By Sam Costello
For many years, the music, videos, and photos stored in our iTunes libraries and on our computers were stuck on those devices (barring complex file-sharing arrangements). For Apple products, that's all changed with the advent of AirPlay (formerly known as AirTunes), which allows you to stream all kinds of content from your computer or iOS device to other computers, speakers, and even TVs via Wi-Fi.
It's a pretty neat, and pretty powerful, technology that's only going to get more useful as more products support it.
You don't have to wait for that day to come, though. If you want to start using AirPlay today, read on for tips on how to use it with many existing devices and apps.
In order to use AirPlay, you'll need compatible devices. These include:
If you have an iOS device, you'll probably want to download Apple's free Remote app from the App Store. Remote allows you to use your iOS device as a remote (big surprise there, eh?) to control your computer's iTunes library and what devices it streams content to, which saves running back and forth to your computer each time you want to change something. Pretty handy!
When you have a version of iTunes that supports AirPlay and at least one other compatible device, you'll see the AirPlay icon, a rectangle with a triangle pushing into it from the bottom (picture at left above). Depending on what version of iTunes you have, the AirPlay icon will appear in different locations. In iTunes 11 and higher, the AirPlay icon is in the top left, next to the play/forward/backward buttons. In iTunes 10 and earlier, you'll find it in the bottom right-hand corner of the iTunes window. This allows you to select a device to stream audio or video to via AirPlay. While earlier versions of AirTunes required you to set iTunes to seek out these devices, that's no longer necessary--iTunes now automatically detects them.
As long as your computer and the device you want to connect to are on the same Wi-Fi network, you'll see the names you've given the devices in the menu that appears when you click the AirPlay icon.
Select the AirPlay device you want the music or video to play through in this menu (you can select more than one device at the same time). Then begin playing music or video and you'll hear it playing through the device you selected.
To learn specifics how to use AirPlay with other devices and apps, read on.