Q&A In this installment of Ask the iTunes Guy, I answer questions about playlists, metadata, sorting, and sharing.
Q: How can I make a random smart playlist that limits the number of tracks included for a specific artist?
A: Start by making a new smart playlist. Choose File ? New Smart Playlist, or press and hold the Option key and click the gear icon (the plus icon turns into that when you press Option) at the bottom left corner of the iTunes window.
The new playlist defaults to a single condition: Artist Contains. Click Contains and choose Is from the pop-up menu that appears (unless you want to include albums in which there are multiple artists; in that case, leave it as Contains).
Then check the box next to Limit To. The default is 25, but you can change that to any number you want. Click OK to save your smart playlist.
Q: Is there any way I can group all the songs by bands or artists for whom I only have one song in my library?
A: You can’t do it with a smart playlist, but Doug Adams’s $2 TrackSift (see “Hidden Treasures,” page 32) contains nine tools for crafting playlists you can’t create in iTunes, including a One-Hit Wonders playlist. It can also find files that are missing artwork or lyrics, and perform cleaning operations on your iTunes library.
Q: I use data from the genre field to make smart playlists. However, it’s very tough to deal with songs that belong to multiple genres. Can I work around this problem with keywords?
A: It’s true that not all music fits neatly into a genre, but you can use the Comments field to enter specific keywords you want to use. For example, if you have a big jazz collection, and your genre for this music is always Jazz, you can add specific keywords such as Holiday, Acid, and/or Fusion in the Comments field for any music you want to categorize in another genre as well.
You can then create a smart playlist for music that matches any of the conditions where, for example, Genre Is Holiday and Comments Contains Holiday. That way you’ll get both songs whose genre is Holiday and any tracks with Holiday in the comments.
Q: Is there a way to specify more-sophisticated matching for smart playlists that goes beyond just All or Any conditions? For example, I want to create a playlist containing music in the Rock or Metal genres with a rating greater than three stars. Is there any way to do this?
A: Yes, and it’s actually not very complicated. Make individual smart playlists—Rock and Metal, in this instance—in which the playlist matches songs with three stars or greater. Then make another smart playlist with two conditions starting with Playlist Is, followed by the names for the playlists you created earlier.
You can create conditions containing as many playlists as you want, as long as you set the first condition to Match Any Of The Following Rules.
Q: Many of my playlists display different columns. For example, in one playlist the columns might be Album, Name, Artist, and Genre, while in another they’re Name, iCloud Status, Artist, and Album. Is there a quick way to make them uniform?
A: Yes, and Doug Adams comes to the rescue again. His Assimilate View Options AppleScript (payment requested; macworld.com/7859) will, as he says, “re-create a selected playlist so its View Options (visible columns) are the same as [those in] the main Music library.” So you can set up the main Music library with the columns you want, and then run the script to reproduce this setup for any of your playlists.
Q: I ripped many CDs into iTunes and changed their genres to categorize my music differently. I would like to be able to select a given album in iTunes and reset the genre to the default information from Gracenote. Is there an easy way to do so?
A: If you haven’t made other changes to metadata—song names, album names, and so on—you can select any number of items, and then choose Advanced ? Get Track Names. This repopulates all of the metadata fields with Gracenote’s information. But keep in mind that it also replaces any changes you made to the original metadata. (Also note that this function only works with CDs you ripped using iTunes.)
You can also manually change the genre of any album. Just select all the tracks in it, press 1-I, and type a new genre in the Genre field at the bottom of the window.