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Burning music, candles and fireworks (Vol #9)

Inside: Burn your music (3 ways) plus helpful music CD tips

Continuing last week’s burn theme, this week we’re burning music. But that’s not the only burning I’ve experienced this week. I watched numerous Independence Day fireworks displays around the San Francisco Bay on an apparently rare for this time of year fog-free evening.

But even more important than my country’s birthday, was watching my Mom blow out her 70th birthday candles. Not only did she give me life (okay, Dad, you helped too) but she was also the inspiration for Mac Help For Mom. So, without her, I wouldn’t be telling you about…

Burning music in iTunes

Just one new article this week but it’s packed with three videos about the different ways to burn music CDs (yes, there’s more than one way). In general, when burning music CDs, you choose between making a CD that will play almost anywhere or making a CD that will store much more music. Read and watch more here:

How to burn music CDs in iTunes

Be sure to note the tips on how to make sure the song names on your burned CD are displayed on car radios that know how to do that, and also on other computers.

Since so many of the CD burning options are related to file formats, this is a good time to talk about what that means.

Word of the Week

The word is “file”.

Everything in your computer is stored in files. On a Mac, each file has a name, some attributes (like when it was created), and its contents. The contents are simply an organized package of information representing a specific document, photo, song, application, etc. The way a file’s contents is organized is called the file format.

A document, photo or song obviously need different file formats since they represent very different objects (text, images, music). But, even for one type of file, there can be numerous file formats that serve basically the same purpose. For example, an image can be stored as a JPEG, PNG, GIF, bitmap, TIFF or many other formats. A song can be stored as an MP3, AAC, waveform or many others. Sometimes the formats have obvious tradeoffs–waveform files are large whereas MP3 and AAC files are smaller but theoretically lose some sound quality (but never to my ear). Other times there’s more than one nearly identically able file format simply because multiple groups created them.

For convenience sake, each file format is often (but not always) associated with a "filename extension", which is just the end part of the file name. So a file named Mother.mp3 is obviously an MP3 file. Filename extensions are often three characters so it’s pretty easy to see that Mother.wav is a waveform file and Mother.jpg is a JPEG file. But it’s not obvious (unless you’re already clued in) that Mother.m4a is an AAC file.

When working on your Mac, there are numerous times when you will need to choose (directly or indirectly) which type of file format to use to save something like a song, photo, or document. But, often that is just the start of the options. For instance, MP3 files can have a variety of bit rates, sample rates and other settings.

It’s not necessary to keep up on all available file formats. You’d have little time for anything else. The important thing is to know that you often have options when saving a file. Choosing between your options usually involves deciding between optimal speed, size and quality, as well as how many other computers and applications understand the file format. So make your choose based on which is most important to you.

REQUEST: Help direct me with future Words of the Week. Please email me with one or more computer-oriented words that you’d like to see in this spot. Also tell me if my explanations have been too detailed, not detailed enough, or just about right. Thanks.

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