iTunes 11.x: Folders for Organizing and Mixing Playlists

iTunes and iPhoto have similar architecture.  In iPhoto, folders are handy for grouping albums together, for example by year or by topic.  Did you know that iTunes has folders too?  What are they good for?  How would you make one?  Anything tricky here?

What are folders good for?

Let’s say you’ve got several playlists whose music would sound good mixed together; but you want to keep those songs in their own playlists.  For example, ’30s Jazz and ’50s Jazz.  You could copy the contents of these playlists to a new, mixed playlist called Jazz.  But if you do it that way, when you add a song to ’30s Jazz, it won’t automatically go into Jazz.

How about putting ’30s Jazz inside Jazz?  BZZT.  Playlists are only containers of songs, not playlists.

The answer, of course, is to create a folder named Jazz, and put the ’30s Jazz and ’50s Jazz playlists inside it.  Now, if you add yet another cover of “Summertime” to ’30s Jazz it appears in the Jazz folder, too.  (I’ve found rock, chill, etc. flavors of “Summertime;” it’s got to be one of the most covered songs ever.) 

On an iPod Classic, you can play a folder just as you would play a playlist.  If you shuffle, the songs from all the playlists in the folder are intermingled. 

  • Now you can make a larger number of more specialized playlists without losing the ability to get some music playing that you won’t have to worry about for a few hours.
  • Folders are a time-saver.  Moving playlists around goes much faster than moving individual songs.   If you’re going to party with people who like rock, folk and alternative music, you can throw together a folder with those playlists (or duplicates of them) with your mouse in less than a minute.  (Again, you can only play a folder on an iPod Classic.  For playing on an iPod Touch or iPhone/iPad, you can work around this feature-loss by making smart playlists.)

How do I make a folder?

To create a folder, click the big + in the bottom left corner.  From the floating menu, select New playlist folder.

How do I use folders and playlists together?

To move a playlist into a folder, just drag it and drop it on the folder.  It makes no difference whether you get the playlist from another folder or from outside the folders.  (I wrote this section using iTunes 12.3.)

Point at the playlist, push your main mouse button (normally it’s the left button), and keep holding it down.  You’ll see the playlist highlighted.  Start dragging it toward the folder.  A “note” icon with a small red circle appears, showing the number of songs in the playlist you’re moving.

Drag it right on top of the target folder (not on top of any playlists that are already inside the folder).beachboys1

Release the mouse button.  Now you’ll see the playlist inside the target folder.beachboys2


To move a playlist out of a folder so it isn’t in any folder … now that’s a bit tricky.  You can’t drop it between existing playlists.  If you drop it on a playlist, the playlist you’re moving adds its contents to the target playlist and disappears.  

What to do that works:

1.  Create a new, empty playlist.  It can have the same name as the one you want to move.Screen Shot 2014-03-08 at 8.04.49 PM

2.  Drag the playlist you want to move out of its folder and drop it on the new playlist.Screen Shot 2014-03-08 at 8.05.21 PM

3.  Delete the copy of the playlist that’s in the folder.Screen Shot 2014-03-08 at 8.05.58 PM


4 thoughts on “iTunes 11.x: Folders for Organizing and Mixing Playlists

  1. juliann

    Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is an extremely
    well written article. I’ll be sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of
    your useful information. Thanks for the post. I’ll certainly return.

  2. Mohab

    That’s a very well written article. Thank you so much for it but i tried this with iTunes 12.3.2 and it doesn’t work. the playlist that is already existing outside doesn’t get dragged inside the folder. Also i would like to keep the playlist only inside the folder and delete it from the general playlists is that also possible?

    1. pablovilas13 Post author

      It does work. I expanded the part of the blog that talks about this, using the same version of iTunes that you’re using; check it out. It may be that you put your moving playlist onto another playlist inside your target folder. In that case, you’d add the songs in the playlist you meant to move to the dropped-on playlist. You wouldn’t see it listed inside the folder, so you might wonder whether anything happened. But if you check the contents of the dropped-on playlist you’ll see those songs. I hope this helps!


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