Create Smart Playlists to find those lost Christmas favorites

There are only a few more days until Christmas.  Time to enjoy those delicious once a year peppermint milkshakes from Chick-Fil-A and peppermint blizzards from Dairy Queen.  It is also time to enjoy your favorite holiday tunes.  If you love Christmas songs but have trouble finding them in your ever-growing iTunes library, consider this quick tip.

Set up some Smart Playlists!  

Most people are familiar with Playlists which allow you to add a bunch of songs of their choosing to a named list. Playlists are a great way to help manage a music library that doesn’t change much.


Smart Playlists takes things to the next level. This is a feature that was actually added to iTunes several years ago.  Sadly I didn’t catch on and try it until this past Halloween when I was trying to find some spooky songs for trick-or-treaters.  For managing things like holiday song mixes or favorites within a constantly growing IMG_0444-1024x768library it is AWESOME and best of all completely fluid. As you add new songs to your library, those new songs will appear in your smart playlists dynamically if they match the rules that you define.
To set up a new holiday playlist in iTunes, hold down the Option key (see my other post about the magic of the option key).  This will turn the + sign at the bottom left to a gear.gear
Smart Playlists have this gear image next to them to indicate they are different from the regular playlists. You will now have a form to fill out to define the rules of your new lists.
Here are the rules that I use for my Christmas music selections.



Note that you can add more rules to get more specific.  If you are good about rating your songs with stars you could add a rule to only play your best (3 stars or greater).  You can also nest rules.  Once the rules are set, when you select this new smart playlist in iTunes it will immediately show you EVERY song in your library matching your set of rules.  If you make the rules too broad, you will get more than you want.  If they are too narrow, you will have too little.  Play around with your own set and see what you get.  If you come up with something you’d like to share, post it in the comments!  Have fun and Merry Christmas!


What’s up with the Option key?

Learned something new today!   While reading about iTunes Match and how to replace your existing music files with higher quality matches from the cloud, I took a moment to examine smart playlists.  This led to a side search on finding duplicates and intelligently removing them.  In an Apple support article, it showed how to quickly find duplicates with the somewhat familiar File->Display Duplicates option.  I have used that option before but always wanted something more.

I wanted a way to discover duplicate songs only if they were on different albums.  i.e. there are times when I may want to hear an album in its entirety like for example if I want to just hear Kansas’ epic Leftoverture album.  There are other times when I may want to listen to every song by artist.  I’d search for Kansas and want to hear all of the songs but not listen to “Carry On Wayward Son” six times.  Obviously I have gotten off track, but the point is that in this support article, it listed a separate mode of discovering duplicates – “Display Exact Duplicates.”  This is only shown if you hold the Option key down while the menu is open.  WOW!  I didn’t realize Apple had hidden optional menu choices available for their various apps.  I am not a great fan of hiding behavior in menu’s particularly behind an option key, but I am happy to have this new menu item available.  It got me wondering what other cool features may be overlooked because they only show up while holding down the option key???

Back to my second music listening case above.  If I choose to listen to a particular Artist, I would still like to be able to quickly listen to all of their songs and not hear duplicates.  I am pretty sure that the Smart Playlists feature will let me do this but have never tried it.  This feature appears to offer a lot and sadly I have not realized its full potential.  Looking forward to taking a few minutes to build some interesting lists!

What have you done with Smart Playlists?  What are your favorite hidden menu options?  Add a comment and say hey!