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. Thanks to the Smart Playlists feature, you can create 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 only songs that you have rated 5 stars, only songs you have played more than 50 times, or only songs added to your iTunes library in the last 30 days.

Needless to say, Smart Playlists are powerful and let you create all kinds of interesting and fun mixes. They can even be updated automatically when your iTunes library changes. For example, if your Smart Playlist contains only songs rated 5 stars, whenever you rate a new song 5 stars it can be added to the playlist automatically.

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Creating a Smart Playlist

making smart playlist in itunes

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

  1. Go to the File menu, click New, and then choose Smart Playlist.
  2. In the menu at the left-hand side of iTunes, right-click in the empty space beneath your existing list of playlists and select New Smart Playlist.
  3. From the keyboard, click Option + Command + N (on a Mac) or Control + Alt + N (on Windows).
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Choosing Your Smart Playlist Settings

making smart playlist in itunes, step 2

Whichever option you picked in the last step, a window now pops up that lets you choose the criteria that determine what songs are included 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. 
  2. Next, choose whether you want an exact match, a loose match (contains, is, is not, etc.), or other options.
  3. Enter the thing to be matched. If you want 5-star songs, enter that. If you want only songs by Willie Nelson, type in his name. Essentially, you want the rule to 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. 
  4. 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 exact preferences. To remove a row, click the - button next to it.
  5. 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. 
  6. Then choose how you want songs selected in the next drop down: randomly or by other criteria.
  7. If you check Match only checked items, items in iTunes that are not checked (as seen in the checkbox to the left of each song in your iTunes library and used to sync only some songs) will not be included in the Smart Playlist.
  8. 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.
  9. Once you've created all the rules for your Smart Playlist, click OK to create it.
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Editing and Syncing the Smart Playlist

creating smart playlist in itunes, step 3

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, there are a number of things you can do:

Name the Playlist 

When the playlist is first created, it doesn't have a name, but the title is highlighted. Just 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

There are three ways to edit the playlist:

  • To rearrange the order of songs, just drag and drop them.
  • If there's a song in the playlist that you don't like, you can just delete it (from the playlist, not your whole library) using the Delete key or by right-clicking and selecting Remove from Playlist.
  • 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.

Other Options

Now that you've got your Smart Playlist named and ordered, here are a few things you can do with it:

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