When Apple announced
the iPod shuffle
back in January of 2005, one of the features the company touted was Autofill. Actually a feature of Apple’s iTunes software, Autofill automatically picks an assortment of songs, from either your iTunes Library as a whole or a playlist of your choosing, to fill up your iPod. (As Apple put it a year ago, Autofill “automatically selects the perfect number of songs to fill iPod shuffle.”) You can tell iTunes to choose those tracks randomly and/or to choose higher-rated songs over lower-rated ones, and you can even have it pick a completely new group of tracks each time you connect your shuffle.
Autofill quickly became one of the most popular features of the shuffle. You didn’t have to worry about dragging tracks to the shuffle’s icon until it was full or manually creating a playlist just for the shuffle (often only to be told by iTunes that it can’t copy the playlist to the shuffle because the playlist is too big). It was, quite simply, an ingenious solution to one of the drawbacks of small-capacity media players.
Can I get Autofill for my other iPods?
This is a feature of iPod shuffle only.
That’s right—Autofill works
with the shuffle.
Now, some owners of larger-capacity iPods are probably thinking, “Yeah, so?” Well, I contend that Autofill isn’t really an iPod shuffle feature; rather, it’s a “small iPod” feature that thus far has simply been limited to the shuffle.
Consider: Autofill is based on the (safe) assumption that iPod shuffle owners have much more music than can fit on the shuffle. But there are many owners of
iPod minis, and even
in the same boat—I don’t know about you, but my 4GB iPod nano, with its 1,000-song capacity, can’t come close to accommodating my entire music collection. So I’ve always wished I could enable Autofill for my other iPods. I’ve heard the same plea from many an iPod user over the past year, so I know I’m not alone.
These pleas are surely going to increase in frequency now that Apple has
released a 1GB version of the iPod nano. As I explained in my recent
review of the new nano, given that the nano has the same memory limit—and thus the same need for the Autofill feature—as the larger iPod shuffle, it seems that adding Autofill at least to the nano line would be an obvious move.
But why limit it to 1GB-or-smaller iPods? Unlike many of the “I wish the iPod could…” requests I hear, I can’t think of a downside to making Autofill available for other models. After all, no one buys an iPod shuffle just for Autofill—it’s a great feature that makes the shuffle easier to use, but it’s not like making Autofill available for a 4GB nano is going to affect 1GB iPod shuffle sales. (And if it does, I doubt that Apple would be upset at the “upsell.”)
So consider this is my latest “iPod feature” wish: I hope Apple will enable Autofill for non-shuffle iPods in a future software update.
UPDATE 8/27/06: Reader Markus Waldinger let me know that he’s created a script for iTunes for Windows, in JScript format, that approximates this feature. The script is available from
his Web site. (I haven’t tested it.)