Basics of Playlists in iTunes in OS X Mavericks - dummies

Basics of Playlists in iTunes in OS X Mavericks

By Bob LeVitus

Playlists are a big deal in iTunes in OS X Mavericks. Playlists let you manage otherwise-unmanageable amounts of media. Playlists let you create subsets of a large collection, so it’s easier to enjoy exactly the kind of music you want in iTunes or on your iPod. Two types of playlists exist:

  • Regular playlists contain the songs (or videos, podcasts, or radio stations) that you specify by dragging them to the playlist.

  • Smart playlists, on the other hand, select songs from your library based on criteria you specify. Furthermore, smart playlists are updated automatically if you add new items to your library that meet the criteria.

How to create a regular playlist in iTunes in OS X Mavericks

To create a regular playlist, follow these steps:

  1. Either click the + button in the bottom-left corner of the iTunes window and choose New Playlist from its drop-down menu, or choose File→New Playlist (shortcut: Command+N).

    A new playlist named “untitled playlist” appears in the Sidebar.

  2. (Optional) As long as the playlist’s name, “untitled playlist,” is selected and ready to be edited, you probably want to rename it something meaningful by typing a new name for it.

  3. To add a song to a playlist, click the song in your library and drag it to the playlist’s name, and when the playlist’s name becomes highlighted, release the mouse button.

    The song is added to that playlist. Note that adding a song to a playlist doesn’t remove it from the library. Conversely, if you delete a song from a playlist, the song isn’t deleted from your library.

  4. Select the playlist in your Sidebar and click Play to listen to the songs it contains.

You could also use the keyboard shortcut, Command+Shift+N.


You can also use that Command-click multiple songs technique to select and then drag a batch of songs onto an existing playlist.

How to work with smart playlists in iTunes in OS X Mavericks

To create a smart playlist that builds a list based on criteria and updates itself automatically, follow these steps:

  1. Either click the + button in the bottom-left corner of the iTunes window or choose File→New Smart Playlist (shortcut: Command+Option+N).

    The Smart Playlist window appears.

  2. Use the pop-up menus to select the criteria that will build your smart playlist and click the + button to add more criteria.


  3. Click OK when you’re done.

    The playlist appears alongside your other playlists in the Sidebar. You can tell it’s a smart playlist by the gear on its icon. To modify the criteria of a smart playlist after it’s been created, hold down the Option key and double-click the smart playlist to reopen the Smart Playlist window and change the smart playlist’s criteria.

How to burn a playlist to CD in iTunes in OS X Mavericks

Another use for playlists is for burning audio CDs you can listen to on almost any audio CD player. The only trick is to make sure the total playing time of the songs in the playlist is less than the capacity of the blank CD you’re using, which is usually 74 to 80 minutes.

Don’t forget to account for the gap between tracks, which is two seconds by default. When you have all the songs you want on your CD on the playlist, choose File→Burn Playlist to Disc. The Burn Settings dialog appears.

Note that although the default type of disc iTunes burns is an audio CD, it can also burn two other types — MP3 CDs or data CDs (and DVDs):

  • MP3 CD is a special format that can be played in many CD audio players and set-top DVD players. The cool thing about an MP3 CD is that rather than holding a mere 74 to 80 minutes of music, it can hold more than 100 songs! The uncool thing about MP3 CDs is that many older audio CD players won’t play them.

  • A data CD or DVD is nothing more than a disc formatted to be read and mounted by any computer, Mac or Windows.

If you click the Burn button now, you’ll get an audio CD. To burn an MP3 CD or Data CD or DVD, click the appropriate radio button in the Burn Settings dialog.

How to use a Genius playlist in iTunes in OS X Mavericks

Here is one more playlist: The Genius.

To get started, choose Store→Turn On Genius, if you haven’t done so already. When you’ve finished reading, the Genius splash screen appears; click the Turn On Genius button in the bottom-right corner.

Turning Genius on sends information about your iTunes Library to Apple.

To use Genius, you must have an iTunes Store account, even though the information the Genius sends to Apple about your iTunes Library is stored anonymously. And even though no purchase is required.

Assuming you take it, sign in to your iTunes Store account if you have one or create one if you don’t. After agreeing to the Genius Terms of Service, the Genius gathers info about your iTunes Library, sends the info to Apple, and then (finally) delivers your results. When all this is done, you can create Genius playlists and peruse Genius suggestions.

How? Click the angle bracket for any song in your Library and choose either Create Genius Playlist or Genius Suggestions. After a bit of cogitation, iTunes presents you with either a Genius playlist or suggestions based on the song you clicked.


So if you don’t have issues with all the legal mumbo jumbo, the iTunes Store account, or sending information about your iTunes Library to Apple, give the Genius a try.