So in Music’s Playlists display, you’d think hitting the little filter icon and selecting “Title” would get your playlists to show up sorted alphabetically by name. But nope, not here (iPhone 15, 17.1.2, curated playlists of own tracks, no Apple Music involved). Abc comes before Uvw, but 012 as well as *012 comes at the very end. WTH? That is the exact opposite of sorting everywhere else, including Music on macOS.
How do you get Music to just do this one elementary thing the way any reasonable user would expect it to work?
On Music on MacOS, numbers come after letters as well. I don’t know how you are seeing it otherwise. I believe that it’s been this way since the iTunes/iPod days; I remember thinking it strange back then.
I tested it with a new playlist (since I don’t normally start playlist names with numbers) in my own macOS Music.app (version 18.104.22.168 on Big Sur 11.7.9), and Simon is correct: in the Sidebar, where playlists are listed, numbers are sorted above letters, even though in the table listing, numbers sort after letters (for any non-numeric tag one might sort on).
I also tested it with a new playlist in the iOS Music app (on iOS 16.3.1), and I see that there, the new playlist with a numeric title is sorted after the existing playlists starting with letters.
The immediate question that comes to mind, of course, is why on God’s green Earth did Apple use two conflicting sort orders in the same app, and why are they different on macOS and iOS? The macOS table listing and the iOS playlist listing are the anomalies here, since in the Finder and Mail, numbers come before letters in an alpha sort (which I’ve long believed was the Apple standard).
(Interestingly, when I checked the sort in Mail by sorting by Subject, I found a short section of messages whose subject lines visually start with a letter but which are sorted above numbers and most symbols. I can only guess that these actually start with an invisible character, such as a control character or non-breaking space. Mail also ignores standard prefixes like Re: and Fwd: when sorting by subject.)
Since the sort order for non-alphabetic characters in an alphabetical sort is hard-coded into the app and OS, I doubt that there’s any way for a user to change whether numbers sort before or after letters in any particular place. It would be awfully nice if Apple used a consistent sort order in all places, though. I would think that alpha sort order would be an OS-level characteristic, at least within Apple’s own apps.
FWIW, I use the five “sort as” fields (for Title, Album, Album Artist, Artist and Composer) to replace numbers with their text equivalents.
So the track “4th of July…” will be configured to sort as “Fourth of July”.
This is the way I was taught to sort books back in library class in the third grade. Along with things like sorting “McDonald” as “MacDonald”, sorting symbols as their spoken equivalent (“&” as “and”), and sorting authors by last name first. And I use those rules setting the sorting fields in my music library.
So this particular issue never comes up for me.
(I realize that not all libraries follow these rules and standards bodies like the ALA have changed their policies over the years. But this is what I learned a long time ago and it’s what I use for my own books, movies and music.)
That’s great if that suits your needs, but sometimes I want things to sort numerically. For instance, titles that start with years won’t sort in the expected order if you replace the numerals with words. Nineteen-eighty, nineteen-ninety, nineteen-seventy? I don’t think so.
Side note: I’ve never encountered a library that sorts “McDonald” as “MacDonald”. That seems to be a guaranteed injection of confusion. One should sort people’s names the way they spell them, not according to some arbitrary idea of how they “ought” to be spelled. How long ago were you in third grade? (OTOH, yes, authors should be sorted by last name—this is standard.)
At any rate, the problem here is that Apple, in a single app, has two different sort orders for non-alphabetic characters in alpha sort. I’m guessing that the numbers-after-letters thing is an artifact from the original app that was purchased to become iTunes, but it’s surprising that in the multitude of years since then, that’s never been changed to be consistent with other Apple apps.
Sometimes I miss the days when alphanumeric sort was by ASCII code. Easy, predictable, and verifiable. It splits capital and lowercase letters, but when everything was all-caps anyway, that didn’t matter.
I was in elementary school in the late 1970s. What we were taught in the library was that Mc and Mac were sorted together, based on the part after Mc/Mac, and shelved before everything else beginning with an M. The underlying principle was that you shouldn’t have to know whether a particular author’s name was “McDonald” or “MacDonald”–it would be in the same place on the shelf and in the card catalog either way.
This is one of the special cases developed for human alphabetization that was thrown away when computers came along, as no one felt it was worth trying to teach a computer the more complicated algorithm. (Which also requires distinguishing names with the prefix “Mac” from names that happen to start with those letters – “Mack” is not “MacK”.)
This isn’t a new decision (oversight? whatever one wants to call it) by Apple, it has been around for years. I still sync my iPhone (iOS 17.x) to a Mac running iTunes. On my Mac if I use certain characters (“*” for instance, or “∑”), the playlist will sort to the top or bottom, respectively, however on the iPhone those extra characters are ignored. Same with numbers (a smart playlist called “1983” for instance sorts one way on the Mac, the opposite on my iPhone).
Irritating, as @Simon notes, but not new behaviour.
I got frustrated with playlist sorting — especially things like smart playlists sorting separately. I had hoped that the new “Favorites” feature was going to solve the problem by letting me make a focused subset of playlists.
Sadly, it doesn’t work at all in CarPlay. I tested with a single favorite playlist. When I look at the list of all playlists I see the star indicating that it’s a favorite, but when I go to Favorites… Playlists it shows nothing except for an explanation that i should mark a playlist as a favorite to get it to show up there.
Yes, I filed a report with Apple, with screenshots.
(Note that the CarPlay interface is completely different from the iOS music interface. In iOS, you have the main playlist/ artist/ album/ song lists with the ability to filter the list down to showing only favorites. Using CarPlay, there’s a separate top-level category for Favorites with subcategories for playlists, albums, artists, and songs.)
(I also wish either the phone interface or the CarPlay interface had an option to just sort favorites at the top rather than just to hide non-favorites.)