If you own an iPod, there's no way around iTunes. Mac users have it on their computers as well, and it's also found on many PCs nowadays. Yet many don't realise just how much the software can really do.
Perhaps the most under-appreciated option is "intelligent" playlists. These are helpful for users with a huge volume of music on their computer but only an iPod Nano with only four gigabytes (GB) of memory in their pockets.
"They help you whittle your lists down to size," explains Jesper Frommherz, operator of the Mac forum Apfeltalk.de. Once the MP3 player is connected for synchronisation, the user indicates that he or she only wants to transfer the corresponding playlist.
"You can make a list of only the latest songs you've bought, for example," says Peter Mueller from the Munich-based magazine Macwelt, or the user can stipulate criteria to automatically pull out any songs to which they apply.
Made a mix you think is world class? Then publish it as an iMix for the world to see on the iTunes store, Apple's platform for selling MP3s and other digital media.
"You select Create an iMix under the File menu," says Apple's Georg Albrecht. Once created, it can then be integrated into a personal website like a blog.
Those who prefer to keep their musical preferences to themselves are still well served with iTunes: "All users registered at the store can download the covers to the songs or albums in their library," Frommherz says.
Ripping somewhat older CDs using iTunes? Don't be surprised if they sound a bit quieter than the current versions being offered for download.
"If this happens to you, you can adjust the volume level for the entire library," Albrecht says. The "Sound Check" option for doing this is found under Playback tab of the Preferences option.
"I'd advise against this though," Mueller says because louder pieces are adjusted relative to the quiet ones, the sound quality can suffer. The adjustment option is of most value for shorter playlists, such as those being burned onto a CD.
Regardless of whether iTunes is being used as a mere music player or as a multimedia hub, it's important to update the software regularly: "Things are constantly being improved," Frommherz says.
"Apple introduced a completely new user interface with version 7," Mueller says. Among the latest changes is support for AppleTV and iPhones.
But many of the most useful changes aren't obvious. Earlier versions of the software organised band names beginning with the word "The" under T, which sometimes made searching more difficult.
Now the software knows to look for the word behind the article: "The Who are now found under W and not T any more," explains Mueller. Major new releases like the jump from iTunes 6 to 7 generally come once a year.
"Smaller updates like from version 7.2 to 7.3 come every other month," he says. A number of small bugs are usually ironed out in the process.