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Serve up iTunes with Apple's media browser

Give your software some soul

Mac Secrets Let's stay with the iLifeMediaBrowser.framework, which we looked at last time. Previously, I showed how to use Apple's built-in media browser using virtually no code.

Following on from that, a number of folks have asked me if it's possible to use classes in the iLifeMediaBrowser library to access your iTunes library without displaying the Apple browser? Indeed it is, and this is the subject of this article.

First off, why would you want to do this? From a developer's point of view, there are lots of good reasons. Maybe you've written an alarm-clock utility and you want the user to be able to choose a "wake-up" song from her iTunes library. Or maybe you're writing an app to backup, consolidate or repair the song library. Or maybe you want multiple iTunes libraries - whatever.

If you browse the net, you'll find various techniques for interrogating the library, ranging from using iTunes with AppleScript to parsing the associated XML file. But to the best of my knowledge, the techniques used here have never been documented outside of Apple.

The key class that I'm using here is called ILiTunesMediaManager. As the name suggests, this class is the media manager for iTunes. If your interest lies elsewhere, there are equivalent classes that handle the media for other iLife applications, such as ILiMovieMediaManager and ILiPhotoMediaManager.

Instantiating an ILiTunesMediaManager object is dead easy. We simply call the sharedMediaManager class method like this:

ILiTunesMediaManager * tunesManager = [ILiTunesMediaManager sharedMediaManager];

As before, I've provided the necessary header files as part of this month's sample project. The header files were created using class-dump as described in previous articles.

Load your data

Once we've got an instance of ILiTunesMediaManager, we need to load it with data from the iTunes library: this doesn't happen automatically. To do this, you need to call the loadData method. This is asynchronous - it works away in the background - so we need some way of knowing when the job's done.

From our perspective, the simplest way of doing this is to set up a timer to periodically query the media manager to ask if it's ready yet. This can be done via the isLoaded and isLoading methods: I check them both just to make sure the media manager really is ready. If you're worried about long delays here, don't be: I've got over 1,600 songs in my library, and it loads almost instantly.

Once ILiTunesMediaManager is ready to roll, we can start having some fun. The list of available playlists is accessed, counter-intuitively, via a method called playlists.

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