iTunes 9: Smart Playlists Are Now Smarter

Smart Playlists in iTunes have always been a powerful way to create specific playlists to meet your needs, from creating a rotating fresh playlist for syncing to an iDevice to creating a specific playlist for a party. Being able to say “give me my music that hasn’t been played in the last month, that is of at least 320kbps and is rated 5 stars” is pretty sweet.

In iTunes 8 and earlier you could create all of these multiple rules and have them applied with a ‘match operator,’ which could be ALL (all rules have to match for a track to be included) or ANY (if any of the single rules apply the track will be included).

iTunes 9 has quietly and substantially expanded the level of complexity that you can create in these rules by allowing you to create nested rules. This lets you build up substantial logic with multiple ANY and ALL match operators being applied.

Lets look at a simple example.

iTunes 9 Smart Playlist

Here I have four individual rules:

  • Not played in the last week
  • Bitrate is higher than 150kbps
  • Was added to my iTunes library this year
  • Is Music (not a podcast, or video)

Previously this had to be an ALL or ANY. But now the rule comes down to one and four and (two or three). So it will give me all music that hasn’t been played in the last week, and has either been added this year or is higher than 150kbps.

The example above is simple but reflects the power that can be obtain from single level nesting. But wait, there’s just one more thing. Actually, there’s more than one; you can have up to five levels of nesting.

iTunes 9 Smart Playlist -5 layers

The possible combinations of logic available here are liable to do one’s head in — but I’d be interested in seeing what complex rules are being used by our readers. Let us know how you use Smart Playlists.