In iTunes, what are the checkboxes for?

That’s the question - short and sweet. In iTunes, what are the checkboxes to the left of each song title for? I know how to check and uncheck them, but I don’t know why I would want to.

I sync to an 8GB iPhone 3G if that matters.

They have a few uses.

  1. On any of your iDevices, you can choose “Sync only checked songs”. This is useful if you have some songs you never want to be synced, but you also want to let iTunes fill your device randomly selecting from your library.

  2. An unchecked song will be skipped unless it’s directly selected for play. This is useful in a number of cases. Listening to your entire library on random, it can skip over recorded lectures, spoken word tracks or anything else you might not care to hear unless you choose it specifically. You may have a compilation album that includes tracks you’d rather automatically skip over, but you’re a packrat/completionist and want to keep the entire album together – uncheck the songs you don’t like, play the album as normal and you’ll only hear what you want to hear.

  3. You can use checked/unchecked as one criterion when building smart playlists.

I have a bunch of long recordings, and as I don’t usually care to hear them when randomly sifting through my music, I leave them unchecked.

A few things. If you uncheck a song, it won’t play, instead it’ll get skipped over. You can also set your iPod to not sync unchecked songs. Basically unchecking a song makes iTunes ignore it for most purposes.

It’s really obnoxious and bad design to have “sync these songs to my ipod” and “only play these songs on my computer”, by the way. I have several times as much music as will fit on my ipod, so I have to select which will go - but if I ever wanted to use itunes to play music, it would skip everything that wasn’t on my ipod.

Of course I wouldn’t recommend using iTunes as a music player anyway - use it the least you can possibly get away with it.

Are you under the impression that “Sync everything checked” and then unchecking what you don’t want to sync is the only way to fill your iPod?

There are a number of ways to fill your iPod. That’s only one of them. I would submit that checking and unchecking specific tracks to do it is a very, very inefficient way of doing it (especially with “several times as much music as will fit”), and rather than “obnoxious and bad design”, it’s probably not intended user behavior.

I think the checkboxes serve as a way of designating “should this be a part of my main music library or not” (there are reasons to keep a track in iTunes and not want to listen to it come up randomly on shuffle, or to not have to skip past it every time while listening to an album). The syncing option merely serves as a first pass way for iTunes to eliminate everything you’ve already decided to drop out of that library from consideration for syncing – and only if you want it to (I don’t remember whether it’s default behavior, but it’s a checkbox and easy to turn off if it is). Analogy: You have two bookshelves at home. One is a shelf of encyclopedias and other reference material, the other is full of novels you just picked up at the local library’s sale and have been eager to read. You’re going on vacation. You can probably automatically eliminate that entire reference shelf of books from your decision of what books to pack. But you still want to keep them and they do belong on your bookshelf.

I would imagine that most people (at least most who spend a little time trying to solve their problem) use a combination of the Playlists, Genres, Artists and Albums checkboxes to get what they want on their device (optionally choosing “fill free space” to let iTunes top it off). Or they manually manage their music. But there are much better ways to manage what shows up on your device than relying solely on the checkboxes.

No, but it seems like the best way. You can use “check all” functions (as well as just quickly looking over lists via search) that make it faster than manually adding/removing music. How else can you do it?

There’s no way in the options to remove the “don’t play unchecked songs” feature of itunes.

Maybe there’s something I’m familiar with, but it’s check or drag-drop manually right?

I have 4,936 songs in my iTunes library, occupying 39.32gb. I don’t have the large capacity iPod.

Also, I use my computer and iTunes as my stereo now (while my old Pioneer stereo gets used only as the sound system for my DVD player these days). I leave it on shuffle and away we go. Frankly, there are quite a few songs there that I don’t want to listen to on a regular basis, but I don’t want to delete. So I uncheck them, and they a> don’t get synced to my iPod, and b> don’t get played when I’ve got music going in my apartment.

Given the number of songs, NO, there are not better ways of managing this. I’m NOT going to create a 2,000 song playlist, or some shit like that.

They seem silly to me, and I have better (to me, at least) ways of telling iTunes what to play and what not to play. You can get rid of the checkmark boxes by going to Preferences and unchecking “Show list checkboxes”.

You can also sync by playlists, which sounds like the kind of thing that would be useful for you. Select your iPod in iTunes, go to the Music tab, and under the “Sync Music” section (which checkbox I’m assuming you have checked) switch from “Entire Music Library” to “Selected Playlists, Artists, Albums, and Genres.” Then pick which categories you want on your iPod. You can even use Smart Playlists to randomly choose 2 GB worth of classical, 2 GB worth of rock, etc.

I personally have a catch-all playlist called “iPod Sync” into which I put everything I want to have on my iPod. It’s not the most elegant solution, but it works just fine for most purposes.


I’m not sure why you’re so opposed to this. My “iPod Sync” playlist has 4882 songs in it. It’s not like I ever actually press play on it.

The ways to choose your music, as I understand them:

*(This applies to all “full-size” iPods and potentially the Nano too – I don’t have one so I don’t know about those, and potentially the current Shuffle too, but not my couple-generations-old one)

  1. Sync entire music library (if library’s too big to fit on device, iTunes will randomly fill, I think, with possible weighting based on star ratings). Deselect “sync checked songs only”. Affords no control over what gets synced.

  2. Sync entire music library. Select “sync checked songs only”. Control what is synced based on what is checked/unchecked. Has the downside of affecting playback from within iTunes. Possibly useful if iTunes isn’t your primary computer player.

  3. Sync selected playlists, artists, albums and genres. Using the checkboxes (note: these are not the song checkboxes the OP references – select your device in the sidebar, then choose “music” along the top of the screen. There are four areas with a bunch of checkboxes, one per artist, or one per album, etc.) in each of those four areas, choose to sync all songs by one or more artists, on one or more albums, in one or more genres or on one or more playlists. You can use this in conjunction with “sync checked songs only” or not.

  4. Manually manage your music. Drag and drop specific songs on or off the device.

I think you misunderstood me. I said “and only if you want it to”, referring to the option of using the checkboxes to determine what to sync or not. The fact that it’s an option for that purpose, but NOT an option to not play unchecked songs automatically gives a bit of insight as to its primary intent, does it not?

MikeS beat me to it, but my phone is synced using option 3 above – I have some artists whose entire catalog I want, some specific albums I want and several playlists syncing as well, one of which is a catchall for when I might want a specific song but not the entire album or artist. It’s not much slower to drag a song to a playlist than it is to check or uncheck the box (especially if, protip, you name the playlist starting with an exclamation point so it pops up to the top of the list).

If you really want to geek out with it, you can build smart playlists to (for example – they can get much more elaborate than this) randomly choose X GB of stuff you haven’t listened to in the last X months that you’ve rated at least X stars, but isn’t included in any of the other stuff you have set to automatically sync. And the nice thing about that is you don’t have to keep rebuilding them, they update automatically as you listen, so songs will pop onto the playlist when you haven’t listened to them in a while or when you adjust their rating, and then drop off once you listen or when you down-rate.

When songs go on the iPod, do they retain the other playlists they are in? Because treating them like they are all in the same playlist would annoy me.

Not that I have a working iPod–I’m just curious.

AFAIK, songs can be on as many playlists as you care to put them on.

cough playlist cough

I have a playlist that is for the car, I have another playlist that is called sleepytime for overnight, and a playlist of specific genres of music - electronica, metal, oldies pop, motown. I load the car playlist on the ipod, i will put it onto sleepytime if i want to sleep, and i can listen to differing types of music, wihthout having ti fuck with little checks.

How else would one manage music that is designed to set up playlists …

The checkboxes are very useful when you have more music than will fit on your iPhone/Pod.

That is my situation. What is your method of using the checkboxes for this purpose? I also have music that I want to keep on my computer, but I don’t need to carry around in my iPhone. If I need those particular items with me, I can manually load them.

Um, playlists? Is there an echo in here, or is it just me. :smiley:
Put everything you want in your iPhone in a playlist. Go to options, and instead of “sync all”, select “sync selected playlists”. Sync only those playlists you want on your iPhone.

Um, playlists? Is there an echo in here, or is it just me. :smiley:
Put everything you want in your iPhone in a playlist. Go to options…

I clicked on my iPod on the left-hand list in iTunes, then checked “Sync only checked songs and videos.” I liked iTunes a lot better once I found that option.

Now when I add music to iTunes it’s checked by default but I can mass-uncheck any artists albums/songs I don’t want.