Tweaking iTunes
Subject:   Keeping tabs on your tags
Date:   2006-02-08 04:31:34
From:   Nick Barrett

Thanks, Gilles and everyone else, for plenty of good ideas in one place.

I'd forgotten about 'Clutter' and how smart it is; and some of the visual tricks are fun as well.

'Libra' is well worth a trial run, since I recently invested in a great big new external hard drive, where I've put my own iTunes library, currently top side of the 10,000 "songs" mark, and also store backed-up music for friends with iPods of their own and sometimes without ready access to broadband internet since they live in countries where that remains a luxury of the privileged elite.

My paid job at an international news agency enables us to use its internal post service to get their iPods and CDs to me swiftly and back to them with what they want transferred from one to the other, plus all the tags.

Intuitive cataloguing eases the search

What really struck me, however, was that simple Command + P tip on playlists and libraries. I've long been seeking a simple means of cataloguing my own music library in an easy to digest format and then linking it for search and research purposes to the people I write about in my unpaid job on 'Voices of Women' (, a weblog that is what its title says.

"Well, yes," I thought, "Turnbull's right. You can print that lot and it finally looks neat and gives you the album art as well. But what if...?"

What if we switch on the Mac printer's "save as .pdf" format instead of printing our libraries? You end up with a large .pdf in Preview by default. And Preview's smart. You can search it. Names. Songs. Plenty more. It took iTunes nearly an hour to do the job, but I finished up with a 242-page document last night and 'Hallelujah -- at last!"

With 'Libra' I can do this for others. And with a smart little gadget called 'FileChute' ( -- also from the Yellow Mug people, $15 dollars), I can stick the outcome on my .Mac disk where people who'd otherwise have to wait ages for an e-mail with a massive attachment to make its way to them can fetch it at their leisure.

Next stop, Devon Technologies.

I've for years used DEVONAgent ( and DEVONThink from that company founded in Germany for their search engine and browser, and for its interaction with their filing, cataloguing and database software (which has received rave write-ups here occasionally).

Putting your ideas and my own together solves a problem that's become worse since my web site became what it is: how to integrate the entries on it and on other sites serving the same purpose -- to promote women musicians of all kinds -- with what's in iTunes and make the whole lot not only easy to search but intuitive, pulling up thematic connections I'd perhaps not have thought of myself.

I won't detail how this will be done, partly because I haven't thought it through fully yet, but know it'll entail processing my monthly log pages with Devon's stuff (with no reason to upgrade to the very latest versions until I can afford it) and they'll be able to interact with the iTunes database, and also because I don't want to bore anybody more than usual.

The aim is to provide is a specific example of making connections I hope might be useful to fellow Mac users with quite different musical and other creative interests of their own.

The problem you've helped solve is that having limited funds and a far from perfect memory, the more people ask me if I've written about "so-and-so" or plan to do so, the more the answer is, "Yes, but heaven knows when. I've forgotten," and the search engine I've put on the log is good but inadequate if it's going to remain free.

When I phoned the firm that offers this service and asked how much it might cost to have it index more pages than it does, the answer nearly made me fall over. I'm not a pro or a business and they don't think it's viable to offer price scale for those of us like me who can't afford anything between free and a fortune! So instead, I tweaked what I've got.

Classical redemption?

A last tip I'd second, Gilles, is your final one for lovers of "classical" music, as well as kinds that broadly get dubbed "pop", "rock" or whatever by the people who insist on genres in a world where almost all the technology, including iTunes, is strongly "weighted" for the majority interests.

iTunes "categories" drive me mad as it is, but for classical music fans it's far worse. The discussion you've linked to at MacOSXHints ( is essential for people trying to wade their way through the minefield of what others send in to the CDDB.

It's indeed a "huge headache" as someone says there. But I'd stress the caveat in that thread too. Please stick to CDDB etiquette and be consistent! Those who think they are doing others a favour by sending that fantastic resource their own highly subjective tags for classical music are doing nothing of the sort.

If you're mad enough, like me, to wish to put Wagner's 'Ring' cycle on an iPod and fetch CDDB tags, best of luck! You might be lucky and get the set I put there myself. But if you don't, you'll end up correcting mistake after mistake in four languages.

Once I'd dealt with that lot, my generosity was exhausted. What I've yet to suss out is how you can convince iTunes, once it's decided that the tags you wish you hadn't chosen are the right ones, that they're not and you want to start over with somebody else's attempt. Maybe someone knows the answer to that one?