Cheapskate iTunes Store tips

Macworld.com – Unless you're on the receiving end of the latest round of financial bailouts, you understand that the economy is in pretty miserable shape. And, because it is, you're likely keeping a sterner eye on expenses. With that in mind, allow me to offer a few tips for saving money at the iTunes Store.

Free on iTunes. The Store's home page sometimes includes a link to the free media Apple offers each week, but not always. You can place that link in the comfort of your own Web browser. Just copy this link right here (U.S. only), paste it into your Web browser's Address field, click and hold on its icon, drag it into the Bookmarks bar, and assign it a name you're likely to remember--Free iTunes, for example. When you want to see what's free at The Store, just click the link and iTunes opens, revealing all its free goodness.

If you're interested in narrowing your search to just movies or TV shows, that's easily done. You can find the week's free movie offers by using this link (U.S. only). Free TV shows can be seen by using this one (U.S. only). Again, adding these links as bookmarks in your browser's Bookmarks bar will make it easier to use them.

Automate free files. Free content from iTunes is great, but far too many people forget it's there. There are several websites that are more than happy to alert you to free iTunes content via RSS feeds, but I prefer to have the Free on iTunes page open up automatically once a week so I can browse its contents.

To do that, I take the Free on iTunes link I provided earlier and drag it to the Desktop to create a Web Internet Location file. I then open iCal and create an alarm that repeats every Tuesday morning that automatically opens that Location file, which, in turn, launches iTunes and takes me to the Free page. If you'd like to try this yourself, just create a new iCal event, in the Alarm section choose Open File, navigate to the Location file you created, and choose a time and a repeat interval (every week). Click Done and your Mac will show you the Free on iTunes page at the same time every week.

Free(ish) ringtones. I'm pleased that The Store is now selling its music without DRM for a number of reasons--higher quality, greater opportunity to use that music on all the devices you own, etc. But my inner iPhone-owning cheapskate loves it for this reason: Free(ish) ringtones!

In the past, if you wanted a ringtone from a track you'd purchased from The Store, you'd have to pay for both the track and the ringtone. No longer. Because iTunes Plus tracks aren't copy-protected you're welcome to import them into GarageBand, edit them down to 40 seconds or less, click the Cycle Region button, and choose Share -> Send Ringtone to iTunes. That musical snippet is now available to your iPhone when you next sync it.

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