Use Half Stars to Bring Refinement to the Rating System in iTunes

Use iTunes Song Ratings to Help Find Your Favorites

iTunes with song ratings displayed
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

If you're like many of us, you have a gazillion songs in your iTunes Library, but you only listen to a relatively small group of them on a regular basis. Or, you listen to much, most, or even all of your library, but there are some songs that you like to hear more often than others.

Conversely, there may be a few songs that you've gotten tired of, or perhaps you have a few songs you should just never have acquired. 

No matter the reason, songs you like or songs you no longer care for, you can use the iTunes rating system to help control which songs are played, find your favorites, even help you set up Smart Playlists.

In this guide, we're going to look at how to use the iTunes rating system, as well as how to use a sneaky Terminal trick to allow for the use of half stars in the ratings.

Assign a Song Rating in iTunes

Launch iTunes, located at /Applications, or click on the iTunes icon in your Dock.

To assign a rating to a song, select the song in your iTunes Library.

In iTunes 10 or iTunes 11, click the File menu, select Rating, and then from the pop-out menu, select a rating from none to five stars.

In iTunes 12, click the Song menu, select Rating, and then use the pop-out menu to select a rating from none to five stars.

If at some point you go off a song, or a song you didn't like all that much to begin with suddenly grows on you, you can change a rating at any time. You can also switch from a star rating back to none (the default) if you want to.

Alternate Song Rating Method

iTunes displays a song's rating in the list of music stored in your iTunes Library. The rating shows up in various views, including Songs, Albums, Artists, Genres, and Playlists. The rating can be directly manipulated in the music list. In this example, we're going to show you how to change a song's rating in the Songs view.

With iTunes open, make sure you have your music library selected, then select Songs from the Library sidebar or from the buttons across the top of the iTunes window, depending on which version of the app you're using.

iTunes will display your music collection by songs. In the list, you'll find fields for Song name, Artist, Genre, and other categories. You'll also find a column for Rating. (If you don't see a Rating column, go to the View menu, select Show View Options, put a checkmark in the box next to Rating, and then close the View Options display window.)

Select a song by clicking once on its name.

In iTunes 10 and 11, you'll see five small white dots in the Rating column.

In iTunes 12, you'll see five hollow white stars in the Rating column.

You can add or remove stars from the selected song's rating by clicking in the Rating column. Click on the fifth star to set the rating to five stars; click on the first star to set the rating to one star.

To remove a one-star rating, click and hold the star, then drag the star to the left; the star will disappear.

You can also right-click in the Rating field and select Rating from the pop-up menu to assign or remove a rating.

Sort Songs by Their Rating

You can use the Rating column in the iTunes Library window to view the ratings you assigned to songs. To sort songs by their rating, just click the Rating column header.

Half-Star Ratings

By default, iTunes displays a five-star rating system that allows you to set a rating only by whole stars. You can change this behavior to allow for half-star ratings, effectively giving you a ten-star rating system.

The half-star rating system makes use of Terminal to set an iTunes preference that isn't available directly from within iTunes.

  1. If iTunes is open, quit iTunes.
  2. Launch Terminal, located at /Applications/Utilities.
  3. In the Terminal window that opens, enter the following at the prompt: defaults write allow-half-stars -bool TRUE
  4. The easiest way to enter the above text is to triple-click it to select the entire line, and then copy/paste the command into Terminal.
  5. Once the text is entered into Terminal, press the return or enter key.
  6. You can now launch iTunes and make use of the half-star rating system.

One note about using half-star ratings: iTunes doesn't display a half-star rating within any of the menus used for adding or removing song ratings. To add, remove, or change half-star ratings, use the Alternate Song Rating Method listed above.

  1. You can undo the half-star rating system by entering the following line into Terminal: defaults write allow-half-stars -bool FALSE
  2. As before, press return or enter to execute the command.

Smart Playlist

Now that you have your songs rated, you can use this information to easily create playlists based on ratings. You could create a five-star only playlist, or relax the ratings to a lower amount of stars. Because this playlist is based on iTunes Smart Playlist capabilities, you can add additional criteria, such as genre, artist, or how often the song has been played.

You can find out more in the article: How to Create a Complex Smart Playlist in iTunes.