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Basic data

developer Apple
Publishing year 2001
Current  version 10/12/7
( May 21, 2020 )
operating system
Windows 7 or newer,
(for macOS up to iTunes 12.8, then integrated)
programming language C ++
License Proprietary
German speaking Yes
Apple - iTunes

iTunes is a universal multimedia management program from the US company Apple . It is used to play, convert, burn, organize and buy music , audiobooks , podcasts and films. It can manage the contents of connected iPod , iPad and iPhone devices .

iTunes is being further developed for the operating systems macOS (from version 10.8.5) and Windows (from version 7 ) and offered free of charge by the manufacturer. For Mac OS 9 , macOS versions older than 10.8 and Windows versions older than 7, only older versions are available, but some of these no longer support newer devices and may have security gaps. ITunes software was also part of the iLife software suite , which includes iPhoto , iDVD , iMovie , iWeb and GarageBand .

iTunes was separated into Music, Podcasts and TV on macOS Catalina .

Function overview

With iTunes you can listen to music and organize, sort and group it, stream it over a network via Bonjour , transfer CDs to the hard drive and burn music CDs or DVDs and print them out for these covers. QuickTime videos are also supported . From version 4.9 it is possible to subscribe to and manage podcasts free of charge.

To do this, it uses a specially managed music library to store music files in a wide variety of formats with meta information (for MP3, for example, ID3 tags ). These can be sorted and filtered flexibly - even if not arbitrarily. Another feature in this context are the smart playlists . A smart playlist is created by defining criteria similar to a database query. In addition, iTunes offers a real-time search, the search results of which appear as you type.

It also offers an integrated interface and portal software to the iTunes Store , via which music titles and music videos can be viewed and purchased over the Internet. ITunes is also intended to be the standard music management software for the iPod , iPhone and Apple TV . The Windows version of iTunes replaces the MusicMatch jukebox of the former cooperation partner, but there is a large number of alternative software - except for the "iPod Touch" model. The contents of this model can only be maintained with the iTunes software.

At the end of September 2005, the Motorola ROKR (pronounced "rocker") came onto the market. It was the first mobile phone to be supported by iTunes as a music player. It can manage up to 100 songs with iPod-like software.

ITunes U is intended as a special program that allows universities to publish their multimedia offers via iTunes. Initially, the service was only active in the United States and Canada, but has been constantly expanded. In general, the offers can be used without restrictions and free of charge. However, specific content is reserved for enrolled students and university members. In January 2009 iTunes U was launched in Germany with offers from the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich , RWTH Aachen University , Albert Ludwig University in Freiburg and the Hasso Plattner Institute .

Neither the Windows version nor the macOS version support the automatic conversion of WMV files . Under macOS there is an additional plug-in called "Flip4Mac" which, in the free version, allows direct playback of WMV files.


Version 9 logo
Version 10 logo
Version 11 logo

iTunes is largely based on the commercial MP3 application SoundJam MP , which was developed by the software publisher Casady & Greene . Ultimately, Apple took over the developers and the software. The first version of iTunes in January 2001 was therefore very similar to SoundJam MP.

After the takeover by Apple, numerous functions were added. This includes support for the iPod as well as a wider range of CD writers and languages. In addition, the typical iTunes playlist management has been improved, and in 2003 support for Windows XP and the in-house “ iTunes Music Store ” was added.

Since then, the range of the now renamed “iTunes Store” has been expanded to include other countries (including Germany , Austria and Switzerland ) and content (including films, TV series, podcasts and DRM- free music).

Version 9 of the iTunes music management program was released on September 9, 2009. On the one hand, iTunes 9 came up with a completely revised design of the iTunes Store as well as expanded functions for the compilation of intelligent playlists. On the other hand, the display and search functions for genres as well as the list display of the titles in the display of the Music Store window had been pushed into the background or deleted without replacement.

On February 25, 2010 the limit of ten billion downloaded music tracks was exceeded since it was founded.

ITunes 10 appeared on September 1, 2010. This came up with new views and the “ping” service, which is a social music network integrated in iTunes . Ping was closed on September 30, 2012.

On November 29, 2012, iTunes 11 was released with a completely redesigned design. For example, switching between media library and store was made easier by using a button below the player instead of using the sidebar as before, which contained everything, including playlists. The logo was also changed. It now shows a white instead of a black note on a blue background. The integration of Facebook and Twitter is also new.

ITunes 12 was released on October 16, 2014. The design was revised again - the media library and the iTunes Store have moved closer together. The logo has also been revised and shows a white note on a red background.

Version 12.5 of September 13, 2016 introduced proprietary mp4 and mp3 tags specifically for so-called "classical music".

With version 12.7, the management of apps for iOS has been removed from iTunes. For companies that are still dependent on the management of apps with iTunes, Apple temporarily made version 12.6.5 available, with which this function is still available up to and including MacOS version 10.13.

MacOS 10.14 was released in September 2018. Since then, iTunes has been seen as an integral part of macOS and can no longer be uninstalled and a download is only offered for older operating system versions.

In June 2019, Apple announced that iTunes would only be maintained for Windows. As of macOS Catalina , iTunes is no longer included and the previous functions are divided into four apps: Finder (for Syncro iOS devices) and in three new macOS apps Music, TV and Podcasts.

In October 2019, a freelance developer found out that iTunes can also run under macOS 10.15 with a few adjustments to settings and the exchange of old libraries under a pure 64-bit operating system. These steps can be carried out manually or via the app.


Background services

iTunes requires some background services to function correctly, which are automatically installed in the background during the installation of iTunes and are also active when iTunes is closed. The most important of these are Apple Application Support, which ensures that all Apple services work together, the Apple Mobile Device Service, which ensures communication with iPhones, iPads and iPods, Apple Software Update, which Apple software is based on the system up to date, as well as Bonjour and the mDNS Responder, which make network communication from iTunes possible. ITunes functions such as AirPlay or iTunes Homesharing build on the network services. Other Apple programs such as the iPhone Configuration Utility are based on the iTunes services and would not run without them.


A HiFi system, speaker system or television can be connected to an AirPlay-enabled device from Apple or a third-party manufacturer. This system can be selected in iTunes to stream the music live to the system. iTunes calculates the short delay time when streaming so that the music runs synchronously on all speakers, even if the speakers are distributed in several rooms. The previous technology was called AirTunes , the improved successor AirPlay , which is downward compatible. The successor AirPlay supports audio as well as video streaming.

Audio formats

iTunes currently supports the following audio formats: MP3 with CBR (constant bit rate) or VBR (variable bit rate), AAC with and without VBR, Apple Lossless , AIFF as well as WAV and TCA . iTunes can also play audiobooks purchased from Audible and DRM -protected AAC from the in-house iTunes Music Store.

If you have at least Windows Media Player  9 installed on your PC , iTunes can create a copy of DRM-free WMA files in AAC format and other formats supported by iTunes. WMA files cannot be imported into iTunes on a Mac because licenses forbid it.

Since iTunes is based on QuickTime, the free Ogg Vorbis format is also supported in addition to MIDI if the corresponding unofficial plug-in Xiph QuickTime Components (XiphQT) is installed in QuickTime. It works with version 7 of QuickTime and therefore also with version 6 of iTunes.


iTunes supports AppleScript and Automator on macOS . This allows functionality to be controlled remotely by simply dragging and dropping in the Automator. There is a COM interface under Windows, but it has not been used much so far.

File sharing

Music files can Bonjour , Apple's name for the open network standard Zeroconf , released be. The music files can therefore be listened to without any configuration with users who are in the same subnet . Users outside the subnet can provide the IP address of the distributing computer. Version 4.0 was an exception, with which the release was also possible via the Internet. However, this was deactivated in version 4.0.1, which was released soon after, in order to avoid any legal disputes and license claims that might arise. However, by setting up a private network it is possible to circumvent this restriction. The TCP port 3689 is used.


The Genius feature appeared with version 8 of iTunes. With it, it is possible to create playlists with “songs that go great together” according to Apple's view.

When the Genius feature is started for the first time, information about the iTunes music library is sent to Apple . Your own information is compared with that of other Genius users and sent back to the user. If you now play a song in iTunes and click the Genius button, iTunes generates its own playlist with titles that “go well with each other”. This means that all songs match the type of title on the basis of which the playlist was generated.

Sending the data via your own iTunes music library is completely anonymous, according to Apple.

There is also the Genius Sidebar . If a title is played, the sidebar shows offers from the iTunes store for similar titles. As of version 10.0.1, the sidebar also shows the ping sidebar .

The Genius Mixes introduced with iTunes 9 use the same algorithms to automatically create up to twelve genre-based mixes with pieces of music that go well together from the user's iTunes library. The user has no direct influence on the selection process. This playlist compiled by Genius can be saved or updated again and again. A little later, this function was also built into current iPods and iOS devices.

Groupings and views

The grouping of the pieces of music with albums, genres, composers, etc. is largely configurable. In the meantime, Cover Flow was integrated into iTunes, which enables the graphical display of stacks of records and thus searching based on the cover like in a DJ box. Cover Flow was removed in iTunes 11, it only exists in the iTunes Store.

iTunes DJ

It is a special playlist, which in turn is created from another playlist or from the music library and is constantly refilled randomly or manually, and it is also possible to move the order or remove individual tracks. This function is made for parties because you no longer have to switch there yourself. Party guests can request songs from the iTunes library using the free Apple iOS remote app . Depending on the popularity of the desired songs, iTunes DJ will play them.

The iTunes DJ functionality was removed in version 11. This function was available up to version 10.7.

Smart playlists

Playlists can be created, the content of which is determined similar to a search using criteria. iTunes keeps the music library up to date whenever changes are made.

Internet radios

There are also more than 250 free internet radios integrated in iTunes . These are sorted by genre and are offered in different data rates.

iTunes LP

If you download albums labeled iTunes LP from the iTunes Store, animated lyrics, accompanying information, photos and other additional material are added to the song. You can now scroll through the additional material while listening.

iTunes store support

The iTunes Store is integrated into iTunes , where you can buy pieces of music, music videos and films, and rent videos.

iTunes U

U for University: Hundreds of interviews, short films and lectures are made available for download here. Some well-known museums participate in the program (for example Tate Gallery , Palace of Versailles , Fondation Cartier , Kunsthalle Wien ). Numerous universities ( MIT , Oxford , Stanford , LMU Munich , RWTH Aachen , HPI Potsdam ) have stopped lectures ( statistics , mathematics , programming of iPhone applications , but also medicine , literature , social sciences ). Most of the contributions are in English so far. The content can be accessed in iTunes as well as in a standalone iOS app.

iTunes and the iPod

As soon as you connect your iPod , iPhone or iPad to a computer and start iTunes, the iTunes music library is transferred (if desired) to the iPod or MP3 player or it is updated, and the calendar and contacts on the iPod are updated (from version 5.0 also with Windows PCs; iTunes reads the corresponding entries from Microsoft Outlook ( Express )). If there is insufficient storage space on the target device, iTunes offers a selection for synchronization that takes into account previous listening habits. iTunes can also be switched to a manual management of the music on the iPod. As soon as you rate a track on the iPod or increase the counter by listening to it, these changes are synchronized with the tags in the library. iTunes version 10.5 and higher supports synchronization via USB as well as synchronization via WLAN or Bluetooth .

Media management

The application offers a solution based technically on the QuickTime multimedia architecture for archiving, importing, burning and managing music libraries, either in uncompressed file formats such as AIFF or compressed file formats such as MP3 and AAC or Apple Lossless .

The music library follows the approach of digital asset management (DAM) with which meta information is written in its own database and also in the media files. The music library is stored in a proprietary binary format. The meta information of the media files is stored in it, regardless of the meta information of the respective media formats, which are stored in ID3 tags , for example . One of the advantages of this combined approach is that the meta information can be changed even if the media format does not allow its tags to be modified.

When you exit, iTunes also saves a copy of the music library in XML format to make the media it contains available to other programs such as iPhoto. ITunes only writes this file, it never reads it.

By default, the files are in the following folders:

\Dokumente und Einstellungen\{USER}\Eigene Dateien\Eigene Musik\iTunes\iTunes Music
\Users\{USER}\Music\iTunes\iTunes Media


Ping was a social network from version 10, provided by Apple, on which users can exchange information about music and their interests as well as purchased music. Similar to the large social networks Facebook and Twitter, you could "follow" artists or other users who are logged in and thus show your interest in their music or follow the interests of other users. The service ended on September 30, 2012. Instead, from iTunes 11, the improved Facebook integration will replace ping, especially under macOS.


If you want to make a podcast available to other iTunes users, you can use such a link:, pcast:// to "http: //". iTunes will then automatically import this podcast reference into its podcast directory.

Private sharing

Private sharing makes it possible (within a network) to browse through the iTunes library from up to five computers on which the same Apple ID is activated and to import whatever you like. It is also possible to automatically add music bought by others to the library.

Spotlight search

You can search for keywords in iTunes. In the Mac version, the search supports Spotlight , so you can also search from the Spotlight menu.


Digital Rights Management (DRM)

The firmly integrated connection to the iTunes Music Store has come under fire because Digital Rights Management (DRM) was used there for the first time on a large scale , which restricts the rights of end users to use the purchased pieces of music. Users could play tracks found on other computers via Bonjour , but they could not add them to their own music library. ITunes also prevented files from being copied from the iPod to the music library. Apple's licensing allows the simultaneous use of downloaded pieces of music on five computers, any number of iPods and unlimited burning on CDs. This was a somewhat more permissive DRM policy than was the case at the time. This was the case, for example, with Musicload from T-Online and other Microsoft-licensed providers of WMA downloads.

A class action lawsuit was filed against Apple in the United States criticizing the use of proprietary DRM. In France (as of 2007) there is still a lawsuit pending to force Apple to allow the FairPlay DRM format to be played on non-Apple hardware. Competitor Sony has already lost a DRM process in France - should a judgment prevail. ITunes has already been provisionally declared illegal in Norway. Under Norwegian law, an ombudsman granted Apple until October 1, 2007 the option of changing iTunes so that music purchased through iTunes can also be used directly on any MP3 player. Opening the iTunes format for multimedia devices from other providers is particularly relevant under competition law because it must be possible to play music that is purchased from Apple's iTunes store on devices other than the iPod and iPhone .

Just one day after Apple's CEO Steve Jobs had announced a settlement with the Beatles , he responded in an open letter entitled "Thoughts on Music" to the allegations from Europe that Apple's FairPlay copy protection system was Apple's monopoly in the digital distribution of music expand via the Internet and the connection to iTunes. In the letter, Steve Jobs sees himself more as a victim of the music companies Universal , Sony BMG , Warner Music Group and EMI than as a perpetrator. Steve Jobs' main argument is that it is not possible for Apple to open its copy protection procedures to other providers, because Apple can then no longer guarantee that it will fix security holes in them within a few weeks. In the media, however, it is suspected that - in addition to the legal problems in Europe already mentioned - competition from peer-to-peer networks and legal offers without DRM jobs prompted this step.

In practice, the copy protection is easy to break. If you burn the music on CD and import it back into iTunes, the copy protection is removed and the file can be used as desired. Since iTunes 7 it has been possible to transfer music files from the iPod back to the computer, but only those music files that have been purchased from iTunes. Senuti (iTunes read from back to front) - a free software - makes it possible for macOS to transfer all music files on the iPod to the computer. In Windows there are also commercial providers such as CopyPod, Anapod Explorer with even more functions or Winamp (from version 5.2), with whose help (similar to Senuti) the music from the iPod can be transferred back to the PC.

ITunes Plus was introduced on May 30, 2007. As a customer, you now have the option of purchasing music without DRM. With iTunes Plus the music is available in AAC 256 kbit / s. On January 6, 2009, the range of DRM-free titles was expanded to 80 percent of the catalog. The entire catalog has now been rearranged.


In version 6.02 of the software, a function was built in which, in the standard setting, transmits the artist's name to a server over the Internet for every piece of music played. In a small window (MiniStore), the listener then receives artist-related information and coordinated advertising for other products from the iTunes Store. This triggered criticism of Apple from the point of view of data protection , privacy and unchecked copyright law , as research into listening behavior and insights into private MP3 collections are feared. In the opinion of many users, such processes are undesirable and also require individual approval, which has only been obtained by activating the MiniStore since the criticism that arose.

In the meantime, the first time the iTunes MiniStore is opened, a message appears that the MiniStore will display suitable suggestions based on the title selected in the playlist. In addition, Apple writes that no personal data is sent or stored to Apple. The MiniStore can be switched off using a button at the bottom of the iTunes program window, which means that no more data is sent.

iTunes as a distribution channel for musicians and record companies

ITunes came about at a time when a lot of music was being copied without paying for it. The spread of large external hard drives and faster transfer standards (USB 2 instead of USB 1) made it possible to transfer large amounts of data in a short time. The sales of many participants in the music industry decreased. In this situation, iTunes presented on-demand streaming to the public as an Apple business model and a sales model for the music industry. iTunes offered many (also smaller) record publishers (“labels”) contracts that regulate, among other things, the amount of the sales made for labels and artists (revenue per download). iTunes pays the label or the contract agregator - i.e. the organizations that manage the content for the musicians - an amount of € 0.71 (in the case of the aggregator Recordjet) at a sales price of € 0.99. Of the € 0.28 remaining with iTunes, VAT will also be paid at the company's headquarters in Luxembourg. In addition, fees to GEMA in the amount of € 0.15 are paid from this. If an author is not represented by GEMA or another collecting society, this amount remains with iTunes. A German music publisher said in an interview in 2010 that iTunes pays more than any other online music store.

The Beatles' complete discography has been available on iTunes since November 16, 2010. This makes Apple the first company in the world to be allowed to sell the Beatles' music digitally over the Internet. The release on iTunes was preceded by years of negotiations.

Apple has been running the iTunes Festival since 2007 . On September 1, 2012, it will be launched for the first time with the option of following this live on Apple devices via stream . Over 60 different artists will perform at the iTunes Festival for a month. Apple raffles the tickets for free every year and so far there has been no other way to follow the festival. With the live stream, Apple would like to close this gap.

See also


  • Daniel Mandl, Michael Schwarz: iTunes 10, iPad, iPhone, iPod and Apple TV - for Windows & Mac. Mandl & Schwarz-Verlag / Edition Digital Lifestyle, Husum 2010, ISBN 978-3-939685-29-6 .
  • Georg Erber: Music Downloads: Provider-specific anti-competitive copy protection. In: DIW weekly report 11/2007, volume 74, March 14, 2007, 171–174, ISSN  0012-1304 .
  • Gerald Erdmann, Charlotte Stanek: iPod + iTunes. 704 pages, O'Reilly 2007, ISBN 978-3-89721-475-0 .
  • Daniel Mandl, Michael Schwarz: iTunes 7 and iPod for the Mac: iLife from Apple explained quickly, easily and entertainingly - music, audio books, games and podcasts. Mandl & Schwarz / Edition Digital Lifestyle, Husum 2007, ISBN 3-939685-02-X .
  • Daniel Mandl: iTunes 9, iPhone, iPod & Apple TV - Music, films and more for Windows & Mac / on the go and in the home network. Mandl & Schwarz-Verlag / Edition Digital Lifestyle, Husum 2009, ISBN 978-3-939685-16-6 .

Web links

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