March 30, 2004
By Jerrod H.

“Tags” are embedded in audio files, and include information such as Artist, Title, Album, Release Date, and Genre—much more than a filename could contain.

Anyone who has a large collection of digital music understands the importance of and value in maintaining a correct and complete set of tags for their music.  This is especially true for iPod users, as tags are the only means by which the iPod and iTunes understand how to categorize your music.

As we discussed in a previous iPod 101 article, the Gracenote CDDB online database makes tagging extremely easy for most users importing CDs.  However, CDDB is a user-filled database, so frequently, the tag information downloaded from CDDB has misspellings, errors, or simply doesn’t come “the way you’d like it.”  Sometimes, CDDB won’t even have information for the CD you’re importing.  Also, for users who acquire their songs through “shady” means, the tag information is hardly ever complete and accurate, if present at all.

iLounge is here to help.

Tagging one track at a time:

iTunes offers several ways to correct or add a tag to one file.

First, try selecting any song in your iTunes library.  (This tip also works from within any playlist!)  Next, click once on the tag that you want to change.  The tag will change to a text entry field.  (See screenshot below).  Type your correction or addition, and hit enter.

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This method is quick and easy for the occasional tag fix, but you may encounter a problem when using this method—often, all fields are not displayed in the iTunes library or in a playlist… Sometimes the column you want to change is hidden.

To edit a tag in a hidden column, you need to open the track’s “Get Info” window.  To do so, right click (or Command-click on a Mac) on the track, and go to “Get Info.”  The window shown below will open, and you may edit any of the attributes shown.

 

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Tagging multiple tracks with common information:

The methods shown above are fine for fixing spelling or making other corrections on any one song at a time, but they are quite tedious when filling tags for many tracks at a time.  Often, the process can be simplified by tagging in groups – one for each album.  Usually, tracks on an album have a common genre, artist, comment, year, and release date.  Why enter them all in over and over?  You don’t have to.

To edit many similar tracks at once, begin by selecting the group of tracks in your library.  (Select the first song with a single click.  Hold down “Shift” and click the last song).  See below:

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Next, right click (command-click for Mac) on any one of the tracks, and go to “Get Info” as we did for a single track.  The following window will appear:

 

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Any changes that you make here will be applied to all of the selected tracks.  When you click O.K., the only changes that will be applied to all tracks will be those fields that have their check box selected.  In the example above, the Artist, Year, Genre, Album, and total disc and track numbers will be written to all 12 tracks.  Song ratings, for example, will not be overwritten, as the My Ratings checkbox is unchecked.

Click O.K. to finalize changes.

We highly recommend ensuring that all of your tags are complete and accurate… It may take a lot of time and labor, but it will make your iPod experience much more enjoyable!

Notes and Tips:

The “Part of a Compilation” checkbox in the “Get Info” window allows you to tell iTunes whether it should store the audio files on your hard drive according to the Artist title, or group the tracks according to their Album name in the “Compilations” folder.  It is a good idea to enable this option for any CD in which the Artist is not the same for each track, but it is certainly not required.

If you are finding that some of your longer tags (i.e. long track titles) are being truncated, you’re probably using an old ID3 format.  Use iTunes’ “Convert ID3 Tags” feature in the “Advanced” menu to update the tracks to the latest ID3 format (v2.4).

For Windows users who want more audio tagging features than iTunes offers, we recommend Tag&Rename.

Jerrod H. is a Forum Administrator and Contributing Editor for iLounge.