Plex – Syncing Media to Devices

I love my Plex server. It works pretty flawlessly with devices like my Roku or allowing me to listen or view my media collection online. However, there are occasionally instances when I know I either won’t have internet access (e.g., on a plane or on a hike) and I want to have access to my media. Plex still has me covered with the option of “syncing” media to my phone. However, the process isn’t all that intuitive. So, here’s my guide to syncing audio and video to a phone/tablet.

First, choosing what to sync is done, from what I can tell, almost exclusively from the device (with some minor exceptions). Basically, you have to install the Plex app on your device, open the Plex app, log into your account on your device, then find the media you want to sync. (I’m not going to cover install, opening, or logging in with this tutorial, just synching.)

Let’s say I want to synchronize my Simon & Garfunkel albums to my phone so I can play their music when I don’t have internet access. I first have to open the Plex app:

This is how the app looks once it’s open and connected to your Plex server.

Make sure it has detected my Plex server (which is called NewPlex):

I circled my server in this image.

Then I have to find my collection of Simon & Garfunkel music in the Music tab (at the bottom of the screen):

To move between different collections, you click the buttons at the bottom of the app. In this screenshot, I was looking at my Music collection.
I have now selected my Simon & Garfunkel songs.

Once I have done that, syncing is pretty easy. Look for the “down arrow” and touch it:

When you do, you’ll get this screen:

You set your synching options on this screen.

You’ll have the option of adjusting the audio quality (this makes a lot of sense if you’ve got your files stored in FLAC on your file server but want to save space on your phone; if so, convert them). You can also dictate how many songs you want to synchronize. If you put a limit, I’m assuming Plex will just randomly select which ones will syncronize (you can also just download specific songs or albums). When you’ve made your decisions, you click on Save and the transfer process will start.

Here’s where things get kind of interesting. You can now open your Plex dashboard and look for your sync progress. To illustrate, I picked an album I have stored in FLAC on my server and started the conversion process:

Your “Conversions” page in the Plex server settings shows you the files that are being prepared to be transferred to your device.

Once your server has converted everything, it will be sent to your device and you’ll see a little arrow in the corner of synchronized albums, like this:

All the white arrows in circles indicate that these albums have been synchronized with my device – so they are stored on my device.

The process is similar for movies. Click on the “Movies” tab at the bottom of the screen to look through your movies. Once you find the one you want to syncronize, click on it. That same “down arrow” will show up:

Click on the down arrow to synchronize the movie to your device.

Click on it and you’ll get one of the same options as before to choose the quality of the synchronized file.

Once you click Save, the conversion process will start on your Plex server:

Here’s the Conversion screen showing my movie converting before transfer to my phone.

Once the conversion is complete, the file will be sent to your device and you’ll see, similarly, an arrow on the movie indicating it is synchronized with your device.

Finally, there are a few secrets to accessing your synchronized content quickly and easily. If/When you find yourself without internet access, or if you just want to see what you have synchronized with your device, you can click on your icon at the top left of the app and select “Offline Browsing”:

Once you do that, only synchronized content will show up in your tabs, like you see below:

You can also click on the “Downloads & Sync” option in that same menu and see the content that is currently synchronized with your device:

And you can check in the settings dashboard in your Plex server to see what content is synchronized with which device (you can synchronize with multiple devices):

This makes it easy to see what content is synchronized to which device

One last bit of advice. If you want to remove content from a device, you can do so on your phone/tablet or on your Plex server. On your phone, go to your Downloads & Sync list, then select the sync you want to delete. When you do, in the upper right corner there will be a trashcan. Click on it and you can delete the sync.

On the Plex server, in the “Sync” tab, hover over the sync and you’ll see a red X. Click on it, and the synchronized files will be deleted from that device

And if you want to remove a device from your account altogether and get rid of all the synchronizations tied to that device, that is done on the Plex server web interface as well. In the Settings menu, click on Authorized Devices, find the device you want to remove and click on the red X.

That will remove all the synchronizations and prevent it from being able to access your Plex server.

This website was helpful in figuring all of this out.

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Plex – How To Create Smart (auto updating) Music Playlists

I love my Plex server. I stream my music basically around the world (I travel regularly). But it took me a while to figure out how to create playlists that automatically update (i.e., “smart playlists”) based on search filters. At home, I use a native music client (e.g., Strawberry or Clementine) to play my music. Clementine, in particular, has excellent smart playlist functionality, allowing me to create a playlist with all of my music in the “Folk” genre or published between 1970 and 1980. With how amazing Plex is, I figured the same functionality had to be possible. I knew I could simply add songs to a playlist manually, but that seemed cumbersome. I’d rather let the software do it for me. Once I figured it out, I thought I’d make the steps clear for others.

Counter-intuitively, the place to start is not in the “Playlists” option on the Plex dashboard, but in the Music panel.

Click on the Music pane, not the Playlists pane.

You’d think that you would create Playlists in the Playlists area, but you don’t. You create all the Playlists in the Music area.

Once you’re viewing your music, you need to look for a drop-down menu. It’s all the way to the left and says “All” with a little arrow next to it.

Click on the little arrow next to “All” to drop down the menu.

What you want to do is click on “Custom Filter.” That will open this option:

Here’s where you create custom filters.

Using that filter option, you can search for, say, all the music in the Genre “Alternative” or “Classic Rock.” Once you’ve entered your search criteria, click the “APPLY” button on the far right and it will apply your search criteria to your music:

Once you apply the search criteria, Plex will show you the music that fits the criteria.

Now, creating a “Smart Playlist” is just one more step. Look to the right of the window for an icon with four little lines and a plus sign. That is the icon for creating a playlist:

This is the icon you want for creating a playlist.

Clicking that button will open a prompt for you to name the new playlist. I typically name mine based on the search criteria, but you can call them whatever you want:

Now, with your Smart Playlist created, you’ll be able to see it in the Playlist area. Click on “Playlists” in the left menu and, assuming you’ve done everything correctly, you’ll see your newly created playlist there:

All of your playlists are in the Playlists area.

The little gear icon that appears in the top left corner of the playlist indicates that it is a “smart playlist” that will automatically update if you add new music to your library that meet your search criteria. Playing the playlist is as easy as hovering over it and then clicking on the play arrow that appears:

Hover over the playlist, then click on the play arrow to play it.

There you go. You can now create as many playlists as you’d like using filtering/search criteria. (This guide helped me figure this out.)

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