Share your favorite iTunes playlists

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Imagine this: you’ve spent a long time setting up a playlist of your favorite songs for a party, for a session at the gym, or for your commute. And you’d like to share this playlist with your spouse or someone else in your household. You could explain which songs you’ve chosen, and that person may or may not want to go to the same trouble as you and find the songs in his or her iTunes library, then put them in the right order. But there’s a much easier way to share your hard work without requiring the same commitment from others.

Create your playlist

Setting up a playlist in iTunes is easy. Click the plus (+) icon below the sidebar or select File -> New Playlist (or use the keyboard shortcut Command-N) to create a new playlist, name it, then find songs in your library and add them to the playlist. (You can also use a smart playlist if you want.)

There are two ways to add songs to a regular playlist. The first is to select items in your iTunes library, or in a playlist, and drag them onto the new playlist’s name in the sidebar. The second is to select tracks in iTunes, control- or right-click on them, and choose Add To Playlist from the contextual menu. This displays a submenu showing all your playlists; choose one to add the selected tracks to it.

With the track number column selected, you can change the order of tracks in a normal playlist.

With either method, each time you add tracks they get added to the end of the playlist. By default, a normal playlist sorts by the order in which you add songs. You can move the songs around to change the order and work out the best sequence for your music, but make sure the playlist is sorted by the track number column header, with the arrow pointing up.

Share your playlist

Now that you’ve set up your playlist, you need to find a way to give it to someone. Select the playlist in the iTunes sidebar, then choose File > Library > Export Playlist. Save the file in the default XML format. Send it to the person with whom you want to share this playlist. The recipient can then open iTunes and choose File > Import Playlist, then select the XML file.

If the person don’t have all the songs, he or she will see an alert (we’ll get to that in a minute). Otherwise, the playlist will be added with all the songs you set up in your original playlist. The person can listen to the playlist in iTunes or sync it to an iOS device, for example.

But what if he or she doesn’t have all the songs? There’s an easy way you can share them. iTunes has a feature called Home Sharing that allows users who share the same iTunes Store account to copy files, over a local network, from one iTunes library to another. Load a library, click on the disclosure triangle next to the name of the library, then the one next to the Playlists folder. Select a playlist, and you’ll see its contents in the main section of the iTunes window. Select all the tracks, then click Import. The playlist itself doesn’t import in this manner, so you’ll still need to export and import it as explained above. But all the tracks from the playlist will be copied to the second computer.

Once the playlist is added to the second user’s iTunes library, that person can make any changes he or she wants; the playlist isn’t static, and anyone can add, remove, or re-order songs at will.

Give your playlist as a gift

You can gift a playlist to a friend, assuming everything is available on the iTunes Store.
If you want to share the contents of you favorite playlist with a friend, you can send it as a gift (within the limits of what’s available on the iTunes Store, that is). If you select a playlist, then click the small arrow icon to the right of its name, a dialog box will display asking if you want to give this playlist or publish it on the iTunes Store. If you click Give Playlist, iTunes will look at your songs, then take you to the iTunes Store. This is, of course, limited to what’s available, and if your playlist contains any songs that are album-only sales, you won’t be able to give these; in fact, if your playlist contains any album-only songs, the process will stop, and you won’t be able to give anything from that playlist until you remove the album-only songs (and iTunes won’t tell you which ones they are, but these are generally songs that are longer than 10 minutes). But assuming you can give the playlist you’ve created, I’m sure your recipient will be very happy.

[Senior contributor Kirk McElhearn writes about more than just Macs on his blog Kirkville. Twitter: @mcelhearn Kirk’s latest book is Take Control of iTunes 10: The FAQ.]

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At a Glance
  • Pros

    • New social network for discovering music
    • HD TV show rentals
    • A few more customizable, useful interface options
    • Smarter album art list view
    • Noticeable performance improvements


    • Ping feels unfinished
    • Other headline features won't mature for some time
    • Senseless interface changes harm usability
    • Ringtone features removed
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