You know as well as I that the iPod shuffle was designed with random play in mind. Just plug in your shuffle, select it in iTunes’ Source list, bang the Autofill button, and your shuffle is filled with music.
But suppose you’d rather not bounce from reggae to rock to Rachmaninov when listening to your shuffle. With a bit of planning there are ways to reduce the randomness of shuffle play. Shuffle along with me and I’ll show you how.
Bear in mind that Autofill is a convenience , not a requirement. You’re welcome to ignore the button and instead drag tracks directly from your iTunes library to the shuffle icon in the Source list. For more convenience, select the Library entry in the Source list, choose Edit > Show Browser, and drag a genre, artist, or album to the shuffle.
The songs will be copied to the shuffle in the order you add. Using this method you can then configure the shuffle to play your carefully wrought playlist from beginning to end (by moving the back power/play-order toggle switch one notch to the Play In Order position). If you’d like to change the order in which tracks play, select the shuffle in the Source list, click the heading above the track numbers, and drag tracks to where you’d like them.
You’ve spent a lot of time on that playlist. To ensure that you don’t lose it, click the shuffle icon in the Source list, choose Edit > Select All to select all the tracks in the playlist, and then choose File > New Playlist From Selection. A new playlist will be created that contains the selections on your shuffle. When you later want to replace the shuffle’s contents with this playlist—and you want the tracks to appear in the order your assigned—uncheck the Choose Songs Randomly option, check the Replace All Songs When Autofilling option, select the playlist from the Autofill From pop-up menu, and click the Autofill button.
Mark the Keepers
You don’t need to hand-tool every shuffle playlist to keep much of what you want on your ultra-portable player. You can instruct iTunes to lay off tracks that you adore. The means for doing so is the Only Update Checked Songs option in the shuffle preferences window. To get there, select your shuffle in the Source list and click the small iPod icon at the bottom of the iTunes window. You’ll see this option in the number 3 position in the resulting preferences window.
With this option enabled, go to your shuffle and uncheck those tunes that you want to keep. (A quick way to check or uncheck everything in the playlist is to hold down the Command key (Mac) or Control key (Windows) and click one of the check boxes.) Provided that the Replace All Songs When Autofilling option in the Autofill pane is unchecked , when you next click Autofill, only those checked songs will be replaced, leaving the tunes you’ve unchecked right where they are.
Time and again I’ve watched new shuffle owners plug in their iPods, press Autofill, and then grimace when their music player blasts an iTrip tone down their ear canals. This needn’t happen.
To work around it, create a smart playlist that weeds out this kind of material. For example, choose File > New Smart Playlist and configure the window to read Time is Greater Than 1:00. This filters out not only small audio tidbits like the iTrip tones, but the goofy little cuts that haunt some albums.
Of course you can do far more with smart playlists that avoid obnoxious sounds. To keep things fresh, why not create a playlist that contains tracks you’ve never heard—a configuration that reads Play Count is 0 with live updating enabled will do the job. Or if you want greatest hits most of the time, configure your condition to read Compilation is Set. (Greatest hits albums and concert recordings are often assigned the Compilation tag.)
In the end, it’s your iPod to do with as you like. Life may be random, but playback on your shuffle needn’t be.