Tips on Using Google Play Music [rough draft]

Google has fielded one of the most powerful and sophisticated online media players we’ve seen yet. Unfortunately, it is also one of the quirkiest, is starkly unattractive, and often hides its powerful features behind a poorly documented, somewhat peculiar set of UI conventions. Unsuspecting new users often spend some time putting together a nice music mix in their queue on the desktop browser player and then mistakenly click the wrong icon and wipe it all out with one click — it’s shockingly easy! Here are a raw, unedited set of TIPS for using Google Play Music All Access — browser version unless otherwise noted…

  • AVOIDING CONFUSION: Let’s get the bad out of the way first… It’s not that hard to confuse a playlist (and sometimes even an album) for the play queue — the current track will show the ‘playing’ animation wherever it is (it also shows on radio stations and album pages that are playing).  But clicking a track’s play button in the queue view simply plays that track. Clicking on a track’s play button on an album page will immediately clear the queue, play that song, and load the rest of the songs on the album.  But clicking on a track’s play button from a PLAYLIST will NOT clear the queue but WILL add the contents of the playlist to the queue — but the play head will be on the selected track. The whole playlist is loaded at the top of the que — but the play head is positioned on the selected track. Confused yet?  Wait, it gets better. Depending on what you’ve done, clicking a new playlist, or album will REMOVE some tracks from the queue but not others… it’s difficult to even pin down the whys and wherefores for this behavior. — Clicking ANY ‘radio,’ album, playlist or song play button will immediately wipe out whatever is in the queue and fill the que with the album, playlist or, in the case of the song play button, the other songs from the album.  It can be enormously frustrating until one breaks the habit of left-clicking and restricts himself to left-click button, which brings up a context menu allowing one to play next or add to queue as well as other choices relevant to the entity clicked on.  Clicking ANY Radio ‘station’ button will clear the play queue and start that ‘station’. Clicking the ‘Start Radio’ button on a station page will create a ‘station’ playlist from the song currently playing. There is no way to clear the ‘radio’ part of the queue after that except clearing the entire queue.
  • Your free music locker (part of Google Music — not the All Access subscription add on) will hold up to 20,000 uploaded tracks. If the Google robots find a proper match to your upload, it deletes that and substitutes their own master copy. But you you can rt-click on a track and mark it as an incorrect match which will force a new upload of the track from the music manager. Tracks you purchase from Google Play or All Access tracks you put in your Google Music ‘library’ don’t count toward the 20,000 files.
  • The play queue can hold 1000 tracks. If you try to add more, you get a msg that the queue is full.
  • You can add tracks, albums, or whole playlists to the queue or to another playlist.
  • Google Play Music, stock, is PAINFULLY plain. Or maybe just plain ugly. But you can use the Stylebot Chrome browser plugin to restyle it. More here
  • You CAN drag and drop track/album pictures into the queue or onto a playlist link! Very convenient!
  • for a quick count of songs in the queue, select more than one song (shift/ctrl click to select/deselect). When songs are selected, you’ll see a count on a song selection toolbar that appears over the queue.On that there is a link for select all — click it and you’ll have your count.
  • many list views, list songs/list all songs, you can click on a column header (track name, album, artist, time, rating, number of track plays – the latter quickly lets you see what you’ve played how many times and marked by a note over a number column  (this doesn’t work in the queue)
  • TOP Songs only shows the ‘top’ 100 songs
  • use browser page-zoom to see more or less of page
  • If you have a song already loaded in the queue but you decide you want it to play next, just click the dot menu and click ‘play next’ — the track will be moved to the correct position (even in shuffle mode)
  • You can select more than one track in track lists in the queue by shift-clicking the ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ of the desired group. You can also add and remove tracks from a current selection by ctrl-clicking (or the Mac equivalent) on the individual tracks.
  • You can remove tracks from the queue by hitting the delete key on your keyboard or using the remove from queue option on the dot menu.
  • You can right click anywhere on a song to pull up the dot menu — but you can left click on the dot menu explicitly
  • If you have a big set of tracks in the queue and want to quickly find the track currently playing, click on one of the other views (library, top rated, etc) then click on the queue icon on the right side of the play control bar — the current track will appear at the top of queue window.
  • If you want to ‘program in’ a break or stopping place, you can create, for instance, a 20 minute (or as long/short as desired)  ’empty’ mp3 (I made mine a VBR, so it wouldn’t take up much actual disk space) and then  name it with a bunch of underlines up front so it comes up at the top of an alphabetical listing and upload it to one’s personal music locker. This allows one to ‘temporarily’ turn off the sound at the end of whatever is playing (or anywhere else in your playlist you stick it). I did this because it’s so easy to accidentally turn on a ‘radio’ stream that will just go on and on if you don’t interrupt it. Now I just insert the silence and have plenty of time when the song is over to set up something else.
  • Skipping tracks in albums and playlists: Have a favorite album with a song on it you hate? Just add the album to your library as usual but then find the song on the album and tap or or click the track menu button (or just rt-click the track) and select ‘remove from my library’ — then when if you shuffle play the songs in your library, it won’t play that one. BUT WATCH OUT — it’s easy to forget you removed a song unless you look closely at the song number sequence of the album as you access it from your library (as opposed to search) — when you go to the album in your library — that song WON’T BE THERE. If you look at the album track numbers — it will be missing in that sequence. (To reclaim it, search for the song and add it back. If there are multiple de-libraried songs you want to restore, click the album title to open the full album (NOT the ‘edited’ version in your own library, see) and then click the album’s ADD TO LIBRARY button at the top. You can tell if songs are missing by any missing numbers in sequence (a little help on this from the G-devs might be nice but they’re way ahead of the pack already with these kind of featues) — That’s too convoluted and, I think, unnecessary. Search on the album title and just hit the album’s add to library and it’ll ‘fill in’ the missing track.
  • quick missing track check: look at last track in album track list and check it against the number of songs displayed in the album header area.
  • Create a Chome Application Shortcut for your favorite G Music player page in the Chrome Browser. This will make Google Music show up as a separate application from the Chrome browser, meaning it gets its own button on Windows taskbars and such. You can create multiple ‘application shortcuts’ if you like — for instance, one for Albums, one for artist-radio, etc, and keep them as shortcuts on your desktop. (Rt-click to change the icon to something that makes sense for music.) The ‘application shortcut’ is a stripped down browser window preloaded with whatever site you were on when you created it. You can navigate from links, but there’s no address bar. (Stylebot users note that their Stylebot custom styles work as expected in the stripped down ‘app’ — but there’s no access to the Stylebot controls/utilities.
  • Google Music uses much AJAXian scrolling which mucks up find-on-page search (ctrl+F in the browser). (Scrolling on an AJAX-based system means that data is served up in chunks, rather than waiting to load a huge, enormously long page. That’s usually good, but it does mean you can’t search a ‘whole’ page at a time, as you could with conventional page loads. You can search the current screen but that’s about it. If you MUST search a queue or playlist, start at the top, click the cusor into the page area so you can page up and page down, then use Ctrl+F to bring up the Chrome find-on-page search bar, type in the target text, then, assuming you don’t find it on the first screenful, plant fingers of your left hand on the Escape key and the F3 (search-again in this context) and use Esc to remove the current find-on-page search bar and then hit page down and hit F3. You can ‘rock’ between Esc, PgDn, and F3 moving a screen at a time, until you find the text you’re looking for. (Does Google EVER use their own software? Sometimes you wonder.)

Notes on integrating desktop player with Unified Remote Android app: use shorcuts on start menu to launch different playlists, use quickswitch to go from start menu remote to GPM player remote to start – one problem, no way of knowing if shuffle is on unless you’re close enough to see.