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Moving iTunes playlists to another computer

So I have this friend, I created a lot of playlists as the digital equivalent to old school mixtapes for. She didn’t want to use iTunes for some time now so in the past she would just give me her iPod, I would then plug it in to my Mac, sync the newly created playlist(s) to the device and she was good to go.

Now, she decided to start using iTunes and asked me for the playlists, so that she could copy them into her iTunes. And that’s were the trouble began…

iTunes does have a feature to export playlists (select playlist -> library -> export playlist) that even let’s you choose from a bunch of different file formats: plain text, unicode text, XML, M3U and M3U8.

No matter what you choose: this tool doesn’t give you much more than just a simple text file with small or bigger differences in the syntax, depending on what format you chose.

OK, I thought, I might be halfway down the way here. Surely, I can just drag and drop the actual music files out of my iTunes library and onto  flash drive along with the blabla.m3u8 playlist I just created. And surely, all she would need to do, is to first import the music files, then the playlist and she would be done.

Not so much.
The method described above results in having all the songs in the library but an empty playlist.
Just dragging the playlist into iTunes results in an empty playlist and now files in the library.

Uhm, and now what?
Yeah, I could import the empty playlist and drag the according songs directly into that playlist. But then they would be sorted by filename and not the way I originally arranged them. I would need to go through each and every playlist and correct the positions of the tracks by hand. Sounds like a lot of fun. Not.

With some Google help I found a tool called iTunesExport by Eric Daugherty. And that shit’s pure magic! 🙂
What it does is, basically, generating a playlist in a format of your choice and copying the music files along with it.

In a first step it loads your iTunes Library – which can take some time – and then presents you with a overview of all the playlists (smart and „stupid“) it found. You then select the ones you would like to export, adjust some settings and you’re done.

Well, not quite… I had spend some time to figure out the right way to export my playlists, so that iTunes 10 on another computer would import them correctly.

Here’s a screenshot of what finally did the magic for me:

Bildschirmfoto 2010-09-27 um 11.08.23.png

This results in a folder filled with song files that have been renamed to something like „00052-01 Satellite.m4a“ and as many playlist files as you chose playlists a step ago.

This exporting procedure can take quite some time. My MacMini with a Core2Duo at 2,0GHz and 4GB of RAM needed about 40 minutes to export ten playlists with a total of 416 songs.

Now all you have to do is take that folder and move/copy it over the other computer. Open both, the folder and iTunes and drag/drop JUST THE PLAYLISTS files into iTunes. It will create the playlists, copy the song files into its library* and arrange the songs correctly inside the playlists.

It’s a bit sad that one needs a third party tool to achieve this… I would have expected this to possible using iTunes alone…

*: For this little trick to work, you need to have your iTunes configured accordingly: go to „Advanced“ in iTunes‘ settings and make sure you tell it to manage the library folder automatically and to automatically copy new files into the library folder!

Published inAllgemein

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