More iTunes 7 – Album Sorts Improved

itunes7album.jpgWhen I relied on my CD collection, organization kept me from going crazy. This was even more true when the media was LPs. I had thousands of them – still do, for the most part – and if I hadn’t kept them alphabetized, my enjoyment of them would have been seriously dimiished.

So I’m pleased to see one of the new, albeit less crowed about, features of iTunes 7. Click on the Album column a few times, and you’ll see it changes from Album to Album by Year and Album by Artist.

That’s how albums should be organized, but iTunes, like most brute force database solutions, didn’t take into account, so that when I clicked on Artist and scrolled to Beatles, different album titles would be mixed together.

With the new cover art view (still waiting for the automatic artwork download feature to work as advertised, it’s about 30 percent there), I can browse my collection by disc.

When I sort Album by Year, I’ll see With the The Beatles, followed by Beatles for Sale and so forth.  This works even better with CD-only artists.
itunes7album2.jpgThe program won’t allow you to sort all your albums by year – to see Sgt. Pepper followed by Are You Experienced, and then Atom Heart Mother for example, or drill down by a particular criteria – in the top level view.

But if you create a smart playlist, you can then organize within genres. This is handy if you have, say, a lot of folk music and a lot of punk/alternative, and you’d like to see just folk ordered by year of release.

Of course, the results you get when you click on the column are only as good as the data in your ID3 tags. To clean those up, there’s MusicBrainz, an open source tool that cleans up the messy metadata in your MP3 collection. If you P2P a lot, this is an essential tool.

Of course, you don’t P2P outside the boundaries of the DMCA, do you? That would be stealing.

iTunes 7 – First Take

itunes7.jpgiTunes 7 is a major upgrade, a big change to the look and feel of the program with some nifty new technical tweaks as well. Enhanced playback, new user interface, album art that’s automatically downloaded for you, even if you didn’t buy the music from ITMS, backup functionality, parental controls, nifty new video features…

On the subject of video, I think watching movies on an iPod or a phone is dumb. But with the anticipated arrival next year of iTV, the Mac television streaming set top box, movies from the net are cooler. Also, all new DVDs will sell for $12.99, a better price point. I doubt they’ll sell a lot of catalog product at 10 bucks though. The average movie is over a gig, so the gratification won’t be as instant as songs.

There’s lots more. OK, I’ve downloaded and installed the latest and greatest from Apple. Here are some observations after 2 or 3 hours of use:

  1. The album cover art view is cool, but the actual album covers are currently limited to those already part of existing ID3 tags. When I started the program, it offered to automatically download the covers. Later, I tried right clicking on “Get Album Artwork” and got a message saying missing artwork information would be sent to Apple. So I guess the library is pretty much bare at this point. **Update** Not threadbare, but quite slow. I’m seeing more and more stuff as time goes by (8 hours now).
  2. There’s three different ways to browse your collection now. The old way’s still there, and you can look at lists of albums too – not very great without album art, but still nice from an organizational point of view. The final view allows you to flip through album covers as you click on songs. It’s gimmicky, but fun to look at anyway -typical Apple.
  3. Gapless playback is finally here, and works like a charm. I tried a couple of live albums, and what a treat it is to hear the sound flow seamlessly from track to track. This has been a problem for a long time, glad to see them work it out (unlike Rhapsody). Will this be an iPod feature?
  4. iTunes Music Store video quality is much improved. I bought “Office Party,” a short film with Jon Stewart, Tate Donovan, Carol Kane and others. The new format is 640 x 480, and what a difference it makes.
  5. Haven’t tried backup, I’m wondering if it’s disc only or whether I can use a USB hard drive. No need for parental controls, not for me anyway, but it’s a nice option for those who want it.

Looks pretty good. I think I know the answer on gapless and iPod – it’s a hardware issue, the new iPod Nanos support it, and I assume the next generation of iPods will too. That’s Apple, always obsoleting your equipment and making you buy new software.