Tip of the Day: Finding Unknown ‘Items’ in Your iCloud Photo Library

For at least a few years, I’ve been mildly annoyed by the fact that my iCloud Photo Library reported containing something like “50,783 Photos, 3,643 Videos, 2 Items”. The counts for photos and videos weren’t the problem — the problem was the “2 Items”. What were they?

Caleb Hailey had the same problem, and posted a super-simple solution to Mastodon: a custom smart album for Photos for Mac with a dozen or so criteria like this:

  • Filename does not include “.jpeg”
  • Filename does not include “.png”
  • Filename does not include “.heic”

and so forth. A few minutes of busy work and I found my culprits: two AAC audio files that were each just a few seconds long, and seemingly empty. I have no idea how or when they got into my Photos library but I’m delighted to have them gone.

Worth pointing out: You don’t need to build up a list of every single filename extension that’s an image or video that you do want to keep in Photos. Once I built up a list of excluded filename extensions that whittled the list of matching items to 32, I just went through the items visually. The two AAC files stuck out like sore thumbs.

Also worth pointing out: You cannot create smart albums in Photos on iPadOS or iOS. Only MacOS. (Same thing goes for smart mailboxes in Apple Mail.) Apple still treats the iPad and iPhone as baby computers.

See also: A similar problem I had back in 2016, in which I had five unnamed items in my Photos library that could not be synced to iCloud. The solution to that one was also a smart album — and thus also a problem that could only be solved using a Mac.

Wednesday, 3 January 2024