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Deleting iTunes Files – A Suggested Fix

Once I listen to a podcast, I delete it (except for the Golf Talk Podcast). I end up seeing this dialog rather frequently:

iTunes Deleted Files

It bothers me in a few ways, but the largest reason is that a completely destructive method is the primary choice. This is not only annoying1 but, well, just downright stupid.

Now, you may be thinking "hey, you did just hit the delete key - clearly you want to delete the files." Unfortunately, that assumption is wrong: people occasionally hit keys accidentally. Imagine someone, like a small child, hitting keys quickly - they might hit delete and return/enter quickly. They're not that far from each other2.

iTunes New Deleted FilesiTunes, unfortunately, provides an incredibly destructive method for its default option. You see, the "Keep Files" option removes items from the iTunes database, but leaves the actual files exactly where they were. For most people, that means their music has easily become lost among the many folders in their ~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Music/ folder.

The "Move to Trash" folder does just that: it moves the files to the trash. They're stripped of their enclosing folders (which, if empty, are deleted), which isn't a very big problem if basic ID3 tags are present - iTunes could re-create the folders if the files were (re-)imported.

I have a proposal, seen at right. Rather than simply abandoning files, I believe "Keep Files" should move the files to a location outside of the clutter of the "iTunes Music" folder, maintaining (or re-creating) the artist/album folder structure that exists in the "iTunes Music" folder.

Moving the files in such a fashion would result in two improvements to the current method:

  1. Notify the user that some of their music has been removed from iTunes.
  2. Let the user more easily manage the files they've deleted.

An example of the latter: maybe the user wants to burn a CD of their music before deleting it permanently. Having all the deleted music in a "Deleted" folder is easier to manage than digging through the "iTunes Music" folder.

I've not yet filed a feature request/bug report because I'm not entirely sure what wording I'd like to use. I will do so when I figure it out, though, and will likely post the radar ID in a comment.

Footnotes

  1. People know that cancel = escape and the blue button = return, but only today did I discover that hitting "m" activates the "Move to Trash" option. Prior to this discovery, "annoying" equaled "I had to use the mouse."
  2. Escape, on the other hand, is all the way on the other side of the keyboard.

16 Responses to "Deleting iTunes Files – A Suggested Fix"

  1. [...] Erik Barzeski: [...]

  2. I can't stand how iTunes manages my library so I organize it manually. This takes a bit longer but in case I decide to ditch iTunes at a later date (and for my own sanity) I know how the file structure exists.

    What also bothers me is that you can't delete files from the library if you are working inside a playlist.

    Needless to say iTunes library management is greatly lacking.

  3. I also think that one should be able to configure the way songs are stored, for example no tracknumbers in the filenames, they are stored in the ID3 tags anyway

    And that dialog is so stupid, most of the time deleting something triggers a confirmation window, so I am used to delete something see that window coming up and instantly pressing return to confirm the deletion, in this case however its different, usability where are you?

  4. This is an interesting idea, but it should only be done if the user has the "keep my music organized" option checked. I have my library on a NAS share, and wouldn't' want iTunes moving files around just because I'm deleting the songs from the library of one of my computers.

    RichardZ - you can delete files from within a playlist if you hold down option when you press delete. The way I remember this is because it makes the "new playlist" button ('+' icon in the bottom left) turn into a "new smart playlist" button (gear icon). When you see that, then you know that it will delete from the library, and not just the playlist.

  5. I agree with Kelan. It's not necessarily the good idea it first seems. There are good reasons for leaving files where they are. In addition to his NAS scenario, it's something I regularly do when I want to replace a file without losing that track's playcounts, playlists, etc.

    I do this by importing the new file (which might be a better rip, for example), deleting the _file_ that corresponds to the original track and emptying the trash, attempting to play that track (which prompts iTunes to ask me to locate the file, which is now missing), pointing iTunes at my new better rip. iTunes now has two tracks which point to the same file. One of them has all my playcount, playlist, date added, etc. information. The other can be deleted from iTunes, but I _don't_ want it to move the file, since that file is also referenced by the original track. So I click keep files!

    Maybe there needs to be Keep, Move, and Trash options, with move being the default.

  6. Michael Williams said on March 8, 2007:

    There are good reasons for leaving files where they are.

    The reason you provided wasn't a good one: you could just replace your file (or delete it via the Finder if it's named differently).

  7. I, too, would like to see your suggestion implemented. This trips me up a lot. Why would I want to abandon a file deep in my library?

  8. The reason you provided wasn't a good one: you could just replace your file (or delete it via the Finder if it's named differently).

    This isn't always easy or convenient. In some cases, it still involves copying the old file name and pasting it into the new file name. It also doesn't take into account that you might want to listen to the new file before deleting the old one, to make sure you got a better rip. I also run into this with GarageBand, as I sometimes update a song I've had in my library for a while and listened to many times, and by default it simply gets dumped into iTunes — I don't have to go mucking about in the Finder when it's easier to do it the way Michael described.

  9. 😡
    This is the most annoying feature in iTunes. Why won't the tab-key work on this window. alt+del/backspc is fine in playlists, but is there any reason why the tab-key doesn't change the default button on this window?

    What is the reason I DO HAVE TO GRAP my mouse and choose the 'Move to trash'. it's plain stupid, and yes, I listen a lot of podcasts that i'm not willing to keep!!!

  10. hmm, had to stdy this problem a bit further and it looks like the tab key works after all

    Or after some update on the iTunes? :mrgreen:

  11. OMG itunes is so freaking annoying!! Apple claims to be the best and they crap on microsoft all the time but the truth is they're no better! iTunes and Apple SUCKS! Apple: quit spending your time childishly shitting on the competition and improve your software!

  12. kidquick said on May 23, 2007:

    OMG itunes is so freaking annoying!! Apple claims to be the best and they crap on microsoft all the time but the truth is they're no better! iTunes and Apple SUCKS! Apple: quit spending your time childishly shitting on the competition and improve your software!

    You're a moron.

  13. Does anyone know how to turn the deletion popup window back on? I mistakenly clicked on the box that said do this every time and clicked on Keep Files so, now I can't delete my music file from my computer through iTunes. I have to find it in my computer folders and then seperately delete it. I have contacted apple and all I get is the link from the iTunes website on how to delete a file from iTunes. Please help. Thanx.

  14. Uh, what box? I didn't know that was an option...

  15. Hugo said on July 25, 2007:

    Does anyone know how to turn the deletion popup window back on? I mistakenly clicked on the box that said do this every time and clicked on Keep Files so, now I can't delete my music file from my computer through iTunes. I have to find it in my computer folders and then seperately delete it. I have contacted apple and all I get is the link from the iTunes website on how to delete a file from iTunes. Please help. Thanx.

    I am having the same problem!

    I accidentally clicked the "remember my answer and don't ask me again" and now they don't delete from my computer like I want them to!

    Every time I "Add a New Folder" it ends up sticking all of my crap that I don't want BACK into my library. I don't want to manually search for and delete over what is now 500 songs!

  16. I agree that when you hit keep it should file them in a separate folder as it deletes them from your playlist. Another idea would be to create a playlist for deleted files.
    I like to keep High Quality lossless music files on my computer and yet like to keep MP3 copies of the same music for mobile devices with less memory. This would help. Otherwise I end up having thousands of duplicates.


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