Home > Articles > Home & Office Computing > Mac OS X

Scripting Mac OS X

📄 Contents

  1. How iTunes Stores Songs
  2. Listing Songs
  3. Wrapping Up
Use the power of the Terminal to explore your iTunes library! This article by Dave Taylor won't make you a shell scripting maven. Instead, it shows you how to learn more about your music library and iTunes by creating a Unix shell script.
Like this article? We recommend

Since the very dawn of the Macintosh, programming has been the domain of high-power software developers who learn complex and powerful languages such as C++ or Java, or take the time needed to learn developer workbenches, GUI-based app development tools, or similar. If you've thought about scripting at all, it's doubtless been tightly intertwined with AppleScript, a straightforward but Mac-only pseudo-English scripting language with extensive OS support.

But there's another way that you can push your Mac around a bit and change its behavior—a simple way that involves surprisingly little programming or effort on your part, other than learning some of the rudiments of working with the Terminal application on your Mac OS X system. It's called shell scripting, and if you can type in a few commands on a command line and get the results you seek, you're probably ready to jump right into scripting today!

Before we travel down that river, though, make sure you keep your arms and legs inside the vessel at all times, and that you launch the Terminal application by first finding it in Applications -> Utilities. Try typing ls -l at the command line to see how it feels to not use your mouse to interact with your Mac. Not too bad, is it?

How iTunes Stores Songs

The purpose of this article isn't to lead you through all the steps needed to become a shell scripting maven; it's to look at how you learn more about your music library and iTunes by creating a Unix shell script. So let's get started already.

Like many different Mac OS X applications, iTunes stores all its preferences in an XML-formatted preferences file that we'll have to read through to figure out where the iTunes music library is stored on the computer. Fortunately, this XML file is always in the same spot on the computer—where $HOME is your home directory on your Mac system (it's automatically expanded to your home directory by the shell, however, so don't worry about having to define it):

$HOME/Music/iTunes/iTunes Music Library.xml

Let's have a peek:

$ grep '>Music Folder<' $HOME/Music/iTunes/iTunes\ Music\ Library.xml 
    <key>Music Folder</key><string>file://localhost/Users/taylor/

I already know that the specific value I seek is "Music Folder", so I use the grep utility to show me just the line that matches that pattern in the configuration file. You can see, though, that it's all pretty ugly XML and formal URL format, so there's a little bit of additional work involved in identifying the location of the iTunes library, which can be accomplished in a typical Unix fashion with a few commands strung together to pull things apart and put them back together the way I want:

ituneconfig="$ithome/iTunes Music Library.xml"

musiclib="/$(grep '>Music Folder<' "$ituneconfig" | cut -d/ -f5- |   cut -d\< -f1 | sed 's/%20/ /g')"

echo Your music library is at $musiclib

Now, let's take a small sidetrack and turn these few commands into an actual shell script. Fortunately, this is easily done by prepending the following line and then including all the commands in a simple text file:


How do you create this file? You can use something like Microsoft Word if you really want to (just make sure to save it as ascii only with line breaks rather than a .doc file), but your best bet is really to use one of the editors accessible from within Terminal: pico or vi.


There are good tutorial introductions to both editors on the Net: Google tutorial introduction and the name of the program, and you'll be set.

I suggest that you call the newly created shell script file itunesinfo.sh and save it in your home directory (which is the directory you start out in when you launch Terminal each time). After that's done, there's one more step needed, and that's to make the script executable so that the shell will be happy running it. That's easy to do with the chmod command:

chmod +x itunesinfo.sh

Assuming that all is well, you should now be able to type in the name of the script and have it tell you where your iTunes library is located:

$ ./itunesinfo.sh
Your music library is at /Users/taylor/Music/iTunes/iTunes Music/

That's not too exciting, so let's see what we can do with basic Unix commands now that we have a shell script that knows how to find the iTunes music library.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020