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M3U Play List Specification

M3U playlists are just a text file containing links to the location of the proper file. You can crate or edit a playlist in any text editor. It could be anything to MP3, WMA, or even another playlist. Just because something is in a playlist, doesn't mean Winamp can play it though. Winamp will just skip over unknown file formats. This document will hopefully toy to clarify the differences of the playlist formats available.

Generic M3U file

A list of links to files makes a valid generic playlist. The entry can be relative (i.e. \files\song.mp3) or specific (i.e. c:\media\files\son.mp3). Also, URLs can he inserted to point to a stream or a file on the Internet.

Here are a few sample generic MP3/PLS files:

F:\more music\foo_bar.mp3
  • Alternative and Classical are sub-directories of the directory that this playlist is stored in.
  • "Song.mp3" and "New_Song.mp3" are in sub-directories that this playlist is stored in.
  • "Crap.mp3" is in the same directory that the playlist is stored in.
  • "Foo_Bar.mp3" is in the specified directory, which may or may not be the same directory the playlist is in.
  • is a Shoutcast stream.
  • "Mine.mp3" is a MP3 stored on a web server somewhere.

These path options hold true of the extended playlists described below.

Extended M3U

Let's first look at an extended M3U file then I will describe everything below

#EXTINF:233,Everclear - So Much For The Afterglow
#EXTINF:227,Weird Al - Everything You Know Is Wrong
#EXTINF:187,Weird Al Yankovic - This is the Life
#EXTINF:129,Weird Al: Bad Hair Day - Gump
#EXTINF:-1,My Cool Stream
  • #EXTM3U At the VERY top of the Extended M3U file is this header, which signifies this is an extended M3U file. "#EXTM3U" must be all capital letters.
  • #EXTINF:233,Everclear - So Much For The Afterglow
    This is the line that tends to confuse people. Let's break it up into parts
    • #EXTINF:
      This signifies this is an Extended Information field. It ends with a colorn.
    • 233,
      This is the time of the file in seconds followed by a comma. (233 seconds = 3:53). On the last entry there is a negative one, this is usually seen on streams, it tells the program to ignore the time entry.
    • Everclear - So Much For The Afterglow
      Title to display. This is usually the title read from the file name or ID3 tags. This also can be the name of a stream. No characters follow the title.
  • Alternative\everclear_SMFTA.mp3: File location as described above with basic playlists.

WinAmp also understands the PLSv2 play list format. Windows Media Player understands M3U and ASX play list formats.


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