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Creating and Managing Smart Playlists

The basic purpose of a smart playlist is the same as a playlist—that is, to contain a collection of tracks you can listen to, put on a CD, and so on. However, the path smart playlists take to this end is different from that of playlists. Rather than choose specific songs as you do in a playlist, you tell iTunes the kind of tracks you want in your smart playlist, and it picks out the tracks for you and places them in the playlist. For example, suppose you want to create a playlist that contains all your classical music. Rather than picking out all the songs in your library that have the Classical genre (as you would do to create a playlist), you can use a smart playlist to tell iTunes to select all the Classical music for you. The application then gathers all the music with the Classical genre and places that music in a smart playlist.

You create a smart playlist by defining a set of conditions. After you have created these conditions, iTunes chooses songs that match those conditions and places them in the playlist. Another example should help clarify this. Suppose you are a big-time Elvis Presley fan and regularly add Elvis music to your library. You could create a playlist and manually drag your new Elvis tunes to that playlist. But by using a smart playlist instead, you can define the playlist to include all your Elvis music. Anytime you add more Elvis music to your library, that music is added to the playlist automatically—so it always contains all the Elvis music in your iTunes Library.

You can also base a smart playlist on more than one condition at the same time. Going back to the Elvis example, you could add the condition that you want the playlist to include only those songs you have rated four stars or higher—so the smart playlist contains your favorite Elvis songs.

As the previous example shows, smart playlists can be dynamic; iTunes calls this live updating. When a smart playlist is set to be live, iTunes changes its contents over time to match changes to the music in your iTunes Library. If this feature isn’t enabled for a smart playlist, that playlist contains only those songs that met the criteria at the time the playlist was created.

Finally, you can also link a smart playlist’s conditions by the logical expression All or Any. If you use an All logical expression, all the conditions must be true for a song to be included in the smart playlist. If you use the Any option, only one of the conditions has to be met for a song to be included in the smart playlist.

Creating Smart Playlists

To create a smart playlist, perform the following steps:

  1. Select File, New, Smart Playlist.

  2. On the first pop-up menu (which displays Artist by default), select the first category on which you want the smart playlist to be based. For example, if you want to use something different than Artist, you can select Genre, My Rating, or Year tag, among many others.
  3. On the second pop-up menu, select the operator you want to use. For example, if you want to match data exactly, select is. If you want the condition to be looser, select contains.
  4. Type the criterion you want to match in the box. The more you type, the more specific the condition is.

  5. To add another condition to the smart playlist, click the Add button (+). A new, empty condition appears (see Figure 7.6). At the top of the dialog box, the All or Any menu appears.
    Figure 7.6

    Figure 7.6. This smart playlist contains one completed condition and one in progress.

  6. Repeat steps 2 through 4 for the new condition.

  7. Repeat steps 5 through 6 to add more conditions to the playlist until you have all the conditions you want to include.
  8. Choose all on the menu at the top of the dialog if all the conditions must be met for a track to be included in the smart playlist, or choose any if only one of them must be met.

  9. If you want to limit the playlist, check the Limit to check box.
  10. Select the parameter by which you want to limit the playlist in the first menu; this menu defaults to items. Your choices include items (the number of items in the playlist), the time the playlist will play (in minutes or hours), or the size of the files the playlist contains (in MB or GB).
  11. Type the data appropriate for the limit you selected in the Limit to box. For example, if you selected minutes in the menu, type the maximum length of the playlist in minutes in the box.
  12. Select how you want iTunes to choose the songs it includes based on the limit you selected by using the selected by menu. For example, to have iTunes include tracks you’ve rated highly, select highest rating.
  13. If you want the playlist to include only songs whose check boxes in the Content pane are checked, check the Match only checked items box.
  14. If you want the playlist to be dynamic, meaning that iTunes updates its contents as the content of your Music library changes, leave the check in the Live updating box. If you uncheck this box, the playlist includes only those songs that meet the playlist’s conditions when you create it.
  15. Click OK (see Figure 7.7). You move to the Source list; the smart playlist is added and selected, and its name is ready for you to edit. The songs in your library that match the criteria in the playlist are added to it, and the current contents of the playlist are shown.
    Figure 7.7

    Figure 7.7. This smart playlist contains up to 150 songs from the selected artists; its content changes over time.

  16. Type the playlist’s name and press Enter. The playlist is ready for you to listen to and use for other purposes (such as to move onto an iOS device). You see the current content of the playlist in the Content pane (see Figure 7.8). You can work with the smart playlist like other types of content lists, such as sorting it to change the order in which songs play.
    Figure 7.8

    Figure 7.8. This playlist is ready for my listening pleasure.

Changing Smart Playlists

To change the contents of a smart playlist, you change the smart playlist’s criteria (remember that iTunes automatically places tracks in a smart playlist based on its criteria). Use the following steps to do this:

  1. Select the smart playlist you want to change.
  2. Click the Edit button. The Smart Playlist dialog appears, and the playlist’s current criteria will be shown.
  3. Use the tools in the dialog (most of which you learned about in the previous section) to change its criteria. For example, you can remove a condition by clicking its Remove button (-). You can also add more conditions or change any of the other settings for the playlist.
  4. Click OK. Your changes are saved and the contents of the playlist are updated to match the current criteria.
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