Controlling the play order for Creative MP3 players

With the threat of the Apple fanboys highjacking the new Electronic Gadgets site (a Stack Exchange 2.0 site) currently in public beta (and turning it into yet another unpaid advertisement channel for Apple) I am posting (as a sort of backup) my question and my own solution on how to control play order for Creative MP3 players by manupulating files and file content without requiring software:


How can I externally control MP3 file play order for a Creative ZEN Mozaic EZ300 MP3 player?

By externally I mean one or more of:
  • setting file and/or folder time stamps (say, modification date or creation date) such that the time stamp order is the required play order
  • renaming files/folders such that the alphabetical order is the required play order
  • constructing special files that define the play order.
Is this possible?

I have extensively tried the renaming and time stamping strategy, but with no success. Perhaps I have overlooked something.

I have had the same problem with earlier generations of MP3 players from Creative. But at least on the Creative Zen Stone there was a small button to jump to the next folder (it made this problem bearable). EZ300 does not even have this option (as far as I can tell).

Yes, it is possible using a special file that defines the play order.

It turned out to be deceptively simple.

It can be done with playlists. Creative ZEN Mozaic EZ300 supports M3U playlist files (file extension .m3u). If an M3U file with the right content is copied to folder "Playlist" on the ZEN Mosaic then the MP3 files can be played in the desired order.

A complication is that ZEN Mozaic EZ300 requires 8.3 DOS file names in the M3U file. E.g. the file `HerdingCode-0090-Sara-Chipps-on-GirlDevelopIt-and-Girls-Developing-Software.mp3` must be listed as e.g. `HERDIN~1.MP3`.

Software exists to automate this process, but I describe the manual process below. It also a way to demonstrate what such software does.


1. The files

ZEN Mozaic EZ300 is connected through USB to a Windows computer, drive G:. There are 6 files in folder G:\Podcasts\temp102:

HerdingCode-0090-Sara-Chipps-on-GirlDevelopIt-and-Girls-Developing- Software.mp3

2. The filename transformation

Find 8.3 names for long file names using a Windows command-line window (Win + R + cmd + Enter):

cd G:\Podcasts\temp102
dir /X

Output is (edited for clarity):

DOTNET~1.MP3 dotnetrocks_0583_jay_schmelzer.mp3
GRAMMA~1.MP3 grammar058-however_StartingA_SentenceWithHowever.mp3
HARDDI~1.MP3 harddisken_2010-08-11.mp3
HERDIN~1.MP3 HerdingCode-0090-Sara-Chipps-on-GirlDevelopIt-and-Girls-Developing-Software.mp3

The alternative to finding 8.3 names is to rename the files.

3. Create the playlist file

Create an empty text file in G:\Playlist and rename it to TechPodcasts1431.m3u. Open it in Notepad (or your favourite text editor) and add:


There should be a empty line after the last file (twig0055.mp3). I emperically established that the file will not turn up in the playlist if it is left out.

This playlist file will result in a playlist named "TechPodcasts1431".

4. Play

Unmount the ZEN Mosaic and turn it on.


menu Music/Playlists/<select TechPodcasts1431>/open/
select the first/open/Play

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