Dumb question: my first iPod

I have recently received an iPod Nano (thanks, Marci).  I have been collecting digital content for many years, so my library is many times larger than what fits on the device itself.  And I expect the library to continue to grow, particularly in conjunction with the podcasts I get to discover.  No problem, I figure.  Apple should be bright enough to design software that makes sure I can keep some stuff on the device all the time while also swapping in new content for stuff I've already heard.

However, the version of iTunes that I have only gives me two primary options: manage it myself, or let iTunes do everything.  And (it seems) that since my library is bigger than my iPod, the second option doesn't really work. 

I'm sure I am just not sensing the obvious here.

So, here is what I would like to do.  Please tell me this is possible:

  • Always keep certain music / podcasts / pictures on the iPod.  (I think I need to put these in a playlist that syncs always.)
  • Always add unlistened podcasts to the device.  (Is there an easy way to tell my iPod that I haven't really "listened" to an hour-long podcast that I haven't finished?  And visa-versa - that I don't want to keep one that I stopped listening to?)
  • Add newly-added, unlistened music. 
  • Finally, if there is room, add random music from my library.

Oh, and is there any way to tell the iPod to keep playing podcasts on the device?  As it is now, it appears I need to start each podcast individually.  Or listen to all music and podcasts in random order.

Update: Sept 2010

I've since upgraded to an iPhone with tons of space and possibly the newest version of iTunes. Most of these problems are resolved.

  • Use a playlist that has those songs. And sync photos
  • There's a setting for podcasts: sync unlistened to podcasts. And a setting for "remember position" or some such.
  • Create a "New Music" smart playlist that grabs the most recent weeks (or months) music. Works well, except for when you import a bunch of stuff from other libraries.
  • And there is a setting for the iPhone that I didn't see with my iPod Nano - fill remaining space on device with random music. Perfect.

4 Comment(s)

Donald Clark said:

As far as podcasts, the iPod will use the settings that you have seleced on iTunes for podcasts. Thus, if you choose the setting in iTunes to keep the last five episodes, the iPod will automatically sync with it when you plug in in to your computer to charge it. Or if you choose the setting in iTunes to keep only unlistened to podcasts, the iPod will of course keep only the unlistened to podcasts.

Note that if you want to keep any podcast, then right click it (or if you have a single button mouse then press [control] whille clicking the podcast) and a context menu will pop up. From the menu select "Do Not Auo Delete". And of course, your iPod will also keep it since it syncs with the iTune's podcast settings.

As far as pictures, you can copy the photos that you want into a particualr folder, for example, "iPod Pictures" and your iPod will automatically sync with it when you plug it in to your computer.

Note that you can also have your iPod sync with your address book and iCalander.

I use my iPod mostly to listen to podcasts so I just drag any new songs that I want from my iTunes library to my iPod when it is plugged into my computer (and of course I can delete the songs I no longer want on my iPod when it is plugged in). Note that when you plug your iPod into your computer that iTunes will automatically pop up and an iPod icon is shown in iTune's source list, along with your library and playlist, so this is really easier than it sounds.

However, selecting the playlist option might work better for you. Just the drag the music you want from your library or other playlists into the selected iPod playlist and the iPod will automatically sync with it when you plug it in to your computer. Thus, when you download new music, drag it into your iPod playlist and your iPod will automatically sync with it.

For more documentation, see:

jackvinson Author Profile Page said:

As it turns out, my first-pass understanding was partially-right and partially-wrong.

At the most basic: if your library is larger than your iPod, you cannot tell iTunes to manage the iPod automatically. You must do this manually.

Fortunately, it is fairly easy to manage this process with what iTunes calls Smart Playlists. I tell my iPod to load up with unheard podcasts, music I always want, up to 1 GB of unplayed new stuff, and up to 0.5 GB of unplayed other music.

Steve Smoot said:

I've got a 20,000 item, 160 Gigabyte collection of podcasts, audio books, etc. I have a 40 GB iPod (3rd gen) that I load stuff onto for consuming during driving, traveling, the last 45 minutes or so before I go to sleep, working around the house... I have had the same problem and so I've developed an app I call iTunes Tool for managing content in iTunes. iTunes Tool allows me to manage standardized titling/labeling of content, other file metadata and information about when I've listened to items, how I categorize content after I've listened to it, etc. It takes advantage of AppleScript so it currently only runs on Macs, although I could build a PC version in about 30 minutes if there were an equivalent way of interacting with iTunes on the PC. But you can at least use part of my strategy in a more manual mode.

First I set five elements of the metadata of every item, the three most important being TITLE, GENRE and CATEGORY. I set the title to standard naming pattern I've created that helps with sorting, selecting and organizing. I set the GENRE of every item to something useful to me, such as business, personal, studies, marketing, history, religion, pkm, skills, etc. Then I set the CATEGORY to QTL (queue to listen), TODAY0, TODAY1, TODAY2, REFERENCE, or one of several other categories just for keeping certain kinds of content to fill a space in time that I want to fill. With such a backlog I've always got more in the TODAY category than I can listen to in one day. I do manage to listen 20 to 30 hours per week so being efficient at it is important.

I have smart playlists set-up to pull the CATEGORIES above, except that there is just one TODAY smart playlist that collects all the TODAY# items and is sorted on CATEGORY so that they appear prioritized on the iPod. Then I have sync preferences set to sync those playlists. Then I just choose from the playlist I want to listen to. There are some positive side effects from iTunes' default sort ordering after the selected sort column that I haven't detailed here and that I take advantage of in my standardized labeling for ARTIST, ALBUM and TITLE.

Now if Apple would just deliver a device that would also allow me to similarly manage my 22,000+ document, 150 GB knowledge library of PDFs, e-books, DOCs, web archives, etc. I've built another tool to help tag, summarize and manage this library but I don't have a good portable platform to use it. I use a Sony UX-50 Palm device but just don't get the same ease-of-use, efficiency and effectiveness.

Since the net this week is talking about Apple's disinterest in conventional tablet configuration devices, I'll have to hope for something in a more capable smartphone later this year.

I have the same problem. I wish there was an easier way to transpose what media you want with multiple devices from the same library.

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