Ten great smart playlists

As your iTunes library gets bloated with tons of songs and videos, organizing them and finding what you’re looking for can become difficult. Regular playlists can impose some order, but if you really want to get a grip on your library, smart playlists are the way to go. Just go to iTunes’ File menu and choose New Smart Playlist, and you can build dynamic playlists that contain only what you want based on criteria of your choosing. We use a lot of smart play-lists, and here are some of our favorites (unless otherwise stated, all multiple-line smart playlists should be set to Match All Of The Following Rules).

1. Just the music, please

Kind Does Not Contain Video
Kind Does Not Contain QuickTime
Genre Is Not Podcast
Genre Is Not Audiobook

If you’re like me, your iTunes library contains more than just music; it also includes podcasts, audiobooks, and video. The thing is, when I want to listen to music, I want to listen to just music. Recent versions of iTunes finally include a Music item in the Source list that omits many of these other types of tracks, but you’ll still occasionally hear a podcast. The preceding playlist includes only music tracks. It’s useful for listening directly from the playlist, but it’s also useful as a criterion for other smart playlists, to ensure that they contain only music. You may need to add Is Not criteria if you’ve got other nonmusical genres in your iTunes library (to add rules to a smart playlist, click on the plus-sign [+] button in the Smart Playlist window).—Dan Frakes

2. Fix those tags

Year Is Less Than 1000
My Rating Is [0 stars]

Having a properly tagged collection helps you get the most out of it. Two fields I use often in smart playlists are song ratings and year. To quickly view all tracks missing one of these fields, try these smart playlists, which find songs with no year and no rating, respectively.—DF

3. What’s new?

Date Added Is In The Last 1 Months
Play Count Is 0

Once your collection grows past a certain size, new music and videos can get lost in the crowd—and it’s easy to forget to listen to or watch them. This smart playlist locates only those files you’ve purchased or imported in the past month and haven’t played (you can adjust the time frame as desired). Hint: if you want to see all files you haven’t gotten around to checking out, just use the last line of the smart playlist.—DF

4. Refresher course

Last Played Is Not In The Last 3 Months
My Rating Is Greater Than [2 stars]

My collection has gotten so big that it includes tracks I haven’t listened to in months or years. Some of those tracks I don’t like, but most I’ve just forgotten about. This smart playlist lets you listen to tracks you haven’t heard for a while, but omits songs to which you’ve given low ratings. You can adjust the rating to reflect your own minimum threshold for bad music.—DF

5. Find liner notes

Kind Contains PDF

If you’ve bought a lot of albums from the iTunes Store, chances are at least a few of them included liner notes—virtual ones, in the form of PDF digital booklet files downloaded with the music. But how do you keep track of these liner notes? You could copy them to your hard drive, but an easier way is to create a smart playlist that gives you quick access to all your electronic album information.—DF

6. Apple TV strategy

Playlist Is Selected TV
Play Count Is 0

I enjoy watching TV shows (some downloaded, some ripped from DVDs) on my Apple TV. To manage the overflow of potential Apple TV video, I’ve created a two-step smart playlist. First, I set up a smart playlist called Selected TV that contains all the shows I want to watch (Match Any Of The Following Rules, followed by a series of Show Is show name entries), with every episode of all of those TV shows. But since I want to sync only episodes I haven’t watched yet, I combine it with another smart playlist, which I call Unplayed TV, and set my Apple TV to sync with the latter playlist, so that once I watch a show it will automatically disappear from my Apple TV hard drive.—Jason Snell

7. For small iPods

Time Is Less Than 6:00
Limit To your iPod's capacity
Selected By Highest Rating
Match Only Checked Items

Another downside to large libraries is that you can’t fit all your music on your iPod. Until Apple adds the shuffle’s useful AutoFill feature to all iPods, here’s a playlist that gets as much of your favorite music onto your iPod as possible. It omits long tracks, and includes only higher-rated tracks and checked items; you can ensure that particular tracks don’t copy to your iPod by giving them low ratings or unchecking them in iTunes. For iPod Capacity, use the amount of space left on your iPod after syncing video, photos, and podcasts (or disable syncing of these items for more space). Once you’re done, choose to sync only this playlist in iTunes’ Music settings for your too-small iPod.—DF

Purchased Files: With this smart playlist, you’ll always know exactly what you’ve bought, regardless of which computer you used to purchase files.

8. What did i buy?

Match Any Of The Following Rules
Kind Contains Protected AAC
Kind Contains Protected MPEG-4
Kind Contains Purchased AAC

When I purchase items from the iTunes Store, I’m not always doing so from the same computer. When I take the files home to add to my main iTunes library, they don’t show up in the Purchased playlist in iTunes’ Store section. To keep a current list of everything I’ve plunked down my money for, I use this playlist, which looks for protected audio and video files—those are the ones I’ve purchased from the iTunes Store.—Jonathan L. Seff

9. iPhone or iPod touch season pass

Video Kind Is TV Show
Show Contains show name
Season Is season number
Play Count Is 0
Limit To 3 Items Selected By Album

The iPhone and iPod touch are fine devices for watching video, but their storage space is even more limited than the Apple TV’s. Here’s a smart playlist to help you watch a TV show’s episodes from the beginning of the season. It will load the first three unwatched episodes of that season onto your device. Once you’ve viewed a show, its play count goes to 1, and it therefore gets booted; the next show in the series will take its place when you sync.—Christopher Breen

10. I want my MTV

Video Kind Is Music Video

Movies and TV shows have their own categories in iTunes’ library, but not music videos. For some reason, they show up in the Music area with the album they accompany, but are otherwise hard to find. For a quick view of all your music videos, one line is all you need.—JLS

Christopher Breen and Dan Frakes are Macworld senior editors, Jonathan L. Seff is Macworld’s senior news editor, and Jason Snell is Macworld’s editorial director.

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