iTunes playlists, tags, and track durations

In the last Ask the iTunes Guy column of the year, I look at playlist views, a quick way to make playlists from folders of songs, adding tags to your tracks, and how to see the duration of selected tracks in iTunes 11.

Q: I use playlists to sort classical music and when I click a playlist, I like to see its albums in Grid View. I could manually click through dozens of playlists and turn on that view for each one, but is there a way to turn this view on, all at once, for all my playlists?

Unfortunately, no. iTunes assumes that you want playlists in List view, so you can see individual tracks. In addition, your playlists are at the left of the window, and the View button at the right, so if you have a big screen, you'll be mousing a lot to change it. I'd recommend making the iTunes window as small as possible to still show playlists and the View button, then going through all your playlists and changing views.

For more information on the changes to iTunes' views, see "Understanding the new views in iTunes 11".

Q: I have a lot of music stored in folders. Each folder contains an album or live sets. I'd like to import these folders to iTunes as playlists, where each folder becomes a playlist with the folder name containing the music stored in that folder. Is there any way to do this?

If you have the sidebar visible (View > Show Sidebar) you can drag individual folders to the right of the word Playlists in the sidebar. iTunes will then create a playlist with the name of the folder and copy the contents of the folder over.

A more robust option, however, is Doug Adams' Drop to Add and Make Playlists AppleScript. Drag a folder containing an album or live show onto the applet, or double-click it and choose a folder. (You can also drop multiple folders on the applet, or a folder containing other folders.) You'll get two options: You can either have the playlist named after the folder name, or in Artist-Album format. The applet will then import the files to iTunes, and create the playlist with the name format you have chosen.

Use this AppleScript to turn your folders of music files into iTunes playlists.

Q: Before version 11 of iTunes I could always highlight subsets of my playlist to see how much time all the songs would take to play. With version 11, I can't seem to find how to display subsets of time. The total time of the playlist is visible at the top but that is not adequate. Is there any way to get this information?

Yes, but by default, iTunes 11 has hidden it. In iTunes go to View > Show Status Bar. Select some tracks in your playlist, then look in the status bar to see their total time.

The iTunes Status Bar shows the total time of any tracks you select, whether in a playlist or in any of your libraries.

Q: Is it possible to place one's own tags or flags on songs? I would like to mark tracks that I have used for certain purposes, and can't find a way to do so.

There are a couple of ways you can do so. If you don't rate many of your songs, you could use ratings to flag them. For example, when I listen to music, I rate as one-star any tracks I encounter that have problems in them, such as ripping glitches.

Another way to do this is to add comments to your tracks. Select a track, press Command-I, and you'll see a Comments field in the Info window. You can put any text you want here: for example, a keyword or tag that you've decided you want to use to mark specific tracks.

In the Info window for a track, you can add comments. As you can see here, I've added the word "Live" to this track, as it's part of a live album. I have a smart playlist to find all of my live Bob Dylan tracks, searching for the artist and for this keyword in the Comments field.

When you've added comments, you can search for tracks based on the text in the Comments field in a smart playlist. Choose File > New > Smart Playlist, then choose Comments Contains in the Smart Playlist window, and enter the text you want to search for in the empty box to the right of your rule selections.

You can also sort by comments, if you're in Songs view. Press Command-J to display the View Options window, and check Comments in the Personal section. This displays a Comments column. Click the column header to sort by comments in alphabetical order.

The smart playlist method is probably easier, since you can create a playlist for each specific tag you use.

Q: I regularly purchase music content from iTunes and then convert the ACC files to Apple Lossless. I think I am hearing a sound quality improvement on my home stereo system, but after doing a bit of research, I am wondering now if the only thing I am accomplishing by upsampling a purchased ACC audio file to Apple Lossless is using up more hard drive space?

Short answer: Yep.

Long answer: Lossless files are great for letting you keep full sound quality in a smaller size than with uncompressed audio. But you can't get back any of the information discarded when encoding lossy audio files (such as AAC or MP3), so converting them to Apple Lossless only does what you suspect: Balloon the file size without any improvement in sound quality.

[Ask the iTunes Guy is a regular column in which we answer your questions on everything iTunes related. If there's something you'd like to know, send an email to the iTunes Guy for consideration.]

This story, "iTunes playlists, tags, and track durations" was originally published by MacCentral.


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