iDevice Primer 106: Using iTunes

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

What is iTunes? Do I need it?

iTunes is a program made by Apple for Mac and Windows. It is a program for managing your iDevice's content, backups, and upgrades. As of iOS 5, iTunes is no longer required, except for putting music on your device and performing full, encrypted backups. You can activate, upgrade, and back up your iDevice using iCloud as of iOS5. If you are on Windows and still want iTunes, you can download it from

I am having trouble figuring out iTunes. How does this program work?

iTunes is very confusing at first. Instead of detailing everything here, I will say only the following (Windows only):

  • The f6 key jumps between major sections.
  • The tab key moves from control to control as you would expect.

Freedom Scientific has some podcasts that were done back in 2010, covering the use of iTunes with the Jaws for Windows screen reader. These podcasts, though, can be (mostly) applied to any Windows screen reader.

If you are a Jaws user, you may also want to look into these Jaws scripts for iTunes.

On both Mac and Windows, there are some radio buttons that control what most of the iTunes window will look like. They are Music, Movies, TV Shows, and so on, and are found near the top of the window. Depending on your choice, you might find a second set of radio buttons further along, which will also control what you see. For example, the Music button will then offer choices of "For You", "Connect", "Radio", and more, whereas the TV Shows button will not display any of those. If you choose your iOS device's button, you can see your apps, ringtones, summary, and other information.

On the Mac, there's an LCD section near the top that displays status information. This could be details on, and controls for, the currently playing track; status messages about a backup or sync in progress; and more. VO-j will sometimes land you on this section, but I find it faster to jump to the top of the window with vo-shift-home, then vo-right a few times until I find the LCD section. You'll need to interact with this.

Overall, iTunes is a rather confusing application, no matter which platform or screen reader you're using. It takes patience and practice to use it efficiently, and Apple tends to change its design every so often, just to keep things interesting. AppleVis usually has podcasts covering new features of iTunes, so it's always worth having a look through our podcast directory if you aren't sure about an aspect of iTunes.