How to fix VLC Media Player’s playlist-sorting problem.

This post is not about ebooks, but may be useful for many, and possibly especially so for those with downloaded audiobooks.

Problem: While the free VLC Media Player is excellent, one of its enduring mysteries is what happens when you drag-and-drop a 1, 2, 3, 4 etc list of files to a new playlist. The playlist order all too often gets garbled into 4, 1, 3, 2 etc.

Even in the new version 3.0 of VLC there’s still no way to then re-sort a garbled playlist by File Name. You can re-sort in several ways, but not by File Name…

This is annoying if you have a list of tracks that need to be played in order, such as a carefully curated 50-track trance music set, hundreds of short audiobook recording clips, or a webinar presentation made up of lots of small video files in a careful numbered sequence. For various good reasons you’ll want to use the mature and stable and ad-free VLC for these, but you don’t want to have to spend 20 minutes fiddling about with manually re-ordering the playlist by File Name.

And you can’t just use the ubiquitous Windows Media Player to make a correctly-ordered playlist, and then save it and take the list into VLC. Why? Because while VLC claims to understand Windows’ own .WPL and .M3U, in practice it doesn’t. Load a .M3U and VLC’s attempt at playback goes haywire in a never-ending loading loop. Load a .WPL playlist and you only get the first track on the list. Load an .ASX in VLC and the list is intact, but certain files in the album will be greyed out and unplayable. There is no option to save in VLC’s native .XSPF format from Windows Media Player, and no plugin to enable that.

Solution: Here’s how to quickly get a proper 1, 2, 3, 4 file-name order playlist over to VLC:

1. Get the free Windows freeware open source Amarok player, install. (This may be a very slow download, and you may want to shop around for faster mirror servers. It also takes an age to install and then load). Amarok can output the .XSPF playlist format that is needed by VLC.

2. Install and load Amarok, and then load a correctly-ordered playlist thus…

Top menu: Playlist | Add Media.

As you can see Amarock has no problem with then offering the full range of file re-sorting options for your playlist…

Once you’re happy with the order, click the floppy-disk icon below the list, and this will save the playlist in the Amarock database (which is over on the opposite side of the screen). Right-click on this saved playlist name and ‘Export as…’ to .XSPF format.

The playlist must be saved and played alongside the .MP3 audio files in the same folder, and not then moved elsewhere. This is because of the way that the file paths are written inside the .XSPF playlist format.

3. You can now load the .XSPF playlist in VLC, and it will retain the correctly sorted playlist order.

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