iTunes Autofill opens up

Back in February 2006, over three years ago, I wrote an editorial asking—in fact, nearly begging—Apple to make the iPod shuffle’s Autofill feature available to all iPods. If you’ve never owned a shuffle, Autofill is a feature of iTunes that automatically picks an assortment of songs, from either your iTunes Library as a whole or a playlist of your choosing, to fill up the iPod. (Depending on your setting, the tracks are chosen randomly or with preference given to those with higher ratings. You can even set iTunes to pick a completely new set of tracks each time you use the Autofill feature.)

It’s a great feature, but one that’s been available only for the shuffle, despite the fact that Apple has long sold various other iPod models—and a couple phones you may have heard of—with capacities too small to hold an entire music collection.

Well, as of iTunes 8.1, Apple has finally—finally—made Autofill available to any iPod. Unfortunately, the company hasn’t made the feature easy to find if you don’t have a shuffle. Compliments of our friends over at TidBits, here are the steps you need to take to reveal it:

  1. With your iPod (or iPhone) connected to your computer, select the player in the iTunes sidebar on the left.
  2. In the main area of the window, to the right, click on the Summary tab.
  3. Check the box next to Manually Manage Music and Videos.
  4. Back in the sidebar, click on the disclosure triangle to the left of your iPod or iPhone to reveal its contents, then select the Music item.

The nearly-hidden Autofill feature in iTunes 8.1

At the bottom of the main sync area, you’ll now see the Autofill pop-up menu, which lets you designate the source from which Autofill should choose its music. Click on the Settings button to choose the other options: whether or not to replace all items each time you auto-fill, to choose items randomly, and to choose higher-rated items more often. You can also set aside a particular amount of space on your iPod for disk use. Click on Autofill to fill up your player.

It’s by no means the easiest feature to find, the steps to enable it are counterintuitive (switch to manual mode to access an automatic feature?), and it’s long overdue, but at least I finally got my wish.

P.S. Apple, you need to update your iPod shuffle FAQ:

Can I get Autofill for my other iPods?

This is a feature of iPod shuffle only.

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