There are two types of playlists in iTunes: Smart Playlists and “regular” playlists. A Smart Playlist depends on parameters you’ve set, like “songs added in the last month”, or “songs by The Beatles or Bob Dylan”. Regular playlists — also known as “user-generated playlists” — are the ones you create. (These are the playlists you probably use to create mix CDs.) A “regular” playlist is just one into which you stick any song you feel like sticking in there.
Let’s say you want to create a playlist of your favorite songs to hear while stuck in the car. In iTunes click File and then New Playlist. That will add an untitled playlist to the Playlists listing in the left sidebar. Enter the name of your playlist; we’ll call it “Driving Songs”. This virgin playlist is empty. Without any songs it’ll make for a pretty quiet ride home, so we should add some tracks to it.
There are two ways to add tracks to a user-generated playlist. Click the “Music” master playlist at the very top of the left sidebar. That should show you all the songs in your library. Somewhere near the top of the list (sorted alphabetically by title) you should see “Add It Up” by the Violent Femmes, which is a terrific song to play on the highway. (If you don’t see this song in your iTunes library, I just don’t know what to tell you. How can you not like the Violent Femmes? What the hell are you doing calling yourself a music lover without having this song?! Go buy it on iTunes right now!) You can left-click and drag this song into your new playlist and BLAMMO! You’ve now added your first song.
Now scroll down just a little bit in your library and you should see Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”. (If you don’t have this song in your library, then you really should just quit now. You have no business trying to create playlists. You shouldn’t even own an iPod. You really shouldn’t even be reading my website. Just leave now. You disgust me.) Instead of dragging and dropping this song, right-click it and marvel at the context-sensitive pop-up window which is displayed. One of the options is “Add to Playlist”, and it has a little arrow pointing to the right. When you hover over this option, the menu expands and you’ll see all the playlists into which you’re allowed to add this song. One of the options will be “Driving Songs”. Just click that and BLAMMO! Now you’ve added the second song to your playlist.
And now we come to the point of this article.
If you then go through the right-click-Add-to-Playlist dance again on the same song, you’ll add a second copy of “All Along the Watchtower” to your “Driving Songs” playlist. Why in the world Apple chooses to let you have the same song in a playlist more than once makes no sense to me. I guess theoretically you might want to burn a CD with just a single song on it 12 times, but really? Really? Who in the world would ever want to do that? I don’t know. I don’t work for Apple so I can’t answer this. Regardless, we don’t care because Apple was nice enough to give us a way to determine if a song is in a playlist already before we add it!
Yes, that’s right. You’ve guessed it. The right-click context menu for “All Along the Watchtower” should now also display — just below “Add to Playlist” — a new option: “Show in Playlists”.
The “Show in Playlist” option is pretty handy. For one thing, you can look at it before you add a track to a playlist to make sure you haven’t already done so. Another nice aspect of this is that when you are listening to a Smart Playlist which depends on other Smart Playlists, you can choose to “Show in Playlist” to see why the song is being included.
Doesn’t it feel good to learn new things?