Use iTunes 11 ‘Up Next’ to create an on-the-fly playlist – Update

Update: David Chartier points out @chucker‘s instructions for adding a track to an Up Next playlist with a keyboard shortcut. Huzzah!

Apple has released iTunes 11, which offers a major redesign of the decade-old media player/store. Alongside the visual changes are some clever features, including Up Next. Up Next lets you create an on-the-fly playlist, determining which song follows which during playback.

There are several ways to add to and re-arrange an Up Next playlist. Here’s how to work with Up Next playlists in iTunes 11.

Starting a Playlist

Get started by browsing your music library in iTunes 11. As you mouse over the songs, notice a new right-facing arrow icon that appears:

Click it to reveal a contextual menu with several new options:

  1. Play Next
  2. Add to Play Next
  3. Start Genius
  4. Create Genius Playlist
  5. Genius Suggestions
  6. Add To
  7. Go To [artist]
  8. Show in iTunes Store

I’ll focus on the first two options in this tutorial: Play Next and Add to Play Next.

Click Play Next to identify that song as the next one iTunes should play. Note that you aren’t limited to songs here. You can queue up an entire album, playlist, genre or artist to your Up Next playlist. Here’s how:

  1. To add an album, hover over it in iTunes, click the arrow icon and finally select Play Next.
  2. To add a playlist, click it in the sidebar and then click the right-facing arrow button at the top of the window.
  3. To add a genre, click Genres, make your select and finally click the arrow icon and select Play Next. If you’re in list view, right-click or Control-click in the genre column and select “Play Next” from the contextual menu.

You can also add a track from the search field. Here’s how:

  1. Search for an artist, album or song.
  2. The results appear as a drop-down from the search field.
  3. Mouse over the results list.
  4. Two icons appear. Click the “+” to add that selection to the bottom of the Up Next playlist.
  5. Click the right-facing arrow for full contextual menu, as seen abov.

Finally, you can simply drag-and-drop any track(s) or album onto the blue Up Next icon on the right of the LCD (below).

Add Subsequent Tracks

You’ve started a playlist by telling iTunes 11 which song to play after the current track. But how do you add a song to play after that? No problem. Follow these steps:

  1. Find the song, album, artist, playlist or genre you’d like to add to your playlist.
  2. Click the right-facing arrow icon again.
  3. This time, select Add to Up Next. This will place your selection at the bottom of the list.

View Your Up Next Playlist

It’s easy to forget what’s coming up next if you’ve added a lot of songs. Fortunately, Apple’s clever developers have you covered. You can view your Up Next playlist from several locations. Here’s where to look.

Keyboard Shortcut

Hit Option-Command-U on your keyboard to produce a drop-down overview of your Up Next playlist.


Click the blue list icon on the right-hand side.

The Mini Player

Click the blue list icon on the far right of the mini player.

Re-order, Edit Your Up Next Playlist

It’s possible that your mood might change mid-playback. No problem! It’s easy to re-order your playlist. Simply bring up the list using one of the methods described above and then click and drag a track to change its place in the order.

To move several tracks at once, first Command-click on each one. Then drag and drop the lot to the desired spot in the playlist.

You can also remove a song or group of songs from the Up Next playlist. Once you’ve made your selection(s), click the “x” on the far left of the list. Those songs will be removed from the list.

Up Next and Apple’s Remote App for iOS

Here’s where it gets extremely fun. You can manage an Up Next playlist that’s running on your Mac with Apple’s Remote App for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch (free). This essentially puts a wireless playlist manager in your pocket. Here’s how.

First, download the app and connect it to iTunes on your Mac with Home Sharing. Get a song playing on your Mac and then tap Now Playing on Remote.

A new screen appears with three new buttons: Add, Edit and History. To add a track, follow these steps:

  1. Tap Add. A new screen appears labeled Add songs to Up Next.
  2. Navigate to the song, album or playlist you’d like to add.
  3. Hit the back button and keep adding. When you’re finished, tap Done.

You can re-order the playlist from Remote, too. Simply tap Edit and then drag the songs into your desired order. Or, delete a song all together.

Finally, the History button provides an overview of recently played songs.

iTunes 11 has many new features, but Up Next is by far my favorite. Experiment, make a few playlists and have fun. The more you use it, the more fun and convenient it becomes.

Thanks for reading. You’ll find more tech-y “how-to’s” here.