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iTunes and You

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This chapter is from the book

Creating and Configuring a Playlist

Before we put any music on your iPod, let's organize it in iTunes. Doing so will make it far easier to find the music you want both in iTunes and on your little portable pal. The best way to organize that music is through the use of playlists.

A playlist is simply a group of tracks that you believe should be gathered together in a list. The organizing principle is completely up to you. You can organize songs by artist, by mood, by style, by song length ... heck, if you like, you can create a playlist based on tracks that contain the letter z and a prime number. As far as playlists are concerned, you're the boss. Let's look at ways to create those playlists.

Standard Playlists

Standard playlists are those that you make by hand. To create one in iTunes, follow these steps:

  1. Click the large plus-sign (+) button in the bottom-left corner of the iTunes window, or choose File > New Playlist (Command-N on the Mac, Ctrl-N in Windows).
  2. Enter a name for your new playlist in the highlighted field that appears next to that new playlist in the Source list ( FIGURE 3.5 ).

    Figure 3.5 naming playlistsplaylistsnamingNaming a new playlist

  3. Click the Library entry in the Source list, and select the tracks you want to place in the playlist you created.
  4. Drag the selected tracks to the new playlist's icon.
  5. After you've dragged the tracks you want into your playlist, arrange their order. To do so, click the Number column in the main window, and drag tracks up and down in the list. When the iPod is synchronized with iTunes, this is the order in which the songs will appear in the playlist on your iPod. If the songs in your playlist come from the same album, and you want the songs in the playlist to appear in the same order in which they do on the original album, click the Album heading.

Playlist from Selection

You can also create a new playlist from selected items by following these steps:

  1. Select the songs you'd like to appear in the new playlist.
  2. Choose File > New Playlist from Selection. A new, untitled playlist containing all the selected songs appears in the iTunes Source list.
  3. To name the playlist, type the name in the highlighted field.

Smart Playlists

Smart Playlists are slightly different beasts. These playlists include tracks that meet certain conditions you've defined—for example, Coldplay tracks encoded in AAC format that are shorter than four minutes. Here's how to work the magic of Smart Playlists:

  1. In iTunes, choose File > New Smart Playlist.
  2. Choose your criteria. You'll spy a pop-up menu that allows you to select songs by various criteria—including artist, composer, genre, bit rate, comment, date added, and last played—followed by a Contains field. To choose all songs by Elvis Presley and Elvis Costello, for example, you'd choose Artist from the pop-up menu and then enter ELVIS in the Contains field. You can limit the selections that appear in the playlist by minutes, hours, megabytes, gigabytes, or number of songs. You may want the playlist to contain no more than 1 GB worth of songs, for example. You'll also see a Live Updating option. When it's switched on, this option ensures that if you add any songs to iTunes that meet the criteria you've set, those songs will be added to the playlist. If you add a new Elvis Costello album to iTunes, for example, iTunes updates your Elvis Smart Playlist automatically.
  3. Click OK. A new playlist that contains your smart selections appears in iTunes' Source list.

You don't have to settle for a single criterion. By clicking the plus-sign (+) button next to a criterion field, you can add other conditions. You could create a playlist that contains only songs that you've never listened to by punk artists whose names contain the letter J.

iTunes includes five Smart Playlists: '90s Music, My Top Rated, Recently Played, Recently Added, and Top 25 Most Played. These playlists have the Live Updating option enabled, which makes it possible for them to update dynamically as conditions change (when you rate more songs, play different tunes, or play other tunes more often, for example).

To see exactly what makes these playlists tick, Mac users can Control-click a Smart Playlist and choose Edit Smart Playlist from the resulting contextual menu. Windows users simply right-click a playlist to see this command.

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