"Create a Smart Playlist"
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How To Video
How To Video
Create a Smart Playlist
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>> [Donald Bell:] Apple's iTunes music software offers three kinds of playlists: standard, smart, and genius. You make standard playlists just by dragging-dropping songs from your library, and genius playlists are made just with a single click. Really, the only kind of iTunes playlist where brain cells come in handy are smart playlists. So what exactly is a smart playlist? Basically, it's a playlist that obeys a set of instructions to create a constantly evolving rotation of music. iTunes comes preloaded with a few examples you can find in the playlist menu, such as 'Recently Added," "My Top-Rated," and "Recently Played." You can tell them apart from other playlists because of the purplish color and the little cog wheel icon in the center. To get a better understanding of how these work, let's look under the hood of the iTunes "Recently Added" playlist by selecting it, going to the file menu, and choosing "edit smart playlist." You can also get this option by right-clicking on the playlist. Here we can see the rules of this playlist. A smart playlist can include as many rules as you like, but this one only uses two rules: it looks at the date-added information of your music collection, and pulls any media added in the last two weeks, and it goes through and excludes anything that might be a podcast. This playlist also has the live updating box checked, which means that the playlist is updated immediately any time content is added or deleted from iTunes. So that's a pretty basic playlist. To make something more complicated, let's make our own playlist by going to the iTunes file menu and selecting "new smart playlist." Here iTunes shows us a window where we can enter the playlist instructions. Now, let's say we want to make a playlist that will automatically collect all of your highest-rated rock songs. There's a couple ways to go about this so don't feel like you have to be exact. There's no harm in trial and error. For me, I would use the first instruction to tell my smart playlist to look for songs with the word "rock" in their genre description. I'll set this from "is rock" to "contains rock," so that it will also pick up genres like alternative rock, folk rock, rap rock, whatever. Next, I'll hit the plus button to add another rule where I'll say the rating needs to be higher than three stars. To make things interesting I'll add one more line where I'll say the skip count, the record of how many times I've skipped the song before it finishes, is less than ten skips. This trick comes in handy for weeding out songs that have a high rating but in reality tend to be skipped a lot. If I find out later that this rule makes the playlist a little too short, I can always go back and raise the skip count or delete the rule by using the minus button. Now if I had a massive rock library, I could keep adding rules such as the date range of the recordings, or I could set it up to exclude certain artists, but for my music collection, this should be plenty. Under the instructions I'm going to check the limit box and set the playlist to cut off at fifty songs. You could also limit by length of time, or say, 700 megabytes, if you want to fit the playlist onto a CDR. Now by default iTunes will choose the songs at random, but since this is a playlist of highly rated songs, I'll have it select songs according to rating. I also want to check the box for "match only checked items," since I don't want the playlist to include songs I've unchecked from my library. The "live updating" box will also get checked so that newly rated songs will get automatically added or deleted from the playlist. After hitting "OK," iTunes will create the smart playlist and give you a chance to name it whatever you want. You can check out the playlist and see if the results match up to your expectations. If they don't, remember that you can always go back later and tweak the settings by selecting the playlist and clicking on the "edit smart playlist" option in the file menu. That's it. That's how to create a smart playlist in iTunes. You can use them to quickly generate playlists based around genre or decade or even sort out all the loser songs in your collection that always get skipped. For CNET.com, I'm Donald Bell.
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