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Creating and Managing Playlists

Playlists are great for collecting content you want to listen to or watch on demand; think of playlists as your own greatest hits collections. They are useful for moving content onto iPods, iPhones, and iPads because you can collect content to match the amount of storage space you want to consume on these devices. You can also use playlists to burn CDs, and you can share playlists with others over a local network.

With a playlist, you can determine exactly which content is included and the order in which that content plays. You can use playlists to collect any type of content, including music, movies, TV shows, and so on. Although you generally include only one type of content, such as music, in a single playlist, you can also mix and match content types. For example, you might want to include a group's music videos in a playlist that also contains its music. Playlists are easy to create, and they never change over time—unless you intentionally change them.

Creating a Playlist

You can create a playlist in two ways. You can create a playlist that is empty (meaning it doesn't include any content), or you can choose content and then create a playlist that includes the content you chose.

The place you start depends on what you have in mind. If you want to create a collection of content but aren't sure which specific content you want to start with, create an empty playlist. If you know of at least some of the content you intend to include, choose that content and create the playlist.

You can create an empty playlist by using any of the following techniques:

  • Choose File, New Playlist.
  • Press Ctrl+N (Windows) or Cmd+N (Mac).
  • Click the Create Playlist button, which is the plus sign (+) in the lower-left corner of the iTunes window.

Whichever method you use results in an empty playlist in the Source pane; its name is highlighted to show you that it is ready for you to edit. Type a name for the playlist and press Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac)—you can name a playlist anything you want. The playlist is renamed and selected in the Source pane. Because the playlist is currently empty, the Content pane is empty when the playlist is selected. The playlist is ready for you to add content; you learn how to do so later in this lesson.

If you already know some content you want to place in a playlist, you can create the playlist so that it includes that content as soon as you create it. Browse or search the Library to find the content you want to include in the playlist. For example, you can browse for all the songs in a specific genre or search for music by a specific artist. In the Content pane, select the content you want to place in the playlist.

Choose File, New Playlist from Selection or press Ctrl+Shift+N (Windows) or Cmd+Shift+N (Mac). A new playlist appears in the Source pane and is selected. Its name is highlighted to indicate that you can edit it, and you see the content you selected in the Content pane, as shown in Figure 8.1.

Figure 8.1

Figure 8.1 When you create a playlist based on selected content, you see that content as soon as the playlist exists.

iTunes attempts to name the playlist by looking for a common denominator in the group of items you selected. For example, if you select songs from the same artist, that artist's name is the playlist's initial name.

Similarly, if you select songs from the same album, the playlist's name is the artist's and album's names. Sometimes iTunes picks an appropriate name, and sometimes it doesn't.

While the playlist name is highlighted, edit the name as needed and then press Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac). The playlist is ready for you to add more content, organize, and so on.

Adding Content to a Playlist

The whole point of creating a playlist is to add content to it. Whether you create an empty playlist or one that already has some songs in it, the steps to add content to the playlist are the same:

  1. Double-click the playlist's icon in the Source pane. It opens in a separate window whose title is the name of the playlist.
  2. Position the playlist's window so that you can see it and the iTunes window.
  3. In the iTunes window, browse or search for content you want to add to the playlist. You can move content from any source, including other playlists, into a playlist.
  4. Select the items you want to add to the playlist and drag them onto the playlist's window (see Figure 8.2). As you drag, the pointer becomes the add (+) icon and shows the number of items you are moving. When you release the mouse button, the content is added to the playlist.
    Figure 8.2

    Figure 8.2 Here you see me adding the highlighted items from the iTunes window in the foreground to the playlist's window that is open in the background; the number attached to the pointer indicates how many items I'm adding to the playlist.

  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you have added all the content you want to include in the playlist. The playlist is ready for you to organize and use.

Click the playlist's window to bring it to the front. You see its contents in a window that offers the same tools as the iTunes window. For example, you can use the Browser in it, play the content with the playback controls, sort the list, change views, and so on. Information about the playlist, such as its playing time, appears in the Source Information area at the bottom of the iTunes window.

Removing Songs from a Playlist

If you decide you don't want one or more tracks included in a playlist, select the tracks you want to remove and press the Delete key. A warning prompt appears. Click Yes and the tracks are deleted from the playlist. (If you don't want to be prompted each time you delete tracks from a playlist, check the Do not ask me again check box.)

Because items in a playlist are only pointers to content, when you delete content from a playlist, it isn't deleted from the Library; it is only removed from the playlist.

Setting the Order in Which a Playlist's Content Plays

The order in which a playlist's items play is determined by the order in which they appear in the Content pane. (The first track is the one at the top of the window, the second is the next one down, and so on. The exception to this is when you play a playlist in Shuffle mode, in which case, the playback order is randomized.) When the list is sorted by the Track Number column (which is the unlabeled column that always appears at the left edge of the window), you can drag tracks higher on the list to make them play earlier or down in the list to make them play later. You can move tracks individually, or you can select multiple tracks and move them at the same time.

Just like the Content pane in the iTunes window, you can also change the order in which tracks play by sorting the playlist by its columns.

When you re-sort by the Track Number column, the order returns to the previous order it was in when last sorted by the Track Number column. So, you don't lose any manual ordering you've done because you sort by one of the other columns; you can always return to that order by sorting by Track Number again.

Deleting a Playlist

If you decide you no longer want a playlist, you can delete it by selecting the playlist on the Source list and pressing the Delete key. A prompt appears; click Delete and the playlist is removed from the Source list. (Be sure to check the Do not ask me again check box if you don't want to be prompted in the future.) Again, because playlists store only pointers to content, deleting a playlist doesn't impact its content in your Library; it only removes the playlist from the Source pane and deletes the pointers to the content that was included in the playlist.

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