Skip Navigation

Sort of

Track sorting in iTunes was one of the first things I noticed about Apple’s software engineering: they actually thought about it. Sorting by song name (obviously) sorts the songs alphabetically. Sorting by artist name (obviously) sorts the artists alphabetically.

But it’s the secondary and tertiary sorts that are important.

Sort by artist name and you aren’t sorting it by alphabetical artist and by alphabetical song… you’re sorting it by artist, then by album, then by track number. Albums are indeed supposed to be in order —track order, nor alphabetical order— and it’s that kind of thinking that makes me happy to own a Mac.

But they missed something.

Sorting by album only, the secondary and tertiary sorts should be by artist then by track number. Having the tracks of Crowded House’s Afterglow intertwined with Sarah McLachlan’s Afterglow has taught me this cruel lesson… and it’s no coin toss: it needs fixing.


Tamara Crowe writes to point out that sorting by album and then by artist would break compilation discs, split discs, and several other cases. There are plenty of ways around this, like checking the “is a compilation” bit, checking for different dates, different album lengths, et cetera.

I don’t much care how it’s fixed. I just care that it is.

Update deux

iTunes 7 fixes this problem in a roundabout way. It requires human intervention, sadly, but it works.