Having trouble joining cd tracks in iTunes? Try this.

For the last few months, I’ve had trouble joining cd tracks before importing a cd into iTunes. I do very little book-reading these days, so instead I listen to audiobooks. I’ve enjoyed being an audible customer, but in an effort to cut down on expenses, I have since re-discovered the public library. The Phoenix Public Library in particular does a great job of getting in new audiobooks or books on cd. However, books on cd are annoying split into dozens of tracks per disc – well, annoying only if you’re going to listen to them on an ipod as opposed to a cd player. The key is to select all of those cd tracks, head up to the Advanced menu in iTunes and select “Join CD Tracks.” Voila, all of the tracks are ready to be imported as one. That simplifies playback significantly, as now you only need to manage a few tracks (equal to the number of cds the book required), which is a helluva lot easier than managing hundreds of individual tracks (some of which are seriously short – like less than :10 short).

This has worked quite well for me for, well, years. At least until last month, when the “Join CD Tracks” command was dimmed. I tried everything I could think of: different discs, restarting iTunes, reinstalling iTunes, searching the Apple help and support files, even calling AppleCare. No luck – I couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

I was following the instructions and the only caveat seemed to be that you had to select contiguous tracks. I wondered if there was some sort of new anti-piracy inclusions that were preventing me from copying the files – nope, iTunes would still let me copy the tracks, it just wouldn’t let me join them first.

And then I managed to stumble on the answer. The key is that the files must sorted properly for the “Join CD Tracks” menu item to be available. This seems weird, and certainly didn’t seem like a problem – the track numbers were in order from 1 to 99. But since this was a book on cd, it was not in the track name database. iTunes was simply giving the tracks a temporary number in what appeared to be the proper order, while in reality it was sorting by a different column. This is really difficult to spot unless you put in a music disc that’s in the name database and you notice the track order is different.

The solution here is to sort by filename until the “Join CD Tracks” command is active again. That usually involves two or three clicks on the first column. You should find that this solves the problem.