One of the benefits of working in a school with Macs and PCs is that I get to collect plenty of handy utilities. On the downside, I’m often asked to do things for teachers that they could or should do themselves. For example, synchronize iTunes libraries between Macs and Windows PCs.
How would you do it? There’s actually a very easy way to sync iTunes libraries between Mac and PC and even iPods, and even across a network. The utility is called SuperSync and it comes with plenty of features so you can do with your music and iTunes libraries what you didn’t even know you could do.
Let me tackle the home problem first. Many households are multi-racial these days and have both Macs and PCs, often with iTunes libraries running on both machines.
That’s fine if everyone has their own individual iTunes library. Apple lets you run the same account through up to five machines, Mac or PC. But how do you keep iTunes in full sync between the machines.
Mac and Windows users have a few utilities that do just that. My preference is SuperSync, because it runs on both Mac and Windows, and makes synchronization happen with a click or two. It’s actually fun, and there are added features that make it more than worth the price of admission.
Here’s the problem. You have an iTunes account and an iTunes library of songs, movies, podcasts (or, multiple iTunes libraries). You have a Mac, and a PC, and multiple iPods. You have music scattered across all devices. You have a home network. How do you keep iTunes happy on all those devices (which makes for a good back up system)?
While Macs and PCs talk well to each other, you still have to know how to make the conversation happen. SuperSync does it automagically, connecting to, say, a PC elsewhere on your home network.
SuperSync loads your iTunes libraries from each computer so you can see what is on both, what is only on one or the other. At this point, it gets easy on the road to very complex.
Sync Me Baby, One More Time
SuperSync’s interface is straightforward and doesn’t require a Sync for Dummies book. It’s easy to browse all the iTunes media on either machine, Mac or PC. Music, artists, albums, and playlists are a click away.
Connecting to the Windows PC is simply a menu selection. SuperSync does all the handshaking and handholding to make it happen. When it does, it pulls in whatever is on your PC’s iTunes.
Here you can look at both Mac and PC iTunes libraries at the same time. Color codes identify the machines. Gray is your local machine. Blue tracks are on the remote machine. Green tracks are in both libraries on both machines.
Syncing is a click away. Select, for example, music (blue) on your Windows PC, then click the Synchronize button. The music tracks are copied to your local Mac. Ratings and play counts are also copied to iTunes on the local machine.
Visual cues help to tell you what’s going on. The music gets copied and the tracks turn green to show you that the media is on both Mac and PC. Easy, huh?
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See? Syncing back and forth is easy and fun. Matching your iTunes libraries is just a few clicks (libraries include music tracks, TV shows, movies, podcasts, playlists).
Setting up SuperSync is a breeze. Start with the Local Library Setup, click Sync with iTunes, click Next. SuperSync finds your Mac or PC library and you’re ready to go. SuperSync can also import music files from a hard drive and add them to your library. Or, create a new library so you can sync all your old libraries together in one location.
At first, back in the day, iTunes was just for music. No more. Mine is loaded with many thousands of songs, album artwork, dozens of podcast subscriptions with hundreds of podcasts, television shows, my movies, and downloaded movies.
SuperSync syncs all the basic media formats that iTunes handles. Even playlists get synced. There are three basic ways to sync. From your local Mac to another Mac or PC. Pulling media from a remote Mac or PC back to your local machine. And, receiving music from other SuperSync apps.
Will all this back and forth cause any problems? SuperSync does not edit your files, but you can delete files from one Mac or PC. Deleted files go in the Trash and don’t actually get deleted until you empty the trash.
Ratings & Play Counts
What about play counts and ratings. Copying media tracks from one machine to another brings along the basic meta data. But once you have, say, the same song on multiple machines, the ‘count’ or ‘ratings’ won’t stay in sync. However, you can update the meta data from one machine to another (there’s also a built in meta data editor).
Because features sell, SuperSync has a few features you may or may not need. It will retrieve your iPod music back to your Mac or PC without iTunes. That can be a handy catastrophic back up feature, but iTunes is still required to sync to your iPod.
Tivo lovers (both of you) rejoice. SuperSync lets you use your Tivo to play music from your Mac or PC’s iTunes, including playlists. You don’t even need to have iTunes running on your machine, since the music is played directly through your Tivo. Alas, MP3s only, not music using FairPlay DRM, and you need a recent Tivo box.
Not So Harmonious Monk
But, what happens when you’re traveling or at the office or school and want to access your home iTunes library because you didn’t bring your iPod? Uh oh. Not so easy, right? Actually, depending on your network (at home and office) it can be easy. Or not.
SuperSync has a wide area network capability (WAN) so you can connect to your Mac or PC at home. Success here depends on your internet access both locally and remotely, and gets tricky unless you have 1) a static IP address, 2) a UPnP enabled router, or 3) port-forwarding.
Regardless, SuperSync has a built-in web server which lets you open a browser in the office or at school or at a friend’s house, and view and play the music on your Mac’s iTunes back at home. It’s easier said than done, but works with the right connections (depends on your internet connection).
While this feature will grow in popularity, capability, and usage in the future, it may frustrate many users. Network configurations vary like crazy between internet service providers and office internet connections, so your mileage may (definitely) vary.
At the basic level, SuperSync is easy to set up, easy to copy media from Mac to PC (or back), and keep both media and playlists in some semblance of perfect harmony. It’s also a great way to move music from your Mac or PC to an inexpensive netbook with minimal effort.
The demo version will let you view your entire iTunes library, find duplicates, bad file names, and connect to a remote Mac or PC to compare libraries. Syncs are limited to just 25 of each type (upload, download, receiving). That’s enough to show you how easy it can be set up.
If you’ve ever wanted an easy, seamless way to keep iTunes libraries on multiple Macs and PCs in sync, SuperSync does it. Wide area network configurations can get hairy, but moving media back and forth on a home network is a breeze.