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Create Manual, Genius, or Smart iTunes '11 Playlists on a Mac

You listen to music on your Mac under a variety of circumstances, such as entertaining at a dinner party, soothing a crying baby, setting a romantic mood, or drowning in your sorrows after a painful breakup. With a playlist, you can organize material around a particular theme or mood.

You have several ways to create a new playlist in iTunes 11. The following steps highlight the simplest way and point you to other options in the explanatory text below each step:

  1. Click the Playlists tab.

    You won’t see the Playlists tab if the iTunes Sidebar is visible. If the Sidebar is in view, just skip to Step 2.

  2. Click the + button in the lower-left corner of the iTunes window.

  3. Choose New Playlist (or New Smart Playlist or New Playlist Folder) from the menu that appears.

    If you’re a fan of the menu bar, you can also choose File→New→Playlist. Or you keyboard shortcut fans can press cmd+N. (The new Smart Playlist or New Playlist Folder options are also available.)

    However you issue the New Playlist command in iTunes, a new playlist panel appears on the right side of the iTunes window.

  4. Click your new playlist and give it a name.

    Apple inelegantly calls your new playlist…well, playlist, but of course you’re meant to change it to a more appropriate descriptor, such as Jazz Crooners, Dance Mix, Corny Songs, or whatever.

  5. Drag songs or albums to the panel to add them to your playlist.

    Apple kindly lets you know how many songs reside in the newly named playlist and how long it will take you to listen to the whole bunch.

    You might also like to add songs to your playlist as follows:

    • In iTunes 11, you have another cool new way to add songs to a playlist. In the Songs view, select a song and drag it to the right. Suddenly, out of nowhere, your list of playlists appears. Drag the song into the appropriate playlist.

    • You can also highlight a song so that a right-pointing arrow appears next to the song title. Click the arrow, choose Add To from the resulting menu, and pick the playlist for your song.

    • If you’re adding multiple songs to the playlist, hold down the cmd or Shift key to select a bunch of tracks. You can drag the whole batch over in one swoop. Or select a bunch of songs and choose File→New→Playlist from Selection.

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If a song that you’re adding to a playlist is stored in iCloud, a copy automatically downloads to your computer.

Smart Playlists, you can have iTunes do the heavy lifting on your behalf, based on specific conditions you establish up front: how fast a song is based on beats per minute (BPM], the type of music, a song’s rating, and so on. You can also limit the playlist to a specific length, in terms of minutes or number of songs.

Here’s how to create a Smart Playlist:

  1. When you click the + on the Playlists tab to create a playlist, you have the option to choose New Smart Playlist. Or you can choose File→New→Smart Playlist.

  2. In the dialog that appears, click Add (the + icon) associated with a pop-up menu to choose the parameters on which you’re basing the Smart Playlist from that menu.

    Click the – button for a menu that lets you remove a condition. You can also set up the Smart Playlist so that all the criteria you list must be met or any of the criteria can be met. Click + or – to add or remove a rule.

A Smart Playlist is identified in the iTunes Sidebar or Source list (as it is commonly referred to) by a gear icon to the left of its name.

This Smart Playlist has iTunes looking for all songs with Love in the title that you haven’t heard in a couple of months or haven’t heard more than 14 times. The song must have been encoded with a bit rate between 128 and 256 Kbps. If you want iTunes to alter the Smart Playlist as songs are added or removed, select the Live Updating check box.

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You can edit the criteria that make up a Smart Playlist by clicking the Playlists tab, right-clicking (Control-clicking) the playlist name in the Sidebar, clicking Edit Smart Playlist from the resulting menu. From there, change or select the underlying criteria that will define the rejiggered Smart Playlists.

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Genuis playlists promise to create an instant playlist of songs from your library that (in theory) mesh well with a given song you are listening to.

There are three ways to turn iTunes into a Genius working on your behalf:

  • First is to create the aforementioned Genius playlist.

  • Alternatively, if you don’t want to go with a Genius playlist right off the bat but want Apple to start playing songs that go great with whatever you’re currently listening to, you can call on a Genius shuffle feature.

  • A third option is to create a Genius Mix, with songs selected from a chosen genre; iTunes plays like a commercial-free radio station.

Here’s how to create a Genius playlist:

  1. Choose Store→Turn on Genius.

  2. Hover over the track you@’d like to use to generate the playlist.

  3. From the menu that appears, choose Create Genius Playlist.

You can save a Genius playlist and refresh it if you don’t like the results. And you can limit the collection to 25, 50, 75, or 100 songs by clicking the arrow next to the number of songs in the current list.

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To help craft the playlists, Apple anonymously compares data you share from your iTunes library with anonymous data from countless other users, so you’ll have to opt in to start a Genius playlist.

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