How to Create Smart Playlists in iTunes

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Making playlists in iTunes is usually a manual process that involves a lot of dragging and dropping. But it doesn't have to be. Thanks to the Smart Playlists feature, you can make a set of rules and then have iTunes automatically create a playlist using songs that match those rules. 

For example, you can create a Smart Playlist that contains songs that you have rated five stars, songs you have played more than 50 times, or songs added to your iTunes library in the last 30 days.

Smart Playlists are powerful and let you create all kinds of interesting and fun mixes. You can even update them automatically when your iTunes library changes. For example, if your Smart Playlist contains only songs rated five stars, whenever you rate a new song five stars, it will show up on your playlist.

Creating a Smart Playlist

Creating a Smart Playlist is simple, though you have three ways to do it. To create a Smart Playlist, either:

  1. Go to the File menu, click New, and then choose Smart Playlist.

    Creating a Smart Playlist
  2. In the menu at the left-hand side of iTunes, right-click in the space beneath your existing list of playlists and select New Smart Playlist.

    Creating a Smart Playlist in iTunes
  3. From the keyboard, click Option + Command + N (on a Mac) or Control + Alt + N (on Windows).

Choosing Your Smart Playlist Settings

A window now pops up that lets you select the criteria that determine which songs show up in your Smart Playlist. 

  1. Start with the first rule for creating your Smart Playlist by clicking the drop-down labeled Artist and selecting any category in the menu. 

    Setting a rule for a Smart Playlist
  2. Enter the thing to be matched. If you want songs you've rated five stars, enter that. If you want songs by Willie Nelson, type in his name. The rule will end up reading like a sentence: "Artist is Willie Nelson" will match any song in which the artist listing in iTunes is Willie Nelson, for example. 

    Setting a rule for a Smart Playlist
  3. To make your playlist even smarter, add more rules to it by clicking the + button at the end of the row. Each new row allows you to add new matching criteria to make a more specific playlist tailored to your preferences. To remove a row, click the - button next to it.

    Setting additional rules in a Smart Playlist
  4. You can set limits for the Smart Playlist, too. Enter a number next to Limit to and then select what you want to limit (songs, minutes, MBs) from the drop-down. 

    Setting a limit on a Smart Playlist
  5. Then choose how you want songs selected in the next drop down: randomly or by other criteria.

    Setting a limit on a Smart Playlist
  6. If you check "Match only checked items," items in iTunes that do not have a check in the box to the left of each song in your iTunes library (you use this to sync only some songs) will not appear in the Smart Playlist.

    Match only checked items in a Smart Playlist
  7. If you want the Smart Playlist to be automatically updated every time you add new music or make other changes to your library, check the box next to Live updating.

    Live updating a Smart Playlist
  8. Once you've created all the rules for your Smart Playlist, click OK to create it.

Editing and Syncing the Smart Playlist

After clicking OK, iTunes creates the Smart Playlist according to your rules virtually instantaneously. You're taken directly to the new playlist. At this point, you have a few more things you can do:

Name the Playlist 

When you first create a playlist, it doesn't have a name. Type in the name you want it to have, click outside the title area or hit the Enter key, and you're ready to rock.

Edit the Playlist

You have three ways to edit the playlist:

  1. To rearrange the order of songs, drag and drop them.

  2. If you don't like a particular song in your playlist, you can delete it (from the playlist, not your whole library) using the Delete key or by right-clicking it and selecting Remove from Playlist.

    Removing a song from a Smart Playlist
  3. To change the rules used to create the playlist, click Edit Playlist at the top of the screen and make changes to the settings you created in step 2.