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Move Music to the iPod shuffle

As I mention earlier in the chapter, the iPod shuffle interacts differently with iTunes compared with a display-bearing iPod. To begin with, because the shuffle lacks a screen, it doesn’t need to offer options for synchronizing photos, videos, contacts, and calendars. The lack of a screen also means that you can do little to navigate a shuffle’s music library. You are, in a very real sense, flying blind.

Also consider the shuffle’s limited storage space. Because the current shuffles hold just 1 GB or 2 GB, you don’t have a lot of extra room for storing large music files. iTunes does its best to keep such files from being placed on your music player automatically.

With these limitations in mind, let’s take a look at just what iTunes offers for the shuffle owner.

When you attach an iPod shuffle to your Mac or PC, by default, iTunes launches. When it does, the shuffle appears in the iTunes Source list under the Devices heading, just like any other iPod (save for the fact that its icon looks like a shuffle rather than a full-size iPod). Select that shuffle, and iTunes’ main window shows two tabs: Settings and Contents, with the Contents tab front and center.

Contents tab

In the top part of the window, you see a list of the tracks you’ve loaded on the shuffle. At the bottom of the window, you see the Autofill pane (Figure 4.16), which contains the items described in the following sections.

Figure 4.16

Figure 4.16 The iPod shuffle’s Contents tab.

In theory, putting music on your shuffle is very simple. By default, iTunes is set up so that when you click the Autofill button, iTunes grabs a collection of random tracks from your iTunes Library and copies those tracks to your shuffle. But things don’t have to work that way. Although the Autofill button, in league with the Autofill From pop-up menu (which you’ll hear about in just a sec), is a powerful way to move music to your shuffle, you need never touch it.

Blasphemy? Perhaps. But the only way to ensure that you get exactly the music you want on your shuffle is to lay off this button. Instead, if your shuffle has anything on it, select it, select all its contents, and press your computer’s Delete key. Then drag just the music you want from your iTunes Library onto the shuffle’s icon.

To see the order in which songs will play if the shuffle is set to play from beginning to end, click the number heading in iTunes’ main window. To save that playlist so that you don’t lose it when you later fill your shuffle with other music, select everything in the playlist, and choose File > New Playlist from Selection. A new playlist will be created in iTunes’ Source list that includes all the selected tracks.

If you choose to bang the Autofill button, of course, it will do exactly what it says: fill your shuffle with as much as it can of the playlist selected in the Autofill From pop-up menu.

Autofill From pop-up menu

One way to customize your shuffle’s contents more carefully is to feed it from specific playlists. You might create sets of music that make sense for particular activities—music for your next workout or for a car trip, for example. Or use a particular Genius playlist that appeals to you. When you’ve created these playlists, you can choose the one you like from the Autofill From pop-up menu.

Choose Items Randomly

The shuffle was designed with random play in mind, but you can make it load specific tracks in a specific order by disabling this option. When you do, iTunes takes the playlist selected in the Autofill From pop-up menu and places as much of it as can fit, in order, on the shuffle. When you’ve flipped your shuffle into “play from beginning to end” mode, the playlist you load will play in that order. This technique is one way to ensure that the songs in an album you place on the shuffle play in the same order as they do on the album.

Choose Higher Rated Items More Often

I mean, honestly, what’s the use of putting music that you loathe on your shuffle? If you haven’t thought of a good reason for rating your audio files, now you have one. Assign a rating of four or five stars to your favorite tracks, and those tracks are more likely to be moved to your shuffle when this option is enabled.

Replace All Items When Autofilling

When this option is selected, iTunes will wipe out whatever music the shuffle currently holds and replace it with selections from the playlist selected in the Autofill From pop-up menu. Leaving this box checked is a good way to help ensure that you get a fresh crop of music the next time you listen to your shuffle. It’s not such a good choice, however, if you want to keep some selections on the shuffle (podcasts, for example) and remove others.

Uncheck this option, and check Only Update Checked Songs in the Settings tab, and you’ve got a whole lot more control. This way, you can uncheck the tracks you want to keep on the shuffle and then click the Autofill button. The unchecked music stays put and is surrounded by new material.

Settings tab

The other tab you see when selecting an iPod shuffle in the Source list provides settings for formatting the little devil and managing its relationship with iTunes. The Settings tab includes the some of the same options you find in a display-bearing iPod’s Summary pane.

At the top of the pane, you’ll find information regarding the shuffle’s name, capacity, software version number, and serial number.

Below is the same Version area that you see for other iPods. Here, you can update or restore your iPod with the latest iPod software.

The Options area is where the good stuff happens (Figure 4.17). Here, you’ll see options for launching iTunes when the shuffle is attached, updating only checked songs, converting higher-bit-rate songs to 128 Kbps AAC, enabling Sound Check, and enabling disk use.

Figure 4.17

Figure 4.17 The Options area of the iPod shuffle’s Settings tab.

You’re familiar with some of these options already. Let’s look at the new ones.

Convert Higher Bit Rate Songs to 128 Kbps AAC

Although the shuffle can play uncompressed files (which I discuss earlier in the chapter), on a device with such limited storage, packing it with these large files isn’t such a good idea. Enabling this option instructs iTunes to slim down stout files so that they take up less space on the shuffle.

iTunes won’t automatically place Apple Lossless files on your shuffle; on the 1G shuffle, it also won’t load AIFF files. If you drag such files to the shuffle to place them on the player manually, however, iTunes will automatically convert them to 128 Kbps AAC files when this option is enabled. Your files will remain in their original format on your computer, but compressed copies will be made just for the shuffle.

Enable Sound Check

Enable this option, and your shuffle will use those Sound Check settings to play back tracks at a fairly consistent volume.

Limit Maximum Volume

Enable this option and adjust the slider to set a maximum volume for the shuffle. Click the Lock icon to password-protect this option.

Enable Disk Use

If you enable this option, you can mount the shuffle on your computer and use it to store data files as well as music files.

To help ensure that you’ve got some room left for data files, iTunes includes a slider below this option that allows you to determine how much of the shuffle’s storage space will be reserved for songs and how much will go toward data storage. If you set the slider to the halfway point on a 1 GB iPod shuffle, you can fit approximately 120 4-minute 128 Kbps AAC songs and 512 MB of data on your iPod. Double those figures for a 2 GB shuffle.

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