Brendon Walsh
Smart Playlists in iTunes

Smart Playlists in iTunes


Since I started using my iPhone, I've found myself not carrying around all of the other handhelds that I used to. My Palm Tungsten and my 80GB iPod are now collecting dust on my desk at home. But this leaves me with a problem. The iPod at least had the storage capacity to hold all of my music and frequented podcasts, but now that I'm limited to a tenth of the space I've had to come up with new ways to organize my music and be selective about the media that I take with me every morning. Enter iTunes and Smart Playlists.

iTunes is a great media tool for those that just want the simple interface to play music and watch movies. But it also has a lot of power under the hood that many never get the opportunity to explore. All of this power in music management comes from Smart Playlists. These programmable playlists allow you to create dynamic playlists based on extensive ID3 tag information.

As an example, one of my Smart Playlists is set up to grab all of my music tagged with the comment "International" and has a star greater than 1. I can then choose to sync this new podcast to my iPhone and it will be updated with any new songs that fit this criteria as time progresses.

You may think that is particularly uninteresting. Well, allow me to make this more relevant. I currently have over 10,000 tracks in my posession and the vast majority of those have never even been listened to. So I started a basic organization system in which I initially tag everything in the library with 1 star. The songs that I listen to and enjoy will be promoted up the rankings and into yet another Smart Playlist.

However, there are times when I add music to the library and have listened to it, but forgot to rank it. In these cases, I have a Smart Playlist that grabs all of my songs with a play count greater than 0 and a rating of 1. I label this Playlist "Reconsider" so I can revisit it and make ratings accordingly. How about the music that you add to the library, but then instantly forget about because you have other things to work on at the moment? Well, I even have a Smart Playlists that grabs all of the music that I've added within the last week and have yet to listen to.

You can see how this would quickly become more and more useful as one's library increases in size. The best part is being able to create the illusion that you have every song at your disposal when you really have less than a tenth of that.

Finally, I have a playlist which I refer to as "Worth A Listen." This playlist collects all songs that I have not listened to in over a month and have a rating of 3 or more. The only issue I have now is trying to find time to listen to all of this music and rate all of it.