Matt’s Amazing iPod Post

Recently, a friend of mine got a new iPod. And she’s started asking all the same questions I get asked every time someone I know gets an iPod. So in the grand tradition of my Firefox post, I thought it was time to create one for iTunes/iPod.

First of all, a disclaimer – I am in no means an expert. I just know what works for me and what I’ve learned in the past 5 or so years of iPod ownership. I currently use iTunes on OS X, but I have used iTunes under Windows to manage my songs and iPod in the past, so almost all of my suggestions/experience here should work on either platform.

First of all, getting iTunes set up they way you want it. By default, iTunes will keep your music all in one place (you set this with the “iTunes Music folder location” setting). My music library is too big to fit on the internal drive on my Mac, so I have it on a Firewire drive called Backup. This is the location that iTunes will stick any files it creates when you rip a CD or download something from the iTunes Music Store.

Also, by default, iTunes will create folders in your music folder based upon album and artist, etc. Some people don’t like this. If you don’t want iTunes to create those folders, uncheck the “Keep iTunes Music folder organized” setting.

Now, here’s the big one. When you add songs to your iTunes library (either by dragging them into iTunes or importing through the File menu, etc), by default, iTunes will copy that file to your iTunes Music folder. Which, normally, is probably okay. But, if you want to keep your mp3s stored someplace else, this will end up with a lot of duplication. So you might want to leave that setting unchecked if you have a complicated setup for your music files.

Now, I also like to make some modifications to the importing (aka “ripping”) feature. By default, iTunes will import songs from CDs in the AAC format. Which is a pretty good format. And if you’re only going to use these files in iTunes or on your iPod, you can leave this alone. But if you want to be able to use the files you rip on other devices, such as your Tivo, or the MP3 player in your car, you’re going to have to change it.

First, make sure you change to “MP3 Encoder” in the “Importing” preferences. You can set the settings however you want, but I’ve had best luck with these settings. Your mileage may vary, and everyone has different preferences for this kind of thing, obviously.

Now, on to the iPod.

In my case, I have an iPod Nano. My music library is 48 GB, but the Nano only holds about a tenth of that. So, obviously, I can’t copy all of my music to my Nano. How do I do it? Smart Playlists, baby.

Now, some people might want to “manually” manage their iPod, which is also an option. In this method, you copy, one at a time, each individual song you want on your iPod. To me, this takes too long and is too much work.

I have created a Smart Playlist called “Nano”. Basically, what this playlist does is say “okay, find all the songs that are NOT on the “Genre Exclude” playlist, that are less than 15 minutes long, and that I have rated greater than two stars. Oh, and make sure that the playlist is no bigger than 2.5 GB. And if you have to make a choice, pick stuff I’ve not played too much recently.”

Some notes – the “Genre Exclude” playlist is another Smart Playlist that contains all of the genres of stuff I don’t want on my iPod (spoken word, etc). I put the 15 minute limitation on there to keep off the really long tracks. The rating thing is something I play with quite a bit. When you’re first starting out, you might want to leave that off, since you probably haven’t rated any songs yet. One neat trick is to change the “greater than two stars” to “equals one star”. That way, any song you decide “no matter what, I don’t want this song on my iPod”, you can rate with one star. This is handy since you can rate songs right on the iPod itself. So when you’re on the train, and “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” comes on the iPod, you can quickly slam a one star rating on it, so that next time you update, it won’t show up.
Then, in your iPod preferences in iTunes, set the iPod to “Automatically update selected playlists only”, and pick the Smart Playlist you just created. If your iPod is bigger than a Nano, you can create lots of crazy Smart Playlists to manage your music. You can get some good ideas from

(Sidenote – the playcounts and ratings from the iPod are automatically synced to iTunes, but only if you DON’T use “manually manage songs and playlists in your iPod settings)

John Burnett Swing OrchestraMoten Swing

~ by Matt Stratton on May 14, 2006.

7 Responses to “Matt’s Amazing iPod Post”

  1. Apple refurbs are generally pretty good. I’d completely trust one.

    Welcome home!

  2. Thanks! I have been wondering about manually updating or smart playlists… right on!

  3. I’d add that the one advantage of manual updating is that you can be at a friends house and ‘borrow’ music. If you’re in playlist-sync-mode, you can’t connect to anyone else’s computer.

  4. Well, you can as long as you enable disk mode and use a third-party tool (assuming by “borrow” you mean “steal”).

    If by “borrow” you mean “play tracks on an ipod through itunes”, then, yes, you are right 🙂

  5. By “borrow” I mean copy from their iTunes to your iPod. Which is short-term “stealing” but I usually end up buying music from artists I discover via borrowing. So I don’t feel bad about it at all. Neener.

  6. Matt, I’m so glad I remembered seeing this in May: now that I have shiny new Nano, this post is relevant for me! I’m going to reade it in depth after I finish up a speech assignment this week. Yay! Thanks for putting this together.

  7. If I make a smart playlist – can I manually add songs/albums that wouldn’t otherwise be grabbed by the rules I’ve set up?

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