Windows 7 : The Zune PC Software (part 3) - Using Zune - Rating Content, Working with Playlists

3/4/2013 6:45:34 PM
3.3. Other Music Views

In addition to the default Artists view, Zune supports other Music views. These are accessible via a set of links that appear in the upper right side of the Zune application window. They include the following:

  • Genres: In this view, the Zune player's three-column view changes to columns for Genres, Albums, and Songs, so the top-level sorting here is by genre: Alternative, Classical, Comedy, Pop, Rock, and so on. It will vary based on the types of content you have in your collection.

  • Albums: In this attractive view style, Zune switches to a unique (for Music) two-pane view. Here, you will see large album art in the larger, leftmost pane, and a list of songs in the right pane. As shown in Figure 15, this view is quite visual and an excellent way to enjoy your music collection, especially if you're old-school and still think about music in terms of albums.

    Figure 15. Albums view provides a very visual way to browse your music collection.
  • Songs: In a nod to the textual, columnar media library style used by Apple iTunes, the Songs view provides a list-based look at your music collection. As shown in Figure 16, this view includes the columns Song, Song artist, Album, Genre, Rating (see the next section), and Device (that is, whether the song in question is synched to the attached Zune device).

    Figure 16. Look, it's iTunes! Okay, not really—but Zune can do text lists too.
  • Playlists: From here, you can manage your playlists and autoplaylists. We examine this important functionality in just a bit.

3.4. Rating Content

While media players such as Windows Media Player and Apple iTunes support a ratings system whereby each song (or other content) can be rated on a scale from 1 to 5 (or from 0 to 5 if you consider no rating a 0), Microsoft has simplified this to the bare minimum in Zune. Instead of five stars, you can assign three different ratings:

  • Unrated: In this case, the item has not been rated.

  • I Don't Like It: This rating is reserved for songs and other items you specifically do not like.

  • I Like It: This rating, of course, applies to songs and other content you enjoy.


What's interesting about the Zune rating system is that if you've already rated songs in either Windows Media Player or iTunes and then later install Zune, the Zune PC software will import your existing ratings and convert them to Zune-friendly values. Songs you've rated as 3 to 5 stars will be given the "I Like It" rating. Songs you've rated as 1 or 2 will receive "I Don't Like It." Unrated songs, of course, remain unrated.

Zune uses cute little heart icons to represent each rating. The I Like It rating is a solid heart, while the I Don't Like It rating, humorously, is represented by a broken heart. Unrated songs get no icon. Each icon option is shown in Figure 17.

Figure 17. Zune offers simple ratings with cute icons.

To set or change ratings, just click the heart icon next to each song in the Songs pane. Each time you click, the rating will toggle to the next available value. (You can also right-click songs and choose an appropriate rating from the context menu that appears. This method works for rating multiple songs simultaneously, though of course each will be assigned the same rating.) You cannot rate an entire album by right-clicking it in the Albums pane.


As with Windows itself, it's useful to remember that right-clicking throughout the Zune user interface can reveal some interesting features and options. The old adage is as relevant here as ever: when in doubt, right-click.

3.5. Working with Playlists

Like most media players, including Windows Media Player and iTunes, Zune supports both manually created playlists, which are simply called playlists, and automatically generated playlists, called autoplaylists. (Other media players call them smart playlists.)

Manual playlists aren't as smart as autoplaylists, but they're still a powerful tool, and they can and should be used to create lists of songs you're going to burn to CD or copy to a Zune portable device. Autoplaylists, meanwhile, are created using various filters, so they can change automatically over time. For example, if you create an autoplaylist of songs rated I Like It, that playlist will change over time as you rate more songs.

Here's how they work. The songs listed in the Songs pane are basically a temporary playlist. This temporary playlist changes as you select different items in the Artists and Albums panes; and when you actually start playing a selection of songs, it becomes the Now Playing playlist. This, too, is temporary in that it's not saved to disk or synchronized with any portable players. It's ephemeral, existing in the Zen-like now.

Zune provides a number of ways to formally construct a (manual) playlist that has a name and is saved to disk, including the following:

  • The Playlists icon: In the lower-left corner of the Zune application window is a Playlists icon. (The icon resembles a dog-eared sheet of paper with a Play symbol on it.) If you mouse over this icon, a pop-up menu appears. It has three options by default: New playlist, New autoplaylist, and Now playing. If you create other playlists, they'll appear in the list as well, so everything in this list other than the first two items is there so that you can make it the current playlist. If you click the Playlists icon, the Zune UI will send you to the Playlists subview in Music.

  • Collection => Music => Playlists: From this subview you can create new playlists or view or edit any playlists you may have already created. If you don't have any playlists, this view resembles Figure 18.

    Figure 18. It's empty by default, but savvy Zune users will soon fill up Playlists with their own manual playlists and autoplaylists.
  • Right-click: A better way to interact with playlists is through the Zune software's right-click context menus. If you find an album or some songs you'd like to add to a new or existing playlist, just select them, right-click, and choose Add to playlist. When you do so, the Choose a Playlist dialog appears, shown in Figure 19. (If you have not yet created a playlist, however, you'll see a simpler Playlist dialog, from which you can create a new playlist.) From here, you can select an existing playlist or click the New Playlist button to create a new playlist.

    Figure 19. From here, you can assign selected songs to particular playlists.
  • Drag and drop: One of the more unexpected ways in which you can interact with playlists is similar to the right-click method except that you have to do a bit of work first. That is, you must mouse over the Playlists icon and either create a new playlist or select an existing playlist from the pop-up menu that appears; in either case, that will become the active playlist. Then, you can find content in the Artists, Albums, or Songs pane that you'd like to make part of that playlist, select it, and drag it over to the Playlists icon (see Figure 20).

    Figure 20. Content dragged onto the Playlists icon is added to the active playlist.

From the Playlists subzone, you can add items to the Burn list to burn them to a CD or DVD, in much the same manner as described above; drag and drop works just fine using the Disk icon you'll see there, as does the right-click menu. You can also use these methods to sync playlists to a device.

To create an autoplaylist, mouse over the Playlists icon in the lower left corner of the Zune application window and choose New autoplaylist from the pop-up menu that appears. Or, navigate to the Playlists subview and click the New Autoplaylist button. Either way, the Autoplaylist dialog appears, shown in Figure 21, enabling you to configure the filters that will determine which songs appear in the autoplaylist.

Figure 21. The Autoplaylist dialog works like the smart playlist generators in other media players.

Creating an autoplaylist might seem difficult at first, but it's actually pretty straightforward. Suppose you want to create a list of songs that were made in a certain decade (for example, the 1980s). To do this, you would simply change the years in the Year date fields to 1980 and 1989. Then click OK. It's that simple.

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