Chaos with a side of order

Today I finally figured out how to use a shuffle in both predictable and unpredictable ways. A couple weeks ago I took a flight and I wanted to listen to 10 tracks that made up a short audiobook, but then load up the rest of my shuffle with 150 songs to listen to during other parts of the trip. The problem was, I couldn’t figure out how to load certain tracks at the beginning, and play just those in order, while still being able to switch to random and fast forwarding through the occasional audiobook track amid the music mix. It’s not that hard to accomplish, but there are a few sticking points I figured I’d share.

- Create a new playlist with your audiobook tracks, then add a bunch of songs and albums you want to hear to fill out the remainder of your shuffle.

- Fill your shuffle from that playlist. You must order the songs so that the audiobook tracks are first in the list. If you can’t get this sort by clicking on any column headers, highlight the first column with numbers and drag the tracks one by one into the first slots in the list — that’s the only way to arbitrarily order tracks in iTunes. This is one “feature” I didn’t learn until recently and seems to be lacking from playlists (even though every other software mp3 player lets you arbitrarily reorder tracks in playlists). It might be a royal pain to do this one by one, through hundreds of tracks. Be sure to update when you’ve got the order done before removing the shuffle.

- Now, if you want to jam to music, go to shuffle mode and enjoy. When you want to listen to your audiobook, switch to ordered mode (non-shuffle, first click on the switch) and hit the play button three times to go to the start of the playlist.

Sometimes you want order and chaos in the same package and that’s how to do it. Even when I don’t have an audio book on my shuffle, I like to find my favorite song of the moment and keep it as the first track, so at any point I can switch to ordered mode, hit play three times, then switch back to shuffle and hear it.