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[ in progress, search and smartlist rules ]

This section describes the syntax for constructing a search, or query. Before describing the search syntax and rules, it is helpful to have some basic understanding of how a query works in Media Center. Being at its core a database, the Media Center library maintains information (or properties) for each file that has been imported (e.g. audio tracks, image files, video files, etc.).

Conceptually, when performing a query (and there are several places where queries are input), Media Center tests the entered search phrase against the relevant properties for each imported file to determine the list of files that match. It returns this list of matched files to, for example, display in a view, populate a smartlist or produce some other list.

The basic idea is that of filtering. From the list of all imported files, queries reduce the list to only those that match the search phrase. Adding additional search terms typically further reduces (narrows) the resulting list of matching files.

A simple query tests some value against the contents of a specified property, such as the name of an album, a date, or episode number. For example, the following search phrase:


queries all files for the Album property that contain the exact sequence of (case-insensitive) letters pina. Compound queries may be constructed by adding additional search terms, thus testing additional properties. Multiple search terms are combined by an implicit and operator. So it follows that the search phrase:

[Name]=Midnight [Artist]=Thelonious

queries all files whose Name contains Midnight and whose Artist contains Thelonious.

Generally, any library field may be used in a query; see the Media Center File Properties document for a list of the standard properties, and see Options > Library & Folders > Manage Library Fields for the complete list, including custom user fields.

The next few sections describe the available operators available to construct search queries from simple to complex.

Comparison Operators

The query language provides the standard comparison operators of equal-to, less-than, less-than/equal-to, greater-than and greater-than/equal-to. These allow defining a search term to compare a specified value against a given field (also called property).

For date fields, values may include units such as d, w, y, h, m and s to indicate day, week, month, year, hour, minute, and second respectively. Floating point values may be used (e.g. .5w for 1/2 week).

Operator Description
field=value Equal to the specified value.

Example: Return all files whose Artist field contains smith anywhere.


field=<value Less than the specified value.

Example: Return all files imported within the last 1/2 day (12 hours):

[Date Imported]=<.5d

field=<=value Less than or equal to the specified value.

Example: Return all files that are rated less than or equal to 2:


field=>value Greater than the specified value.

Example: Return all files that are rated greater than 3:


field=>=value Greater than or equal to the specified value.

Example: Return all files whose bitrate is greater than or equal to 256kbps:


Take note that the = character always follows a field name in comparison operations. In the case of equal to, the equivalence operator is implicit. This can be best illustrated by comparing the following example comparisons operations on the [Date (year)] field:

[Date (year)]=1980
[Date (year)]=<1980
[Date (year)]=<=1980
[Date (year)]=>1980
[Date (year)]=>=1980

Quoting and Anchoring

Certain characters are used by the Media Center query language (e.g. <space> as the separator for search terms). To use these characters, they need to be quoted. Additionally, by default, Media Center queries are free to search anywhere within a given property. The special constructs listed below provide a means to both quote and anchor search terms.

A pair of double quotes " " is used to include spaces or special characters in a search phrase. Replacing the opening quote with an opening bracket [ will anchor the search to the beginning. Likewise, the closing quote may be replaced with a closing bracket ] to anchor at the end. Replacing both quotes will fully anchor the search, requiring a full match from beginning to end.

Quote/Anchor Description
"phrase" Double quotes are used to include spaces or special characters in the search phrase. The phrase will match anywhere within a string.

Example: Match something that contains the string Steve Miller:

"Steve Miller"

[phrase" Same as double quotes above, but forces the phrase to match only at the beginning of the string.

Example: Match something that starts with Stan, such as Stan Getz, Stand by Me, but not One Standard Night:


"phrase] Same as double quotes above, but forces the phrase to match only at the end of the string.

Example: Match something that ends with stand, such as I Will Stand, I Didn't Understand, but not The Standards:


[phrase] Same as double quotes above, but forces the phrase to match both at the beginning and end of the string.

Example: Match exactly Bob Dylan and exclude Bob Dylan & the Band:

[Bob Dylan]

^word Restricts matching to a full word. A word is broken by space, punctuation, etc.

Example: Match car as a full word, as in A Car for All, but not Barcarolle.


Grouping and Combining

Multiple search terms can be combined to form more complex queries. Queries are read and evaluated left to right.

Grouping Description
s1 and s2 Narrows the results returned by requiring matches of both of the search terms s1 and s2.

Example: Return all files by artist Frank Sinatra and orchestra Tommy Dorsey:

[Artist]="Frank Sinatra" and [Orchestra]="Tommy Dorsey"

Since the and operation is implicit between search terms, is it not required. The following search phrase is equivalent to that shown in the example above:

[Artist]="Frank Sinatra" [Orchestra]="Tommy Dorsey"

s1 or s2 Expands the results returned by accepting matches of either (or both) of the search terms s1 or s2.

Example: Return all files named Spying Glass or named Angel:

[Name]=[Spying Glass] or [Name]=[Angel]

(s1 op s2) Groups search terms to force precedence when using multiple search terms with the and and the or operators.

Example: Return all files whose artist is exactly Bob Dylan and whose year is either 1966 or 2001:

[Artist]=[Bob Dylan] ([Date (year)]=1966 or [Date (year)]=2001)

Note the distinction of the example above with the following example:

[Artist]=[Bob Dylan] [Date (year)]=1966 or [Date (year)]=2001

The first example uses grouping parenthesis to force the order of evaluation, and returns files from Bob Dylan as the artist, from the year 1966 or 2001. The second example, due to order of evaluation from left to right, returns files with Bob Dylan as the artist from the year 1966, and also returns all files with year 2001.

val1,val2 Combines two or more values into a list, identical to the or operator. No spaces are allowed between the comma(s) and the values.

Example: Return all files whose artist is any of Queen, Heart, or the Grateful Dead:

artist=[Queen],[Heart],"Grateful Dead"

The search phrase in the example above is identical to the more cumbersome:

([Artist]=[Queen] or [Artist]=[Heart] or [Artist]="Grateful Dead")


Negation Description
-field Inverts the sense of the comparison, returning those files whose field does not match the specified value. Usage is limited to the equality and comparison operators.

Example: Return all files whose track number is not 1:

-[Track #]=1

Example: Return all files whose track number is not greater than or equal to 3:

-[Track #]=>=3

Note that this equivalent to the more direct search phrase:

[Track #]=<3

Example: Return all files by artist Mark Isham, except those whose album names begin with after or quiz, or end with home, and exclude files from 1993:

[Artist]="Mark Isham" -[Album]=[after",[quiz","home] -[Date (year)]=1993

Search, Search Wizard and More

The query language has grown over time, and there are several ways to express an identical query. Where Search tries to do what you mean (by searching most fields automatically and presenting a list of possible matches from which to choose), the translation into the Search Wizard often requires specifying a more specific or precise query. Also note that the Search Wizard tends to restructure queries, preferring the less ambiguous, but more pedantic form. This can result in some queries not translating accurately from Search into Search Wizard. For example, the loosely written three-term search query using the or operator

[Artist]=[Queen] or [Artist]=[Heart] or [Artist]="Grateful Dead"

will be incorrectly translated by Search Wizard into a three-term and operation

[Artist]=[Queen] [Artist]=[Heart] [Artist]="Grateful Dead"

instead of the correctly grouped search phrase

([Artist]=[Queen] or [Artist]=[Heart] or [Artist]="Grateful Dead")

Media Center file properties support search keywords, often abbreviations or alternate forms of the property name. These keywords can be used to specify searching a given field. For example, the [Date (year)] field can be specified either by using its full field name [Date (year)] or by using the year= search keyword. As mentioned above, when pushing a query from Search into the Search Wizard, search keywords are translated into the full field name form. This can be seen by entering a search keyword into Search, and then entering Search Wizard and using the Import/Export button to examine the full query.

This section describes some of subtleties and personalities of of the query language.....

XXXX compound properties [adf],[asfd]

XXXX rules and modifiers available in the Search bar, in the Build New Smartlist dialog box, and in View Scheme creation.

XXXX search and randomness

XXXX example: [Rating]=4 ([Genre]=[Rock" or [Date (year)]=1970-1980) is much different from r=4,5 genre=rock or year=1970-1980.

XXXX FAILS: [lastplayed]=10-30

[last played]: h, d, w, y work, s, m fails; fractions are not working correctly (.6h-1h)

[Date Imported]=2d-3d

FAILS XXXX lastplayed=<60 XXXX [Last Played]=2-20 XXXX Note: The length field is calculated in seconds. The lastplayed field is calculated in minutes: <20 means smaller than, or within the last 20 minutes, whereas >20 means greater than, thus before the last 20 minutes. Using 10-30 means between 10 and 30 minutes.


Queries and results can be modified by using one or more of the following special modifiers. Some modifiers act globally on, or affect the context of, the query, while others operate on the results returned as the query is being processed from left-to-right.

XXXX: some complex queries may not be parsed correctly by search wizard?

Note: For single character modifiers (i.e. ~n, ~d, ~s and ~t), the = character between the modifier and the value is optional (e.g., ~n30 is equivalent to ~n=30).

Modifier Description
~d=database Selects (limits) the Media Center database used in the query (e.g. Main, CD, Bad, Removed, etc.). More than one database may be specified by combining selectors.
Database selectors
a = All
b = Bad (or corrupt files get placed here) [starting w/v16.0.164]
c = CD (and DVDs)
e = Explorer
g = Guide (Television) [starting w/v15.0.160]
i = Category Images
m = Main
r = Removed [starting w/v15.0.160]
s = Store
t = Temporary (Playing Now)

Example: Limit the query to the CD and Main databases:


~dup=fields Returns a list of only duplicate files, where duplicates are determined by comparing the combined values in the specified fields list. Duplicate detection is based on matching values in fields, not by examining file content.

Example: Return a list of duplicate files by using the [Name] and [Artist] fields as the duplicate detectors:


~nodup=fields Returns a list with duplicate files removed, where duplicates are determined by comparing the combined values in the specified fields list. Only one of any duplicate file is included in the list. Duplicate detection is based on matching values in fields, not by examining file content.

Example: Return a list of all files with duplicates removed, by using the [Genre] field as the duplicate detectors. The returned list include one random file from each genre.


~fill Returns a list of files to fill the specified device to maximum capacity. This modifier limits the number of files returned based on the amount of empty space left on the default or specified device.

Examples: Fill the default or specified device to maximum capacity:



~a Expands the track list (if necessary) to include the remaining tracks from the album(s).

Example: Return all tracks containing the name Feliz Navidad, and expand that list to include the remaining tracks in the album(s). If the track is on three albums, then all tracks from all three albums are returned.

[Name]="Feliz Navidad" ~a

~limit f,n,fields

Limits the set of files to at most n files from each of at most f values from the combined fields. This is easier explained with a simple example. From there, the general concept should be clearer.

Example: Limit the returned files, first by selecting at most 10 unique artists, and from each of those artists, return at most 2 files:


First 10 distinct artists will be randomly selected from the list of all possible artists, and then 2 random files from each of those artists will be selected and returned. If the limit cannot be satisfied (because there are too few artists, or too few files-per-artist), the available artists or files will be returned. In other words, these values are upper limits.

The value of -1 is used to select all values, and can be used for either f or n.

Example: Return all files from the Rock genre, but limit those results, first by randomly selecting at most 5 unique album / year pairs, and selecting all files from each of those albums:

[Genre]=Rock ~limit=5,-1,[Album],[Date (year)]

~n=num Limits to a maximum of num files.

Example: Return at most 20 randomly selected tracks:


~mix=n,s Creates a mix of n files, according to the rules set by one or more comma-separated mix specifiers s. The format of each search specifier s is:


and val is either a number (e.g. 15) or a percentage (e.g. 10%), and criteria is a standard search phrase. The overall mix syntax follows the form:


The values val1, val2, ... should be either all percentages or all numeric, and should sum to either 100% or to the maximum number of tracks, respectively. Otherwise, the resulting mix proportions are not clearly defined.

Example: Selecting from all Rock tracks, return a 10-track mixture with a 60/40 percentage split between artists whose names contain Mark or Tom, respectively.

[Genre]=Rock ~mix=10,60%,{[Artist]=Mark},40%,{[Artist]=Tom}

~s=num Limits the number of files such that the cumulative size does not exceed num megabytes.

Example: Return a random set of files totaling a maximum of 650MB.


~sort=fields Sorts the list of files by the specified list of fields.

Example: Sort the list of files first by date, and then by track number:

~sort=[Date],[Track #]

The special term [Random] is used to randomize the list of files.

Example: Randomize (shuffle) the list of files:


~t=num Limits the cumulative track time to not exceed the num minutes.

Example: Limit the set of files to a maximum of 60 minutes:


~%=num Limits the set of files to a maximum of num percent of the total possible.

Example: Randomly select and return 50% of the files imported into Media Center within the last week:

[Date Imported]=<1w ~%=50

~seq Assigns a monotonically increasing sequence number to the current set of files. This modifier is useful in a more complex query to return the sort order set earlier.

Example: Select all tracks imported in the past 4 weeks, and sort them in descending order by date imported, assign a sequence number to be used later, limit the number of tracks to two per album, and sort based on the sequence number assigned earlier:

[Date Imported]=<4w ~sort=[Date Imported]-d ~seq ~limit=-1,2,[Album] ~sort=[Sequence]


Keywords create selections.

Keywords also have abbreviations, which are customizable. Go to Tools > Options > Library, select the field and press Edit. Type the abbreviation you would like to use in the Keywords box. Multiple keywords may be used, each separated by a semi-colon (no spaces).

Name Keywords/Abbrev Example
Album al=


al=[Highway 61"
Find all albums that being with "Highway 61".
Date d=


Less than 1 year ago


More than 3 months ago

Use y (year), d (days) h (hours) m (minute) or s (seconds).

Date (day) n/a [Date (day)]=31
Date (month) n/a [Date (month)]=May
Date (year) year= year=1973


Returns items without a year
Date Created n/a [Date created]=<1d
Returns items created today

[Date Created]=<30m

Returns items created less than 30 minutes ago.

Use y (year), d (days) h (hours) m (minute) or s (seconds).

Date Imported dateimported= dateimported=<=6d
Returns items imported in the past 6 days.


Returns items imported between 30 and 60 hours ago.


Returns items imported within the last year.

Use y (year), d (days) h (hours) m (minute) or s (seconds).

Date Modified n/a [Date Modified]=<30m
Returns items modified less than 30 minutes ago.

Use y (year), d (days) h (hours) m (minute) or s (seconds).

Duration length=


Returns all items whose duration is 300 seconds.


Returns all items with a duration greater than 300 seconds.
File Size size= size=>7000
Returns all files whose size is greater than 7000 kilobytes (size is in kilobytes).
Filename (name) [Filename (name)]="Train to Prague"

Use quotes to protect spaces or special characters in the file name.

Filename (path) [Filename (path)]=photo

[Filename (path)]="C:\My Music"

Use quotes to protect spaces or special characters in the file name.

Height height= height=>100
Returns images whose height is greater than 100 pixels.
Image File imagefile= imagefile=adams
Returns all images containing the word "adams" in its name.


Returns all files that have no images (i.e. image field is empty).


Returns all files that have images (i.e. image field is not empty).


Finds all tracks with external cover art. Adding - before this expression returns all tracks with cover art stored internally (in the file).
Keywords keyword= or keywords= or kw= kw =poprock;1979;hits (values: semicolon delimited list)
Last Played lastplayed= lastplayed=<24h (less than 24 hours)

lastplayed=<30m (less than 30 minutes)
You can use y (year), d (days) h (hours) m (minute) or s (seconds).

Number of Plays numberplays= numberplays=>10 returns all files played more than 10 times
People people= people=mom,dad,Mike displays all photos that are of one of these people
Playlist playlist= or p= p="top 40 1996"
Rating rating= or r= rating=3, or rating=5,4
Track # tracknumber= or t= t=4 returns all track numbers with 4 (4, 14, 24)

t==4 returns only tracks which equal 4.

Volume Name volume= volume="Music 29" (insert name of your CD) (see Note 1)

Note 1: This field is best used in conjunction with the ~d parameter, which specifies the database in which to search. Normally, the volume parameter will be relevant in the CD database. See ~d in the Modifiers below.


Here are few examples of the kinds of rules you can create. The rules can be copy/pasted into the Search box, and you can use the Search Wizard for more assistance in developing search rules. Note: some of the examples show variations of the same rule, illustrating the use of full field names or their (keyword) abbreviations.

Greatest Hits: Return all files from album names containing Greatest Hits.

[album]="Greatest Hits"

al="Greatest Hits"

Date Imported: Return all files imported into Media Center in the past 7 days.

[Date Imported]=<=7d


Duration and Last Played: Return all tracks that are greater than 5 minutes (300 seconds) in duration (aka length) that have played in the last 60 minutes, and sort the results by track length.

[Duration]=>300 [Last Played]=<60m ~sort=[Duration]

length=>300 lastplayed=<60m ~sort=length

File Type and Artist: Return all mp3 files by artists whose names begin with Joe.

[File Type]=mp3 [Artist]=[Joe"

Genres: Return all files that are in either the genre Opera or Classical.

[Genre]=[Opera] or [Genre]=[Classical]

g=[Opera] or g=[Classical]

Genre, Number of Plays, Excluding Artists, Shuffle: Return all files from genres beginning with Rock, where the number of plays is less than 5, and the Artist is neither Sting nor Beatles, and shuffle the results.

[Genre]=[Rock" [Number Plays]=<5 -[Artist]=Sting,Beatles ~sort=[Random]

Playlist, Last Played, Limit Tracks: Return 10 random files from the "Top 40 1983" playlist which were not played in the last 5 days.

[Playlist]="Top 40 1983" [Last Played]=>5d ~n=10

sort, rating, limit time

~sort=[Random] [Rating]=>=3 ~t=60
Result: Find 60 minutes worth of files rated 3 or higher and sort them randomly.


g=rock ~mix=100,50%,{[Rating]=>3},25%,{[Rating]=1,2},25%,{[Rating]=[]}
Result: play 100 rock tracks, 50% of which are rated 4 and 5, 25% of which are rated 1 and 2 and 25% unrated.
~mix=50,50%,{[Genre]=[Country Rock]},50%,{[Genre]=[Alternative Rock]}
Result: play 50 tracks, ½ of which are Country Rock, and ½ of which are Alternative Rock.


[genre]=[rock] ~limit=7,-1,[album]
Result: play only 7 rock albums.
Explanation: for all rock, find only 7 albums, and play all (-1) tracks from that album.
The syntax for use with ~limit is:
This means: take a key field (e.g., album), limit the total of that field (7 albums, or –1 for unlimited), and of that total, limit again per field (2 tracks per album, or –1 for unlimited).
~limit=-1,1,[Artist] ~limit=-1,2,[Decade]
Result: plays 10 tracks, 2 from each of the decades (a custom field) and the same artist appears only once.
Explanation: The first limit: find unlimited artists (-1), and play only one track per artist (1). The second part means: find all decades (-1) and limit to 2 tracks per decade (2).
[genre]=[rock] ~limit=7,2,[album]
Result: From the rock genre, find 7 albums, and play only 2 tracks per album.
Explanation: for all rock, limit the total albums to 7, and limit those 7 albums to 2 tracks each.

random year smartlist, 1930-1962

  [Media Type]=[Audio] [Date (year)]=1930-1963 ~limit=1,-1,[Year] ~sort=Random