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How can I get iTunes to show at a glance which items are already on my iPhone.

I'd like to add some new tunes to my iPhone, but find myself adding songs that are already on the device. I start looking through my collection, but I can't see what's already on my iPhone. I'd like to be able to see what's not currently synced to my phone, so I can focus on adding them.

On my Zune, all synced items were marked with a little icon so you could see if it was already on the device. Like so:

enter image description here

The only place where summary information of what has synced is this following screen. (But obviously, it's a really ugly and unpleasant way to browse your music!)

enter image description here

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Yes - the screen you posted has the key to solve your dilemma.

  1. Make one normal playlist with the name of your device.
  2. Drag any song you want on the device into that playlist. (You can even open a second iTunes window so you can use one window to browse and the other to serve as a convenient place to drag artists, songs, mixes, whatever you want into that playlist.)
  3. Only sync that one playlist to your device.

Now you can know at a glance which songs are on that device whether it is connected or not.

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Yep, it's insane that I have to create playlist to do this (I've never had to create a playlist before in my entire life), but I can see how this workaround would solve the problem until Apple do something a little more elegant. Thanks! – Django Reinhardt Jun 21 '12 at 16:52
I would call it elegant - but I get your point. Here's the big reason why Apple may never change iTunes as you ask. The flag for synced music does not scale. What happens when you connect two phones and an iPad? What happens when 30 devices are connected to iTunes. Yes - you don't have that in your scenario, but iTunes has to know what to do in all cases. Now with iTunes match, the need for better playlist management is lessened. (Sadly for people like you that have reasonable use cases to do this better over USB/Wi-Fi sync) – bmike Jun 21 '12 at 18:52
I think it's pretty clunky. Playlists were originally created to create lists of your favourite songs, they were never intended for hardware management. To answer your question, that's a technical problem that Apple should be able to solve, really. They have some smart people. Forcing people to rely on Playlists to manage their hardware isn't the best solution they could come up with, I'm sure. What's iTunes Match? – Django Reinhardt Jun 22 '12 at 10:06
Users finding a workaround is not a good example of software "nailing" something :) – Django Reinhardt Jun 22 '12 at 15:56
It's not a workaround for me, it's how a manage music on my iDevices for years now. – patrix Jun 24 '12 at 10:58

As I understand your desired functionality, iTunes does not adjust the main library view based on a connected device. You have to select the specific device and see what it contains.

The closest you can get is to plug-in your iPhone into your computer so it appears under Devices in iTunes. If you click on the little arrow in front of your iPhone's name, you can browse its content easily.

enter image description here

In addition you can also see which playlists, artists, genres and albums get synced in the Music section of the syncing window.

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+ if you have wifi sync set up, you don't even need to plug the phone in. – bassplayer7 Jun 18 '12 at 12:14
Thanks for you answer, but I don't see how this solves my problem? – Django Reinhardt Jun 18 '12 at 13:39
These are the songs which currently are on your iPhone. There is no other way in iTunes to show this information. And personally I think it's best to sync based on playlists and artists, which usually avoids duplication. – patrix Jun 18 '12 at 13:52

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