Creating and Configuring a Playlist

If the iPod were like lesser music players, you'd have to select all the songs on the device from one enormously long list. Thank heaven Apple's engineers had more sense than to provide you such a limited interface. Among other options, you can navigate your iPod via the playlists you create in iTunes. Here's how to create a variety of playlists.

Standard Playlists

You can create standard playlists in iTunes 2, 3, and 4. Follow these steps:

1. Click the large plus-sign (+) button in the bottom-left corner of the iTunes window, or choose the New Playlist command from the File menu (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 the new playlist in the Source list.

3. Click the Library entry in the Source list, and select the titles you want to place in the playlist you created.

You can select multiple titles in a row by holding down the Shift key and clicking the first and last titles you want to include. All titles, including the ones you clicked, get selected via this technique. To select individual titles on the Macintosh, hold down the Command key and click the songs you want. In Windows, hold down the Ctrl key to select individual titles.

4. Drag the selected titles to the new playlist's icon.

5. Click the new playlist's icon. The titles you selected are copied to the new playlist.

6. After you've dragged the titles you want into your playlist, arrange their order.

To do so, click the Number column in the main window, and drag titles up and down in the list. If you attempt to drag titles when any other column heading is selected (Song or Time, for example), the title plops right back where it came from when you let go of the mouse button.

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 albumyou've ripped an audio CD, for example, or purchased an album from the iTunes Music Storeand 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.

Smart Playlists

iTunes 3 introduced the Smart Playlista playlist based on user-generated criteriaand that feature remains in iTunes 4, albeit with some interface changes.

When you invoke the New Smart Playlist command in iTunes 3, you get a window that contains two tabs: Simple and Advanced. iTunes 4 dispenses with this tab structure and instead presents the Advanced interface. Smart Playlists are not available in iTunes 2.

Here's how they work:

1. Choose New Smart Playlist from iTunes' File menu.

If you're using iTunes 3, you'll see two tabsSimple and Advancedin the resulting Smart Playlist dialog box. To create a simple Smart Playlist, make sure that you're in the Simple section of the Smart Playlist dialog box. If you're running iTunes 4, you'll see no tabs.

2. Choose your criteria.

In iTunes 3, you'll spy a pop-up menu that allows you to select songs by artist, composer, or genre, followed by a Contains field. iTunes 4 offers more selection criteria. 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. To create an advanced Smart Playlist in iTunes 3, choose New Smart Playlist from iTunes' File menu, and click the Advanced tab in the resulting Smart Playlist dialog box.

iTunes 3's advanced Smart Playlist is the same as iTunes 4's regular playlist and allows you to choose songs in many ways. You can, for example, select songs by album, artist, bit rate, comment, date added, last played, genre, or play count.

Clicking the plus-sign (+) button next to a criterion field allows you to 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.

As you can with the simple Smart Playlist, you can limit what appears in the resulting playlist by minutes, hours, megabytes, gigabytes, or number of songs. Advanced Smart Playlists are also updated automatically if you choose the Live Updating option.

iTunes 4 includes four Smart Playlists: 60's Music, My Top Rated, Recently Played, and Top 25 Most Played.

As their names imply, 60's Music (an homage to Steve Jobs' love for music of that decade) includes songs recorded in the 1960s, My Top Rated includes 25 songs selected at random that have a rating of four or five stars, Recently Played includes 25 songs selected at random that you've played in the past two weeks, and Top 25 Most Played includes the 25 songs you've played most often.

These playlists have the Live Updating option enabled, which makes it possible for these playlists to be updated 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.

In iTunes 4.5, Apple enhanced the Smart Playlist in an important way. Previously, there was no easy way to keep sections of your library from appearing in a Smart Playlist.

Let's say you'd digitized all your old phonograph albums, for the sake of posterity, but you didn't want any of the songs on them ever to appear in a Smart Playlist.

Sure, you could have added a "phonograph" comment to each archived song and told the Smart Playlist not to include any song with the comment "phonograph," but wouldn't it be easier if you could simply tell the Smart Playlist to exclude all songs within certain playlists?

That's exactly what iTunes 4.5 and later does for you by including the new Playlist criterion. Now you can tell Smart Playlists to harvest songs only within certain playlists.