The Mysterious M3U File Format

The music player in my car is quite good. I can plug in a memory card and load up a whole bunch of music. The player interface also talks enticingly about "playlists", but I don't seem to have any and there seems no way in the car to create them.

So I do some digging. After a bit of searching I discover that the car will accept playlists in the "M3U" format. This format can be exported from some music players and you can also find programs that will create M3U files. Which is useful.

But, me being me, I fancy writing my own M3U file generation program. So I do some more digging. It turns out that the format of an M3U file is a list of tracks in a text file.

That's it. No cunning schemas or encoding techniques. Just a list of names. The only fiddly bit is in the file extension which I think needs to be m3u for non-Unicode and m3u8 if the text is UTF-8 encoded. You can make it more complicated by adding directives (there's a good description here) but it turns out that I can start making these exotic sounding files with just notepad. I'm going to have a go tomorrow.

There's a lesson here folks, which is that in the Wonderful World of Computers(tm) it is quite frequently the case that something horribly complex sounding will actually turn out to be quite simple. Don't work on the basis that "it will always be too hard for me to understand". Every now and then something is as simple as the simplest thing it could be.