Use a Smart Playlist to Fill Your MP3 Player
While yesterday's review of Microsoft's new Zune was being edited, a question came up: What's a good way to describe a "smart playlist" to the uninitiated?
As we tossed around a few phrases to add to the story, I showed how I used one smart playlist to automatically load a new selection of songs on an iPod. My editor (and podcast co-host) Greg Schneider thought this playlist recipe was worth sharing, so I said I'd document it here.
The first step is to figure out how much music you want to load each time. In my case, that's not as much as the iPod's capacity -- I like to carry around a few of photos and maybe a subway map or two. On a 4-gigabyte iPod nano, that means I'm going to want about 3.6 GB of music each time.
Then you want to tell iTunes to vary the selection, but without giving you things you might have just heard or skipped past. The last ingredient: Make sure you're not presented with any Christmas music in in the middle of June.
The screen capture here shows what I came up with:
* "Last Played... is not in the last... 60 days" should keep me from hearing anything too familiar;
* "Last Skipped... is not in the last... 60 days" does the same for music I disliked enough to jump past instantly;
* "Genre... is not... Holiday" clears out the Christmas music (provided it's all been filed under that genre);
* "Limit to... 3650 MB... selected by... random" is the most important part (my initial version of this recipe consisted only of this item);
* "Live updating," when enabled, tells iTunes to reshuffle this selection.
(You can do about the same thing in Windows Media Player, except that program doesn't track when you last skipped a song. Go to the Library menu, select "New Auto Playlist"; click the plus signs below "Music in my library" to limit the playlist to songs with a "Date last played" before the last 30 day and a genre that is not holiday, then click the plus sign below "And apply the following restrictions to the auto playlist" to limit its total size.)
Name this playlist something obvious -- in my case, "Random." Finally, tell iTunes to load the iPod with that playlist only. Select your iPod in the left-hand column, click the Music heading in the center pane, click the button next to "Selected playlists:" and then click the checkbox next to your new smart playlist.
Does this recipe work for you? Any changes you'd make? Let me know in the comments...
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