How to multi-import audio files

Playlist forum visitor, paulrhim proposed a problem that set my wheels turning. He writes:

I would like to have my iTunes library in Apple Lossless, but of course this format would take up too much room on my iPod. Is there a way to automatically convert to AAC or mp3 when copying songs to my iPod? I know such a thing is possible with the iPod shuffle, but didn’t know if it could be done with a full-sized iPod.

As much as I’d like to see iTunes record two versions of a track—a meaty one for iTunes and a smushed one for an iPod—by default, it won’t. But with a measure of interference on your part, you can make this happen.

Existing Tracks

For tracks already in your library, I’d do this:

1. Create a smart playlist whose conditions read: Kind contains Lossless.

This packs the playlist with songs encoded only in the Apple Lossless format.

2. Select iTunes > Preferences, click the Importing tab, and choose the encoder you’d like to use for the the tracks moved to the iPod—AAC at 128 kpbs, for example. Click OK to dismiss the Preferences window.

3. Select all the tracks in your Lossless smart playlist and choose Advanced > Convert Selection to AAC (or whatever encoder you’ve chosen).

Wait while iTunes converts the tracks.

4. Create yet another smart playlist that’s used to identify the converted tracks. You can identify these tracks in a number of ways but I suggest Comment as the best way to go as you easily tag specific files and exclude others.

To do this, select all the tracks you want to copy (sorting your tunes by Date Added will help you locate the recently converted tracks), choose File > Get Info, confirm that you really do want to edit the information for multiple files, and in the resulting Multiple Song Information window, enter a unique comment in the comment field— For iPod , for example—and click OK. Create a smart playlist that looks for that trait—Comment is For iPod.

5. Plug in your iPod, select it in iTunes’ Source list, and click the iPod icon at the bottom of iTunes’ main window to call up the iPod Preferences window. Enable the Automatically Update Selected Playlists Only option and in the list below choose the smart playlist that contains the tracks you want to copy to your iPod. Choose File > Update iPod and the tracks in the smart playlist will be copied to your iPod (while simultaneously deleting any files on the iPod).

New Tracks

You’ve taken care of the tracks already in your iTunes library, let’s now think about the future.

1. Travel to Doug’s AppleScripts for iTunes and download Doug’s Multi-Import 1.1 applet. This applet allows Mac users to rip tracks from an audio CD in multiple formats. Install the applet in the ~/Library/iTunes/Scripts directory and launch iTunes.

2. In iTunes’ Importing preference, create an encoder setting that you’ll use only for tracks copied to your iPod—AAC at 160 kbps, for example. You’ll do this so that a smart playlist you create can identify these newly ripped tracks.

3. Create that smart playlist using the Kind identifier—Kind is AAC at 160 kpbs. Be sure that the Live Updating option is enabled.

4. Insert an audio CD and wait for it to appear in iTunes’ Source list. Choose Multi-Import from iTunes’ AppleScript menu. A dialog box will appear asking you to choose which encoders you’d like to use. Command-click to select each encoder and click OK—the chosen encoders will use their most recent Importing preferences setting. Another dialog box will appear offering you the opportunity to save the ripped tracks to a special playlist. Leave the Name field blank and click OK.

iTunes will rip the CD multiple times—one time for each encoder you’ve chosen. As each track is ripped to your iPod library it will be automatically added to your smart playlist.

5. Plug in your iPod, select it in iTunes’ Source list, and click the iPod icon in the bottom of iTunes’ main window to call up the iPod Preferences window. Enable the Automatically Update Selected Playlists Only option and, in the list below, choose the smart playlist you just created.

If you’ve used the first technique to convert your old tracks and would like those to remain on your iPod, select it in this list as well. Choose File > Update iPod and the tracks in the smart playlist will be copied to your iPod.

When you’d next like to rip a CD, just invoke Multi-Import from the AppleScript menu and your smart playlist will take care of the rest.

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