This series of tutorials on the iTunes Store was inevitable, as the iTunes Store is as much, if not more, an integral part of the whole iTunes experience as playing music or watching TV shows.
As time passes, Apple has added a plethora of features to the iTunes store, to the point where even someone who only uses iTunes as a software to sync their iPod or iPhone (and purchases their music from other sources) can benefit from the Store's features - many of them not so obvious.
These tutorials will introduce you to the iTunes Store itself, explain how to manage your iTunes account, your wish list, how to share interesting content you found on the store, etc.
Let's start with a brief overview of the iTunes Store.
Behind the scenes, the iTunes Store is like an ever-growing website, much in fact like Amazon.com - the iTunes Store started years ago selling only audio content -first, music, later on audiobooks- to the supermarket of digital content you know today, which offers downloadable movies, movies for rent, TV shows, podcasts (the term "podcast" actually comes from the word "iPod"!), and, with the advent of the iPod touch and the iPhone, a full-fledged "App Store", which is bound to grow further since the introduction of Apple's latest product, the iPad internet-enabled tablet (it has already, with the introduction of "iBooks", and the entry of Apple into the ebooks market).
The only way to access the digital content of the iTunes Store is through iTunes; while Apple has recently enabled preview links from any web browser, the streamlined ability to purchase and download content remains exclusive to iTunes itself. In the screenshot below, an album preview that loads inside your web browser: you can preview songs, look at ratings, bookmark the page as you would with any other web page, etc. But to purchase and download the album, you need to open iTunes by clicking the blue View in iTunes button: (for technical reasons — previewing iTunes links did not always work as smoothly as Apple would have liked it to)
What happens after you click on the View in iTunes button is covered in our purchasing from the iTunes Store tutorial!
The top portion of the iTunes Store window is filled with a bar that contains the most common commands and sections of the store, and looks something like this: (note that, depending on your settings, your screen resolution, the current size of your iTunes window, some buttons may be invisible - detailed explanations follows the screenshot)
The leftmost button is an "x", to close the iTunes Store and return to iTunes itself: this button is only visible if you have configured iTunes to load the store in a full window (customize the iTunes Store).
Follow the traditional history Back and Forward buttons, familiar to anyone who has used a web browser (the iTunes Store is, after all, a website - albeit brows-able only through iTunes). And the Home icon, which brings you back to the store's main landing page.
Each of the following are button-menu combos: Music, Movies, TV Shows (selected on the screenshot), App Store, Podcasts, Audiobooks, and iTunes U. Click on the label of any of these buttons, and you will navigate to the landing page of this particular media type: click on the TV Shows button, for example, and the iTunes Store page for TV Shows load, displaying all sub-categories for TV Shows genres (Reality, Drama, etc.), and showcasing featured TV shows of the moment.
Notice that as you move your mouse cursor above any of these buttons, a downward pointing arrow appears: this indicates the presence of a dropdown menu. Click on the arrow (as opposed to the section label, or letters) to reveal the dropdown menu and subsection for that store category.
The content of the menu depends on which category it belongs to, as well as special occasions (notice a seasonal "Valentine's Day" menu item in the middle section). The menu's content can also be accessed from within the iTunes Store itself, mostly through the side navigation of the landing page, but using the menu is a handy shortcut to directly accessing the section you are interested in without having to go through several pages and sub-pages.
The last link on the right of the iTunes Store's navigation bar is your Apple ID, or email address, that is associated with the iTunes Store. It too reveals a dropdown menu which we'll discuss in details in another tutorial.