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:

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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:

Usage:

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:

 

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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.