (the Mac interface is almost identical).

There are really just a few steps to getting started with iTunes:

  1. Download and install the software: Go to www.apple.com/itunes/ and click "Free Download." When you install the software, it asks if you want it to move your current music library into iTunes. It'll find it and import it all at once, organizing your files in folders by artist name and then at a second level by album title. If you don't want to import your music during the installation process because you want more control over what gets moved where, then you can do it manually after the installation (see step 2).
  2. Import your music: You have two options in the "File" menu at the top of the iTunes interface. You can add a file to your iTunes library, add a folder to your iTunes library, or "Import." If you "Import," iTunes will search for your music and give you the option to import it all at once, which is basically the same process as letting iTunes import your music during installation. Once you import some music, the iTunes library looks something like this:
  1. Create a playlist - Click the "+" button at the bottom-left of the iTunes interface. A new playlist will appear in the Source column.
Name your playlist. We'll call ours "HowStuffWorks." Then right-click on each song in your library that you want on this playlist and choose "Add to Playlist" from the list of options. The playlist you just named will appear for you to choose it.

Here's our new playlist:

 

  1. Burn the playlist to a CD or DVD: Just put a CD-R or DVD-ROM in your drive, and the iTunes software detects it. Now the Browse/Burn button in the top-right corner of the iTunes interface is for burning. Click it. Done. You'll have your new CD or DVD in a few minutes (depending on how many tracks are in your playlist and the speed of your disc burner).
  2. Download your music to an iPhone or iPod - Plug your iPhone, iPod or iPad into your computer's USB 2.0 port. Done. iTunes sees the player and downloads your entire iTunes library. If you'd rather transfer files manually or only transfer certain playlists, you can change the sync settings at Edit/Preferences/Devices.

Once you've got a feel for the software, check out the Advanced tab and the Preferences and View Options areas under the Edit tab at the top of the screen. From here, you can ­play with some of the features like display settings, file-type conversion, burn speed, parental controls and podcast settings. And you might want to explore the built-in iTunes Store to add to your library of content. In the next section, we'll visit the iTunes Store.