Getting to know iTunes 11′s Up Next player

Kirk McElhearn
4 March, 2013
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One of the marquee features of iTunes 11 is Up Next, a new way to queue up songs for your listening sessions. Radically different from iTunes DJ, which this feature replaces, it can be a bit complex. Here’s a look at how to get the most out of Up Next.

How does it work?

The first thing you need to know about Up Next is that it’s always on – and you may add songs to it without realising it. For example, if you start playing a playlist by clicking the arrow button next to its name, when it’s displayed in iTunes, the Up Next queue gets filled with all the songs that playlist contains. The same is true if you start playing an album by clicking the arrow button next to its name in, say, Albums view or Artists view.

But in this case, Up Next is only adding the songs in the selected album or playlist, and that’s not where the feature becomes useful. What makes Up Next a powerful feature is its ability to queue up songs from different playlists or albums.

Adding songs to Up Next

You can add songs to the Up Next queue in several ways. When you do so, the songs get added at the end of the queue, so you can keep adding songs as your day or listening session goes on, and always have a stream of music playing.

The quickest way to add a single song to the Up Next queue is to hover over a track, then press the Option key and click the plus (+) icon that appears to the left of the track name. This icon appears in any of iTunes’ views (Artists, Albums, Genres, and so on), and for individual tracks or albums, or next to the name of a playlist. For albums in, say, Artists or Albums view, the arrow icon after the album name changes to the + icon when you hover with the Option key pressed.

If you select a track and press Option-Return, it will be added to the Up Next queue. However, if anything is in the queue, you’ll get a window asking if you want to replace what’s there (click Clear Songs to do so) or not (click Play Song). If you do the latter, your song gets added to the beginning of the Up Next queue; if you choose to clear songs, it replaces what’s in the queue.

You can use the More (arrow) icon to add items to Up Next, as well as to perform other actions on them. This icon displays when you hover over a song or album in your iTunes library. Click it to display a pop-up menu. If you already have songs in the Up Next queue, you have two choices: Play Next and Add to Up Next. If you choose Play Next, iTunes adds the selected track to the beginning of the Up Next queue (that is, right after the currently playing song). If you click Add to Up Next, iTunes adds the item to the end of the queue.

The standard contextual menu also lets you add items to Up Next. Right- or Control-click on an item, then choose Play Next or Add to Up Next; these commands have the same effect as those described just above. You may prefer using the pop-up menu mentioned earlier, but the contextual menu is the way to add entire playlists to the Up Next queue, since there’s no More button when you hover over playlists in the sidebar or the playlists column.

Finally, you can drag and drop items to add them to the Up Next queue. To do so, select one or more songs or albums and drag them to the iTunes LCD (the part of the window at the top that displays information about what you’re playing). When you do so, the Up Next icon will flash showing that iTunes has added your items.

Working with the Up Next queue

Now that you’re grooving to the music in your Up Next queue, you may want to change the order of the songs you’ve added to it. You can do so by clicking the Up Next icon in the iTunes LCD (or in the MiniPlayer); this shows the next 20 songs that will play. You can drag the songs up or down in this list to change their order, and you can delete any song by hovering over one, then clicking the X icon that appears to the left of its name.

You can clear the entire queue by clicking Clear, and you can also clear the currently playing song by clicking Clear again. And see that clock icon? Click that to see what you’ve played recently; you can then add any songs you want to hear again to the Up Next queue by hovering, clicking the > icon, and using the commands described above in the pop-up menu. (And you can access any of the other commands in that menu as well, such as rating songs, adding them to playlists, viewing them in the iTunes Store, and so on.) Click the clock icon again to return to the Up Next queue.

So long, DJ

Up Next is a valuable feature if you like to set up a queue of music to listen to. It lacks the ability that iTunes DJ had to choose songs at random from your music library, or from a selected playlist, and some iTunes users miss this feature. But try out Up Next and see how it fits with your listening; you may find that you like the way you can choose what music you’ll listen to and how you can easily manage the list.

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