Using Party Shuffle in iTunes

Last week, we featured iTunes’ ability to Print CD Covers and Lists.  This, however, was merely one of the several nifty new features that iTunes 4.5 and 4.6 brought along.  Today, we continue our series with the next feature:  Party Shuffle.

Party Shuffle is Apple’s answer to a feature that users had long requested:  a “play queue.”  Party Shuffle happens to be even better than the average play queue.  Rather than merely a list of user-selected songs to be played in sequence, Party Shuffle is essentially a special shuffle mode that is both predictable (future songs are visible) and editable (the order can be easily manipulated in several ways).  These two features make iTunes a great solution for a party host, amateur “Laptop DJ,” or even just a “Joe Listener” looking for an easy, customizable way to listen to his iTunes Library.

As are most iPod 101 articles, this tutorial serves as an little more than an introduction.  The best way to become comfortable with a new way to listen such as Party Shuffle is to experiment, explore, and enjoy on a regular basis.

Getting Started:

Before we get started exploring Party Shuffle, let’s ensure you’re actually ready to do so.  First, you’ll need to have iTunes 4.5 or greater installed on your Mac or PC (Current at this time of writing is 4.6).  If you don’t, you can download it for free from Apple’s iTunes Download Page(You can check your version number in the “About iTunes” menu item from your “iTunes” menu (Mac) or “Help” menu (PC) atop iTunes)

One of the few items that you’ll visually recognize as new in iTunes 4.5 is Party Shuffle, now found as the second item in your Source column.  If you have iTunes 4.5 or greater, and Party Shuffle is not in your Source column, you may have disabled it at one time.  To reenable it, go to iTunes Preferences, and you’ll find a checkbox for showing Party Shuffle:


Enable it, click “OK,” and Party Shuffle should appear in the Source column.  Click it to make it the active Source.  You’ll immediately notice that Party Shuffle looks a lot like a playlist with special colors:  “past” tracks are greyed-out, and the currently active track has an aqua background.  Under the surface, however, you’ll find that Party Shuffle functions very different from a playlist in several ways.  Let’s explore how:


Suggestion:  While you experiment and learn, have a song playing in Party Shuffle.  This will allow you to become familiar with the feeling of being your own DJ—altering the play order without interrupting continuous play.

At the bottom of the Party Shuffle window, you’ll find its control area.  This area, while extremely simple, is very important:



Select the source (library or playlist) that Party Shuffle chooses from when generating an automatic play queue. 

Once you’ve selected a source, iTunes will automatically (and instantly) recreate the current play queue from that source.  You’ll find that while this alters entire play queue, the currently playing song continues uninterrupted;  maintaining continuous play is Party Shuffle’s main purpose. 

If upon selecting a source, you are not happy with the shuffled lineup that iTunes creates, you have a few options:

  • Hit “Refresh in the top right for an all-new mix from the current source.
  • Drag songs around to alter the play order, just like was done in playlists.
  • Use the backspace (delete) key to remove the selected song(s) from Party Shuffle.  Don’t worry—they won’t be deleted from your Library.
    The “Play higher rated songs more often?” checkbox does just what it suggests.  However, the behavior of this option differs slightly from changing sources in that it has no immediate effect on the current play queue.  To see the effect of this option, you must either wait for future songs to queue up, or hit “Refresh” button in top right.

    The display options found on the right side of the control area are mostly aesthetic… they do not impact the play queue order at all.  Feel free to change the settings to something you’re comfortable with.

    In exploring the control area, we’ve learned the basic functionality of Party Shuffle.  However, we’re not done yet:  Party Shuffle’s best features are much less obvious:

    Mac users, in particular, will know that Apple loves to design one-button interfaces.  There are very few things in MacOS that require a right-click to do.  Occasionally, however, something useful finds its way to the contextual menu.  From virtually anywhere in iTunes, right-click (PC) or CTRL-Click (Mac) on a track, and you’ll see two actions related two Party Shuffle:

    • Play Next in Party Shuffle:  Great for that song that you’d like to hear next, but not at the expense of interrupting the currently playing song!
    • Add to Party Shuffle:  Adds the track to the end of your displayed Party Shuffle list.  Tracks can also be manually added to the end of the Party Shuffle queue by dragging them onto the Party Shuffle icon.
      With the knowledge of these features forming a foundation skill set, you can have a great time queueing up fun mixes for yourself or your friends.  Be sure to check out the great tips found below, and enjoy!

      Next week:  Windows users—new to the iPod?  Have a large library of Windows Media Audio files that you lament needing to re-encode?  iTunes will do it for you—easily!  iLounge continues iPod 101 with a tutorial on importing WMA Audio into iTunes.

      Notes & Tips:

      • To use Party Shuffle as the “standard” play-queue I described in the introduction (all-manual track selection), create an empty playlist, and use it as your Party Shuffle “Source.”
      • Use Party Shuffle’s Source selection pull-down menu in the control area in conjunction with new Smart Playlists for greater control.  In doing so, you can force Party Shuffle into selecting from, for example, only dance music of a certain tempo.  This makes Party Shuffle incredibly powerful for many different situations.
      • Thought you were clever by creating a smart playlist for your unrated songs?  Sure, it’s a great idea…  However, when you listen to this smart playlist, rate the song that’s currently playing—It stops playing and disappears!  Find this annoying?  Select the “Unrated” Smart Playlist as your Party Shuffle Source.  Now, whenever you rate the currently-playing song, you can continue listening!
      • Have you edited a play queue to perfection, but realize that your work will be lost by the time your queue is through, and that it will never see your iPod?  Worry not!  Simply select all the songs in your Party Shuffle window using CMD-A (Mac) or CTRL-A (PC) and drag them into the Source column to create a static playlist from them.
      • Add the Crossfade effect (iTunes—>Preferences—>Audio—>Crossfading) for a more DJ-like sound.
      • Drag playlist icons from the Source column onto the Party Shuffle icon to add their entire contents to the end of your queue.
        Jerrod H. is a Forum Administrator and Contributing Editor for iLounge.

28 thoughts on “Using Party Shuffle in iTunes”

  1. Re: using ctrl+a to select your party shuffle and save it–I am on my work computer right now so don’t have iTunes handy, but I believe I recall an even more streamlined option for being able to save a Party Shuffle as a playlist, perhaps on the File menu when you are on the Party Shuffle screen.

  2. is there any way to use party shuffle to play songs on your ipod (and not in your library). I’veput all of my CD’s on my iPod but to save memory I deleted most of the songs from my library. I’m finding out that this is a huge problem as I can’t burn CD’s from a playlist on the iPod, use the party shuffle thingy, etc.

  3. Great article. I like the 101 series, and have learned a lot of the features of iTunes. Keep up the great articles. Can we get a preview of what’s coming up next?

  4. smirf, Jeff, Paul–

    Thanks! I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying them… Stay tuned!!


    There are several other ways, but I wouldn’t consider them more intuitive:

    1) Right Click on the Party Shuffle icon. Choose Export Song List to write to a .txt file. Import the Song List into iTunes. (??)

    2) Do the same, but use the file menu version of “Export Song List.”


    Unfortunately, no. Party Shuffle will only operate with locally-stored (as in the Library) audio files.


    Again, thanks for the kind words! Indeed, we have a good plan for the future of iPod 101. Here’s a tentative inside look:

    After WMA importing and a tour of the Music Store’s features, we’ll be graduating you all to the iPod 201 series, where we’ll explore more advanced topics like learning the various iPod synchronization methods, using the iPod’s PDA features, moving music from the iPod to the computer, relocating your iTunes Library, and more. Keep an eye on the front page… iPod 101/201 is now a weekly feature!

  5. Jerrod. Thanks, I’m waiting for my diploma, and my graduation present…

    Looking forward to the synchronization article and music moving. I’d also be interested in a tutorial/review of Anapod Exploder (err…Explorer), to see what you guys think of it, especially the paid version.

    Thanks again.

  6. Hey, great article. I recently got a 4G 20GB ipod and i’m learning how to use iTunes at the moment. This is a great introduction to the Party Shuffle, I hadn’t used it before reading this article. Keep up the 101 Series!!

  7. This doesn’t have a whole lot to do with party shuffle, but I have a neat way of never hearing the same song twice until you’ve heard them all. Set up a smart playlist that includes any number of songs (let’s say 5) that have a play counter equal to 0 selected randomly, and make sure you have live updating checked. Further randomize it in the lower left hand corner of itunes. When you play this list, after a song plays, it’s counter will be one and it will disappear from the list, replaced by another tune you have not yet played! It will play until every song in your entire library has been played once.

    I made another list like it for my ipod, but limited the playtime to one hour to equal my evening walks. Everytime you go back to the list another hour of randomly selected unheard tunes are waiting.

    I’ve been listening to my music this way sporadically all summer and it is quite amusing what will pop up randomly (your results will surely vary). I’ve still got about 4GB of music to get through before summer ends.

  8. Bug on this page: the link’s broken to the first picture (iTunes Preferences).

    If I’m understianding things correctly, Party Shuffle is an iTunes list only, and its list doesn’t transfer directly to an iPod, though (i’ll guess) one could take a Party Shuffle list and transfer its contents to a regular (static) playlist. Haven’t tried it yet…

  9. NVCaver.

    Yeah, that’s one thing that is said in the article, about making a static playlist. They also suggested making a regular playlist, and using it as the source for party shuffle. You could name it something like Party Mix or even, Party Shuffle. Although I guess if you wanted to have them in a certain order in the playlist, then that wouldn’t work…

  10. Excellent article, I have been using party shuffle for the last month or so (when I one day noticed the play next in party shuffle button) and now use it whenever I am using my PC! It is surely one of the greatest features in iTunes IMHO (even if other music players have similar features!)

  11. Party Shuffle is a novel idea, but fails on numerous counts. First off for someone who has over 100 gigs of music in their library, its a little hard to imagine that the guests you are entertaining will all be into the very eclectic mix of tunes brought to life by “party shuffle.”
    Secondly — is it not easier to just pull up your master play list (or library) and then pull up an empty play list (your pseudo-“Party Shuffle” play list, if you will.. you then play the music off this list and drag over/change play order/delete ANY song you chose, all seamlessly while your guests are entertained by the uninterrupted music?? Sure you can’t have any algorithmically generated additions to your list based upon your ratings or play counts or what not, but that in itself is not practical for party DJing use.. I “DJ” if you will, every party we have at school, and I still haven’t found a use for Party Shuffle.. Maybe next release will have some stuff that can help me out.

  12. Braden,

    Party Shuffle makes it easier to move stuff around. Even the tune that is currently playing can be moved around anywhere so that it fades into the next song or group of songs. The right clicking from your main list to play next or added to end of party shuffle list is an invaluable tool that just makes it easier.

    btw, how do you even come close to listening to all of your music EVER with 100GB? What does that take, 3 months of continuous play or what (assuming they are AAC files)?

  13. How do I come close to listening to all my music? Heh.. well its not like i sit there each time and try to listen to it all the way through (its actually about 4 months, and 148 gigs).. it is simply my jukebox for tunes.. i haven’t touch my cd changer in over two years.. there is simply no longer a need. I have ripped every one of my cds, in 320k, and use an optical out connected to my receiver, via TOS link cable.. and there you have it, a beautiful collection of music, well over 20,000 songs and each accessable within seconds… it’s the convergence of computing and entertainment at its best, and I think Steve would be proud. (I just wish they would release a 200 gig ipod – what do you think? too much to ask for?) 😉

  14. Your readers might be interested in the Newbies Guide to iPod I wrote for New Zealand’s Macguide magazine, Issue #11, September/October 2003. You can read it at:




  15. “is there any way to have party shuffle execute on a remote computer that is sharing songs off the source machine?”

    If you use [url=]Media Center[/url] to stream audio or video (either over a filesystem or over the Internet using the client-server Library mode), then you can set randomization and shuffle and SmartList options on either the Server or, more usefully, on the Client/playback machine.

  16. Re: Parfty Shuffle – mine doesn’t work as far as I can make out, despite recent updates. I choose the source I want to take the random tracks from, hit refresh and nothing happens. iTunes just continues to play my whole library in order. Can anybody help?

  17. RE: PARTY SHUFFLE. I am having same promblem John. Mine doesn’t work either. I choose the source I want to take the random tracks from, hit refresh and nothing happens. iTunes just continues to play my whole library in order.
    Iam using ITUNES version 4.8

  18. The Party Shuffle to me is nothing more than just ‘another’ playlist. One BIG and important feature lacking is the ability to crossfade a song when you hit the next song/right-arrow key (the currently playing song still stops abruptly). I mean… it’s pretty lame, really – you can achieve all these things in a correctly-configured Smart Playlist, and to ‘refresh’ your music, just toggle the Shuffle button.

    Until Apple puts in a crossfade option that fades music from one into the other when cutting the currently playing song short – I think the only thing ‘cool’ about this crummy ‘Party Shuffle’ is the blue-bar over the currently playing song.



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