Apr 27 2009
iTunes may be the most popular music, movie and podcast organization tool, but that may only because it is a package deal with the most popular portable personal media device; the iPod. The software is good, but itâ€™s not perfect.
You have probably noticed that the recent addition of â€œCoverFlowâ€? to the iTunes interface isnâ€™t nearly as exciting when the music you acquired from anywhere other than the iTunes store displays a blank black cover with a couple of beamed eighth notes on it. Sure iTunes will try to figure out what cover belongs on your music, but itâ€™s still hit-or-missâ€¦ with a definite leaning toward â€œmiss.â€?
Have you ever noticed, in the â€œGet Infoâ€? information for your music that there is a field in there for â€œBPMâ€?? That stands for â€œbeats per minute.â€? Have you ever seen a value in that field? Probably not. In an ideal world, every song would come with that information already on board. Then you could make Smart Playlists of a range of songs that, say, have a driving beat that helps your workout.
The software also is a bit desperate for attention. You get no way to control playback or search your music library unless you keep iTunes frontmost. It might also be nice to have a visual readout of how many unheard podcasts you have.
Letâ€™s see what we can do about these â€œwhinesâ€? while also revisiting a caller question from a few weeks ago.
For $19.95, equinuxâ€™s CoverScout will scour the interwebs for cover art your music was intended to have. It searches international Amazon image catalogs, Google images and, if that doesnâ€™t turn up your missing cover art, it even allows you to use your iSight camera to grab the cover art off the CD you ripped the songs from in the first place. (You did get that music from a legally purchased CD, didnâ€™t you?)
Some â€œgood news/bad newsâ€? with CoverScout is that it handles cover art differently than iTunes in that it adds the artwork to the music file instead of keeping it in an external folder. This means that anywhere you might use that music file, the artwork will follow. But it also means if you associate an exceedingly large image file with a song, the file size of that song will increase also.
Tangerine from Potion Factory ($24.95) analyzes your iTunes music library and determines the number of beats per minute for each song. Adding this information to your music files allows you to make smarter Smart Playlists that filter music based on the tempo of the songs.
iTunes can take care of making those playlists, but Tangerine can do you one better: it can assemble taylor-made playlists of a specified duration that consist of songs within a range of beats per minute and then it orders those songs so that the playlist increases in tempo with each song. There are actually 5 different variations on the tempo pattern that Tangerineâ€™s playlists can follow. When played sequentially, a playlist can coincide with your workoutâ€™s warm-up and cool-down times.
DockArt and Quicksilver
With DockArt, iTunes gains the ability to display album art in the dock and as your desktop picture (though, Iâ€™ve found that this bogs down your machine) and also shows a numerical indicator in iTunesâ€™ dock icon showing how many unheard podcasts you currently have on file. DockArt is donationware. In this case, donations are to be sent to the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation.
Quicksilver is a favorite of many Mac users, but few who use it even come close to taking advantage of its full power. For instance, by installing the iTunes module and configuring it in the Triggers menu, Quicksilver can give you full control of iTunes from any application on your Macâ€¦for free! You can finally leave iTunes in the background and still have it at your command!
Extra Credit â€” iBeeZz
On one of my ealier visits to The Lab, a caller asked if there was some way to schedule iTunes to start-up in the middle of the night to download his podcast subscriptions. At the time, we recommended that he set up an event in iCal to launch iTunes every night at a certain time. The part we couldnâ€™t help the caller with at the time was how to get iTunes to shut down again after it was done.
For 12.50 Euro (about $17 US), you can program all kinds of sleep and wake-up times for your Mac as well as files and applications. It has a special setting for iTunes that allows you to schedule iTunes to startup at bedtime, lower the volume to a soothing level and start a playlist of your choosing (possibly a low-BPM playlist you made using Tangerine or a â€œnapâ€? you saved out of Pzizz).