Preserving or importing playlists into Excel

Q: I like to keep everything backed up on an external hard drive, but I haven’t seen a way to do this for playlists. I want to keep the playlists themselves (some are of sentimental value, e.g. from our wedding) but don’t want the actual tunes – they can stay in the library. Does iTunes store playlists in a file format anywhere on the hard disk, so I can back them up?

Alternatively, is there a simple way to export a playlist, for example to an Excel spreadsheet or database format? This may also help greatly in clearing up the clutter in my iTunes “Source” column, which is currently full of old playlists that I want to keep for future reference.

– Paul

A: There are several ways to do what you want. Take your pick:

  1. As long as you’re backing up the iTunes Music Library files (in the “iTunes” folder you have selected), you’re backing up all playlists as well. Keep this intact, and you can restore this file along with your music in the event of library loss. Check out our Complete Guide to Backing up iPod & iTunes Music
  2. To export a simple tab-separated text file of a playlist containing all the metadata you could ever want (track name, artist, album, filename, rating, playcount, etc.), simply right click (PC) or control-click (Mac) on the playlist name and select “Export Song List…”.

    This will write the file to the location of your choosing. Because this is a tab-separated file, you can easily import it into Excel.

  3. Want to go straight to Excel without the intermediate file? Simply open a playlist in iTunes, select Edit—> Select All from the menu, and select Edit—> Copy. Then open Excel and “Paste” your data in. This is often more convenient, as you’ll only be copying the columns shown in iTunes, which are likely the ones you’d like to archive.


Jerrod H.