Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Mac Tagging Manifesto

Every few months or so, I check various sources like versiontracker.com, mp3machine.com and osx.hyperjeff.net to look for something that the mac has been sorely lacking for years.

A decent id3 tagger for mp3 files. Not just for a few mp3 files. But for crazy large numbers of mp3s that are really messed up in unpredictable ways.

Some of the programs work for simple tagging, some of them have their own strengths, some of them are just a mess. When you compare them to a well developed PC tag editor like Tag&Rename, the Mac programs all come up short.

Here are some features that all tag editors should have, but many don't:

1. Don't mess up my files - there are some tag editors out there that claim to be "automatic" or want to use some sort of "magic" to clean your tags. Don't you believe it! My experience with tag editors of this type is that they will screw up almost as much as they fix.

2. Give me a preview - Let me see what you're going to change in the tags before you go ahead and change them. Many tag editors use codes for reading the artist, album info from the filenames. You need a preview to see if you've put in the correct markers. Also, it's important if you're going to be auto-finding album art.

3. Let me edit a bunch of files at once - Here's something that's really lacking in most mac tag editors. A tag editor like Tag&Rename lets you pour in a heap of mp3 files, reads the subdirectories of each folder, but keeps the folder hierarchy on-screen so that you can easily select whole folders to change at once. It even highlights those files that are missing tags or have other issues. This is much easier and much, much faster than dragging and dropping individual files or folders onto the program icon in the dock.

4. Look up the info for me - Here's another area that's missing from most tag editors. Tag info is on the internet - there should be an easy way to get that info and apply it to your tags. There should be an easy way to look up whole album info using freedb - even if there aren't any tags in your files and even if you don't have the complete album. AutotagX handled this pretty well, but doesn't work anymore since freedb has moved it's server.

Every few months I would scour the internet for new possible tag editing solutions. Trouble was many of them were immediately found to be useless and forgettable, so I would end up downloading the same piece of crap software over and over.

Now I have made the list you see on the right. Many of these are old and crappy, but at least I won't waste my time downloading and trying them again.

I haven't included all the PC and Lynx editors you could potentially use in emulation - I've tried that a bit, but what I really want is a real Mac tagger.

If you know of any programs I missed... please add it to the comments.


will friedwald said...

thank you for this survey -

I tried a couple of programs you recommend, but they dealt ONLY with MP3 files, not AAC - can you recommend a utility that does work on AAC format files?

by the way - I tried the demo of the previous version of mediaRage and agree it's too difficult and counter-intuitive to be useful. It also has the worst program icon I have ever seen - an ugly snarling comic book hero guy! I can't figure out that icon for anything!

I imagine cover-search-programs are a different matter, but I have been using coverscout for a while, including for the whole Sinatra library-



bowlerboy said...

With your extensive knowledge of the features mp3 tools for the Mac, you sound like the guy to ask. I am looking for a utility that would allow me to do a text search on a folder/disc full of mp3 files, so that I can select the file(s) I want to hear. iTunes allows me to conduct such a search, but I am wondering if any other software utilities can accomplish this in regards to mp3 files that are archived on a CD/DVD, so that I can avoid importing those mp3 back into iTunes.

The background for my request is this. Within iTunes, I downloaded hundred of podcasts consuming several GB's of hard disk space by clicking on the Get All button, specifically in regards to the NPR "Free Air" program. I do not want to keep all of those shows on my hard drive, so I archived them to DVDs for retrieval and listening later.

Most, but not all, of those shows have descriptions which describe the content of the individual program. While loaded in iTunes, iTunes provides a search function that will allow me to do a keyword search of all the Podcasts in my iTunes library, so that I can quickly and easily find, for example, a broadcast on "Iraq".

However, instead of using iTunes to conduct a search for the mp3 files which I have archived to disc, I want to know if there is an mp3 utility which can conduct a similar keyword search for such podcast content, so that I do not have to re-import those mp3 files into iTunes again, merely to conduct such a search.

My question, therefore, is: Can any of the mp3 utilities which you've checked out accomplish this? If so, which one(s) do you recommend? I don't care about tagging and/or editing features: I only want a tool that will allow me to conduct a search of mp3 files so that I can quickly identify shows that I want to listen to, based on the information provided in the description field that iTunes uses to do its search. Thanks.


bowlerboy said...

You can cancel my request for a referral to an mp3 utility that would allow me to search through podcasts to identify the program(s) that I want to hear. After some experimentation, I've learned that iTunes itself does exactly what I want it to do.

All I have to do is to use the Advanced feature (via the iTunes Preferences commands) that allows me to Add to the Library without also importing the actual mp3 (podcast) files.

Taking advantage of this feature allows me to:
1) store my mp3 (podcast) files off of the hard disk onto CDs/DVDs;
2) have iTunes display all the relevant mp3 Description data regarding the content of each podcast, just as if I had imported the actual mp3 file in the iTunes folder on my hard drive;
3) have iTunes do keyword, text-based searches through the Description field of the entire Podcast directory to locate content that I would be interested to listening to. (Actually, that data is contained in the Video Description field, according to the Get Info windows of iTunes).

Once I identify the program I want to listen to, I can retrieve its resident CD/DVD disc, which is numerically indexed in association with a DiskCatalogMaker catalog and stored away in an aluminum case obtained from the SuperMedia store. With the CD/DVD inserted in my Mac's optical drive, I can then either physically import that file into iTunes, or listen to it on the optical disc without needing to copy to the hard drive at all.

This is my system: it works for me.