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iTunes and You

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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Moving Music to the iPod Shuffle

As I mentioned earlier in the chapter, the iPod shuffle interacts differently with iTunes than does a display-bearing iPod. To begin with, because the shuffle lacks a screen, there's no need to offer options for synchronizing photos, contacts, and calendars. The lack of a screen also means that there's little you can do to navigate a shuffle's music library. You are, in a very real sense, flying blind.

And then there's the shuffle's limited storage space. Because the current shuffles hold just 512 MB or 1 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 automatically on your music player.

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

Shuffle Preferences

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 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 you can open its preferences by clicking the iPod icon at the bottom of the iTunes window or by opening the iTunes Preferences window (choose iTunes > Preferences on the Mac or Edit > Preferences in Windows) and clicking the iPod pane.

What appears is quite different from what you see when you look at a display-bearing iPod's preferences. Instead of seeing a tabbed window, you'll view a single window offering a limited set of options ( FIGURE 3.11 ), which are described in the following sections.


Figure 3.11 The iPod Preferences window shows the shuffle pane when you plug in an iPod shuffle.

Open iTunes When This iPod Is Attached

You can undoubtedly guess what disabling this option does. Uncheck this box if you don't want iTunes to jump to the fore every time you plug in your shuffle.

Keep This iPod in the Source List

This is a new iPod option—and a very convenient one. The idea is that even if you unmount your shuffle, a "virtual" shuffle remains in the Source list. This is essentially a special playlist of the songs currently on the shuffle that you can modify even if the shuffle's not attached to your computer. If you uncheck this option, the shuffle leaves the Source list when you unmount it.

Only Update Checked Songs

If you have a larger iPod, you've seen this option before. This is one way to ensure that certain songs stay on the shuffle and aren't replaced when you next sync it with iTunes.

Convert Higher Bit Rate Songs to 128 Kbps AAC for This iPod

You may recall that in Chapter 1, I mentioned that the shuffle won't accept files encoded in AIFF or Apple Lossless format. iTunes and the shuffle were designed this way so that you wouldn't pack your shuffle with just a few very large song files. Enabling this option allows you to listen to songs encoded in these formats.

iTunes won't automatically place AIFF and Apple Lossless files on your iPod. 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 a compressed copy will be made specially for the shuffle.

Enable Disk Use

At its heart, the iPod shuffle is little more than a USB key drive—the kind of portable flash-memory drive that you can get at your local Costco for something over $50. 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 512 MB iPod shuffle, you can fit approximately 60 four-minute 128 Kbps AAC songs and 156 MB of data on your iPod. Double those figures for a 1 GB shuffle.

Autofill Pane

Select an iPod shuffle in iTunes' Source list, and you'll notice that the bottom of the iTunes window is suddenly segmented to reveal the Autofill pane ( FIGURE 3.12 ). This pane is where you configure iTunes to move music to your shuffle.


Figure 3.12 iTunes reveals the Autofill pane when an iPod shuffle is connected to your computer.

Autofill button

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 random collection of tracks from your iTunes Library and copies it 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 does exactly what it says: fills 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 specific playlists. You might create sets of music that make sense for particular activities—music for your next workout or for a short car trip, for example. When you've created these playlists, you can choose the one you like from the Autofill From pop-up menu ( FIGURE 3.13 ).


Figure 3.13 The Autofill From pop-up menu

Choose Songs 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 will take the playlist selected in the Autofill From pop-up menu and place 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 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 Songs 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 music, 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 Songs When Autofilling

With this option selected, iTunes will wipe out whatever music the shuffle currently holds and replace it with selections from the playlist chosen in the Autofill From pop-up menu. Leaving this option checked is a good way to help ensure that you'll 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 iPod Preferences window, and you've got a whole lot more control. This way, you can uncheck all your podcasts (or other tracks you want to keep) on the shuffle and then click the Autofill button. The stuff you want to keep stays put and is surrounded by new material.

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