Create playlists on your iPod or iPhone

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So you’ve just ripped some new CDs, bought some music on iTunes, or added songs you got from somewhere else to your iTunes library. But you’re late for work, and you don’t have time to put all your new music in a playlist. That doesn’t matter, because you can make playlists on your iPod. The iPod has a feature called On-The-Go playlists, which lets you set up playlists on the iPod itself. When you want to create a playlist and you’re not at home, it’s an easy way to queue up the music you want to hear. So while you’re on the subway headed to work, take a couple of minutes and follow these instructions to set up a playlist for the day’s listening.

Add songs to On-The-Go playlists

There are two ways to do add songs to the On-The-Go playlist, depending on your iPod model. The first method works with the iPod nano and classic, and the second works with the iPhone and iPod touch. The iPod shuffle doesn’t offer this feature. (On-The-Go playlists have been around for a while, so many older models support them as well, although the functionality may not be the same as with current models.)

iPod nano and classic Let’s start with the iPod nano and classic. To add something to the On-The-Go playlist, navigate to the item you want to add, then press and hold the center button of the iPod. On the classic, you’ll go to a new screen with two options: Add To On-The-Go and Cancel. On the nano, you’ll see a sort of sheet display over the item you’ve selected with the same two options. Press the center button when Add To On-The-Go is highlighted to add the item, or press Cancel to go back.

You can press and hold the center button to bring up these options when you’ve selected anything: a song, album, audiobook, video, artist, playlist, a folder of playlists, a genre, a podcast episode, or the name of a podcast in the Podcasts lists.

With the iPod nano and classic, you can also add songs to the On-The-Go playlist as you listen to them. Say you’re listening to your music in shuffle mode, and you want to store the songs you like best in a playlist. While listening to a song, press and hold the center button on the iPod, then choose Add To On-The-Go.

To listen to this playlist, just go to Music -> Playlists, and scroll to the bottom. If you want to save the playlist, press the center button over Save Playlist at the top of the playlist; if you don’t do this, the iPod will erase it after 36 hours (if you haven’t listened to it). If you do this, its name changes to New Playlist 1 (or 2, and so on). To delete everything in the playlist, choose Clear Playlist.

An On-The-Go playlist on an iPod touch.
iPhone and iPod touch With the iPhone and iPod touch the procedure is different. First go to your music, and tap Playlists, then On-The-Go, which appears near the top of the list. When you’re in On-The-Go mode, you can flip through the different levels of music—songs, albums, artists, and so on—and add any item to the On-The-Go playlist by tapping the item; a plus (+) icon indicates that you’re in On-The-Go mode. If you select an artist, composer, or album, you can choose Add All Songs at the top of that item’s list, and if you select a genre, you can choose Add All Albums. To exit On-The-Go mode, tap the Done button at the top right of the screen.

In either case, you can listen to the On-The-Go playlist like any other, by choosing it from the Playlists menu. On the iPhone and iPod touch, you can edit the On-The-Go playlist by tapping Edit, and you can remove songs at will, or re-order them by tapping the icon to the right of a song and dragging it. And if you want to add more tracks to this playlist, tap Edit, then tap the plus icon to go back into On-The-Go mode. But one thing you can’t do is save and create multiple On-The-Go playlist on the iPhone or iPod touch.

Sync On-The-Go playlists to iTunes

While it’s great to be able to create playlists on your iPod, it’s also useful to be able to sync them to iTunes. If you sync your iPod automatically, iTunes will copy the On-The-Go playlist, naming it On-The-Go 1, On-The-Go 2, and so on. (If you’ve saved the playlist on a nano or classic, it’ll be called New Playlist 1, and so on.) You can see which songs you’ve added, and change the name of the playlist so you can use it regularly. If you do so, iTunes will sync the re-named playlist and remove the On-The-Go playlist. If you’ve set up your iPod to sync manually, however, iTunes won’t copy the playlists. If you want to save them, you’ll have to recreate them on iTunes.

On-The-Go playlists are a great way to set up a soundtrack for a day’s listening without using iTunes. Try them out and see if they help you mix and match music differently when you’re on the go.

[Senior contributor Kirk McElhearn writes about more than just Macs on his blog Kirkville.]

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