iTunes 12.x; Edit all songs that aren’t in any playlists

I play playlists 99% of the time.  So, songs that aren’t in any playlist are “orphaned” for me.  I forget I even have them. 

They usually get this way by accident–for example, because I delete a song on my computer and then sync my iPad that still has the song.  In that case, I get a warning that there are “purchases” on my iPad that aren’t in my library and a chance to add them in.  I’ve forgotten what I might have purchased with the iPad, so I add them in just to be safe!  And then when I see them I go “Oh, no, not that again!”

So, periodically I check all the songs that aren’t in any playlist, and either add them to a playlist or delete them.  Here’s how I do it.

But first, some brief definitions:

  • A song is a digital audio performance that iTunes manages in a way similar to how an operating system manages a file.  Every song has a number.
  • A playlist is a list of song numbers.
  • A smart playlist is a set of rules for selecting a list of song numbers.
  • A folder is a container that can hold playlists and other folders.
  • Click means point your mouse at something and tap the left button.  Or, if you’ve reversed the functions of its buttons, tap the right button.
  • Alt-click means point your mouse at something and tap the other button.

What to do:

Organize the folders and playlists so they all reside in one “super-folder.”  I named mine “All my playlists.”  (You can keep this folder and use it over again each time you do this.)Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 1.34.22 PM

Select All my playlists.

Select the first song in it.Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 1.35.52 PM

Drag the right-hand scroll-bar handle to the bottom.

Hold down the SHIFT key.  Select the last song in “All my playlists.”  Now all of the songs in “All my playlists” are selected.Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 1.38.40 PM

Alt-click on the song list; a floating menu appears.  In it select “New playlist from selection.”  I named mine “My playlist songs.”Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 1.41.13 PM

Open the File menu.  Select New… .  A submenu appears.  Select Smart playlist ...  A Smart Playlist definition window appears.Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 1.46.28 PM

Set up the rule “Playlist is not All playlist songs.”  Click OK .  I named this smart playlist “Not in any playlist.”Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 1.51.46 PM

Select “Not in any playlist.”  Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 1.53.18 PM

Now you’re ready to deal with all your songs that aren’t in any playlist.  If you just want to deal with them all at once, you can select all of these songs at once by opening the Edit menu and selecting Select all .  But I prefer to deal with a few of them at a time.  On my system, podcasts are included in this list, and I usually want to keep those.

As with songs in any playlist, you can’t delete these songs by selecting them and pushing the DELETE key.  That just removes the song numbers from the playlist.  Instead, hold down the ALT key and push the DELETE key.  Click through the usual “Are you sure?” dialogs to get rid of every vestige of the songs.Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 2.09.40 PM

When you’re done editing your no-playlist songs, delete the playlist “All playlist songs” that you created when you started this process.  Because it can’t update itself dynamically, it’s not going to include any newly-orphaned songs; so it has no use.  Alt-click the playlist; a floating menu appears.  Select Delete.Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 2.36.02 PM

Also, Delete the smart playlist Not in any playlist.  Now that All playlist songs is gone, this smart playlist is broken and has no use.

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