I don’t request a lot when it comes to media players. As long as it indexes my music correctly and gives me a nice album art view of my music library, I’m satisfied. I have always loved Windows Media Player because it was simple to use and provided a mess-free environment. One feature that I’ve always wanted to perform was the ability to create a simple playlist from a part of my music library and play it in random order. Even if your music collection isn’t that big, I’m sure there will be times when you thought it was a drag to specifically pick out an album for listening pleasures. Sometimes you just want to feel spontaneous and listen to whatever it is that consist of your music collection. By creating an auto-playlist in Windows Media Player, we are allowed to do just that. Best part of all? We’re in complete control over what gets into that playlist without having to do much work.
One big reason I enjoy listening to music in random order is because I have a fairly big music collection. Because of that, I have so much to listen to that sometimes I don’t even know where to start. Creating an auto-playlist playing in random order also gives me the opportunity to listen to songs I may have skipped in the past. Creating a regular playlist has always been around. We were always able to create our own playlists but these were static in nature. In order to grow the playlist, we had to modify it ourselves and that usually involves a lot of searching/digging through our music collection as well as dragging and dropping.
In iTunes and other media players, this feature is called a Smart Playlist. In Windows Media Player, it’s simply called an Auto-Playlist. Whatever the case may be, creating one of these so called “playlists” allows you to specify some type of criteria for that playlist. Once you have done so, the media player will automatically structure that playlist for you based on those specified criteria. The awesome part about these playlists is that it continues to grow with your music collection. You do not have to create a whole new playlist every time you add a new album to your collection. The media player will automatically do the work and check to see if those new songs apply to that playlist and if it does, then it will add it in for you. I guess in a way you can label these playlists as dynamic rather than static. Basically, rather than doing all the work yourself of creating the playlists, you’ll let Windows Media Player do the work instead based on what you specify. There are definitely advantages and disadvantages when comparing regular playlists and auto-playlists so you’ll definitely want to choose the right type for each situation.
Creating an Auto-Playlist
I am using Windows Media Player 12 in Windows 7 as the example for this article. In order to fully take advantage of the different criteria fields, you’ll need to have decently tagged your music collection because that’s where the criteria information is looked at by Windows Media Player. You can use the freely available MP3Tag utility to easily and effortlessly tag your entire music collection.
1. First, fire up Windows Media Player if you haven’t already. In the upper left section, you should see three different options labeled Organize, Stream and Create Playlist. Click on the little drop down arrow next to Create Playlist and select ‘Create Auto Playlist’ from the menu.
2. The New Auto Playlist window will then appear. Here is where the magic happens because here is where you get to specify all the criteria for your new playlist. You’ll want to begin by giving your playlist a name. In my situation, I’ll name it as “Random HipHop”. There are three levels of criteria selection, although not all needs to be specified. The main criteria should be set in the first level, which actually filters music from your Music library (or wherever you chose to store your music collection). Here, you’ll get to specify a big range of criteria fields to filter your music collection. These range from genre, album artist, album title, bit rate, play count, and a whole lot more. After selecting the criteria, you’ll set the variable. These are like Boolean values where you can specify whether the criteria “is”, “is not”, or “contains”. This is sort of like the greater or less than symbols in mathematics formulas. Once that is done, you finally set the value for the criteria. In my example, I want to create an auto-playlist that consists of all songs in my music collection that has a genre label of “Hip-Hop”. Therefore, that is the value I set. As you can see, you definitely can get creative here in creating your auto-playlist. In order for songs to end up in the playlist (or not), it must match the criteria you set here.
The second criteria level allows you to specify other generic locations where your media might be stored to include in the auto-playlist. Not a whole lot going on here.
The third criteria level allows you to add and specify restrictions to the playlist. There are only three options to choose from and they basically allow you to limit the size of your auto-playlist. If you don’t want your playlist to exceed more than 500 songs, you can specify that using the “Limit Number of Items” criteria.
Here is my final criteria set. It doesn’t look complicated because it really isn’t. All I’m saying is create a playlist for me that includes all songs with the Hip-Hop genre label as well as to make sure that all songs are greater than 2 minutes in length (I hate listening to skits and intros).
You might notice that this is a very broad criteria set. If I have 10,000 songs with the Hip-Hop genre label (and all over 2 minutes in length), then I would basically have a auto-playlist with 10,000 songs in it! But yes, this is exactly what I want. Also, don’t forget that this auto-playlist is dynamic. As soon as I add another Hip-Hop album to my music folder, Windows Media Player will automatically add the new songs to the playlist provided that they match the criteria set. In my case, as long as it’s labeled as Hip-Hop and 2 minutes in length or greater, it will be included. My advice is to experiment around with the criteria sets until you find the right combination. If one doesn’t work, simply dump the playlist and start over. Simple as that.
3. As soon as you hit the OK button, Windows Media Player will immediately go to work and create your magic playlist. Here are my results:
Now, every time I want to listen to to my random Hip-Hop music collection, all I have to do is enable Shuffle mode in Windows Media Player, right click on my Random HipHop playlist and select Play. Never will I have to worry about what to play next! Install the Foxytunes Firefox add-on and you’ll have complete control over your music while surfing the web!