Reader Dr. Christopher Watts is puzzled by iTunes’ sync options. He writes:
So I got my iPhone yesterday, and I’m deliriously happy. But here’s what I can’t figure out: I recently bought the entire third season of Grey’s Anatomy . In the Video tab in iTunes, my choices are Sync All, Sync X Most Recent, Sync All Unwatched, and Sync X Most Recent Unwatched. But that doesn’t make any sense. What I need is Sync X Least Recent Unwatched. Otherwise I have to watch the season backwards. Or am I insane?
As a physician who may one day cross my path, my fervent hope is that you’re in possession of each and every one of your marbles—or will be by the time I’m asked to turn my head and cough. You’re not nuts, doc, you’ve simply been stumped by one of the more unintuitive aspects of iTunes. Considering that Apple sells entire TV seasons at the iTunes Store it is goofy that iTunes doesn’t provide an obvious way to easily sync those shows, in order, to an iPod or iPhone.
But the key word here is obvious , because it can be done with the cunning use of a Smart Playlist. Like so:
Choose File -> New Smart Playlist and enter these conditions:
Match All of the Following Rules
Video Kind is TV Show
Show Contains Grey’s Anatomy
Play Count is 0
Season is 3
Limit to 3 Items Selected by Least Recently Added
Live Updating [On]
Your Smart Playlist should now hold the first three episodes of the show. The beauty part of this playlist is the Play Count is 0 condition. When you finish watching an episode, its play count increments to 1. Because the playlist demands a play count of zero, when you next sync your iPhone that episode is tossed out of the playlist and replaced with the next least recently added show, which will be the next episode.
All you need to do now is plug in your iPhone, select the Videos tab in iTunes, enable the Selected option in the TV Shows area, choose Playlists from the second pop-up menu, and enable the Smart Playlist you just created.
“But wait!” those among us who obtain TV shows from other sources shout, “I didn’t import my shows in their episode order, so this playlist won’t work for me!”
No worries. Just edit the title of your shows so that they’re preceded with episode number—01. Introduction, 02. Exposition, 03. Development, 04. Recapitulation, and 05. Coda, for example—and then Limit to X Items Selected By Name.