Adding iTunes 9 Store preview clips to a playlist

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Joined: 02/12/2009

If you use iTunes a lot, you might have tried saving 30-second previews from the iTunes store in a playlist. This was a great way to shop.

But the new iTunes 9 breaks this! They've redone the interface such that you can't drag a preview clip to a playlist anymore.

[Edit 7/17/10: This problem is fixed in iTunes version 9.2. This functionality returns with that version.]

There's a lame workaround. Each song in the iT9 store has a new tiny pop-up menu on the far right. Select "Add to Wish List". When you've picked your cuts, go to your wish list and play tracks from it. (Bottom of every window under "Manage", or on the home page on the right under "Quick Links".)

But this sucks for a few reasons. You can't re-arrange the order of the wish list, and you can't mix together tracks from your library with tracks from the store.

So I'm experimenting to find another way. This article reports my testing, hopefully I'll find an answer and will summarize a solution. (Unfinished testing as of 2009_11_16.)
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I have a bunch of previews in playlists already, from the days of iTunes 8. Since these "store-songs already in playlists" (I'll refer to them as SSAIP) still work to playback the preview...

Maybe there's a way to add a URL to a playlist? Perhaps Applescript or automator could save the preview in a playlist.

(I tried unsuccessfully to export a mixed playlist of SSAIP and library tracks, but SSAIP don't show up in the exported playlist's entries, it strips them and just shows library tracks.)

From Wikipedia:
"Starting with iTunes 9.0, store pages were delivered using standard HTML with a special header. iTunes uses WebKit to render these pages on the screen. Prior to iTunes 9.0, The iTunes Store was delivered using a custom XML format that describes the position of all of the elements, boxes, album art and all of their properties - including whether a reference link can be dragged out of iTunes and into another document. The App Store portion of the store is still rendered in this fashion."

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OK... so if the iTunes Store page in iTunes is just an HTML page, try this:

In the mini pop-up menu for an album, select "Copy link". For the Pavement tune "Spit On A Stranger", it is:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/spit-on-stranger/id2989229?i=2989192

Switch to a web browser (I tested in Safari) and paste the link into the address bar, and hit enter. It will switch back to iTunes, but the browser window is still open so switch back again to your web browser.

You'll see a page that looks pretty similar to iTunes except the "play" buttons are replaced by "View In iTunes" links.

View Source for this page, and search for the song title.

(If you have Safari's "Show Develop Menu" enabled at Preferences/Advanced, right-click on the "View In iTunes" link for the song and select "Inspect Element." If you have Firebug installed in Firefox, right-click and "Inspect Element".)

At the song's row, you'll see this:

or this:

The key is this link to the preview clip: http://a581.phobos.apple.com/us/r1000/036/Music/8e/08/b7/mzi.errxavgt.aac.p.m4p

Click that. But more interesting: in iTunes, go to Advanced/Open Audio Stream, paste that URL and hear the preview.

Getting closer... Stay tuned as I experiment more...

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Joined: 02/12/2009

A solution! (Thanks to forum reader sitboaf.) Here's the scoop and more tips:

Go to the iTunes Store and turn on the Column Browser (View menu / Show Column Browser, or key command command-B). Navigate to the track and drag it to a playlist.

There are a few drawbacks to this:

1) Switching to the Column Browser always takes you back to the iTunes Store landing, rather than staying on the page you're on. So you can't use the regular Store interface to find a track then switch to the Column Browser.

2) There's no way to search in Column Browser mode. You must navigate through the column view.

But, you can navigate with the keyboard. Use left-arrow and right-arrow to go between columns. To jump to any item in the list, type its letters.

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Joined: 02/12/2009

Stop the presses! This just in, my new favorite forum reader sitboaf is back with breaking news. This problem has gone away with iTunes version 9.2:

Thankfully, iTunes 9.2 no longer requires us to navigate into its browser to add preview clips into a playlist. We can once again drop a 30 second clip into any playlist from the regular album page now.

I've tested it and it's true. Our brief nightmare is over. Thanks, Apple. (And thanks, sitboaf!)

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Joined: 02/12/2009

On a semi-related note, preview clips don't show up in smart playlists or in playlist folders.

For example, create a playlist called "My Shopping List" with both preview clips and tracks from your library in it. Then create a smart playlist with the rule "Playlist is" "My Shopping List". None of the preview clips will show up in the smart playlist.

Likewise, if you create a playlist folder and put "My Shopping List" in that folder, viewing the folder itself will not show the preview clips. (Ordinarily, viewing a playlist folder shows the contents of all playlists within that folder.)

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