iPod shuffle alternatives with randomized song uploads

Q: I really like the way the iPod shuffle can upload a random set of music to the device, so I don’t lose time selecting what I want to upload. But I don’t like iPod shuffle’s lack of features. Is there another player (or software) that uploads or creates a random set of music so I don’t need to spend time choosing songs?

– Juan Manuel

A: You can do the same thing with any iPod and iTunes using a smart playlist. Say you have a 4 GB iPod mini, and you have 20 GB of music. Create a smart playlist that simply selects any 4 GB of music at random. You’ll need to have a condition that the smart playlist matches: if you want to choose from all your music, you could choose Bit rate Is greater than 1 kbps; this will match all your songs.

Next, check Limit to, enter 4 GB, and choose Selected by Random. You’ll have 4GB of music, selected at random. After you sync your iPod mini, you can regenerate the playlist by selecting all the music (Command+A on Mac; Control+A on Windows), deleting the songs, and the playlist will update itself with a new random selection.

You can make other smart playlists, by genre, song length, or other conditions, providing almost the same functions as the Autofill feature that the iPod shuffle uses. And expect to see other companies try and duplicate Autofill functionality any day now.

Kirk McElhearn is the author of several books including iPod & iTunes Garage. His blog, Kirkville features articles about the iPod, iTunes, Mac OS X and much more.
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