Sorting tracks properly within albums

Q: I’ve been finding that iTunes alphabetizes some of my albums so that the tracks are listed in alphabetical order. This is highly irritating with albums that are mixed to run straight through in an order. How can I stop it from doing this? 

– Jodie

A: By default, iTunes and the iPod normally sort tracks with each album based on the track number. If the track number is not available, however, it will revert to sorting alphabetically. It is therefore important to ensure that all albums have the proper track numbers filled in within the file information.

You can enter the track information by selecting a track in the iTunes library and choosing File, Get Info. This will bring up the file information dialog box. On the “Info” tab, there is a field to specify the track number.

Sorting tracks properly within albums

The first number is the primary requirement for sorting tracks properly with an album, whereas the “Of” number is for reference only and is not used by iTunes other than for display purposes.

Note as well that you can use the “Next” and “Previous” buttons to quickly navigate from track to track in the file info dialog box.

The track number column can also be displayed in list view by choosing View, View Options and checking the box for “Track Number.”


Sorting tracks properly within albums

Note also from the diagram above that you can specify the sort order in iTunes for the list view, which will apply to all albums when playing them in iTunes directly from the library. Sorting by a common field such as Album or Artist will still default to a track number sort, however sorting by any other field that is not in common between all tracks, such as track name, will cause the tracks to be sorted within each album alphabetically instead.

Note that these sort orders selected in iTunes for the library do not transfer to the iPod itself. If you find that the iPod is still sorting tracks alphabetically, even after inserting track numbers, you may want to try removing these tracks from the iPod and re-adding them, particularly if you’re managing your iPod content manually. If you’re managing your content automatically, the easiest way to remove and re-add the tracks to the iPod is to set your iPod to “Sync checked items only” (in the iPod settings in iTunes), and then simply UNcheck the tracks in question, sync your iPod to remove them, and then RE-check the tracks and sync the iPod again, which will add them back.

One final option to keep in mind is that the sort order for playlists will transfer to the iPod, so if you have specific albums that you want to override the sort order for, you can always create a playlist for that specific album, set the order in iTunes to how you want it (even a manual sort order if you like), and then sync those playlists to the iPod.

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