A well tagged MP3 collection makes everything from organisation to playback easier. Keep reading for a closer look at your fellow readers' favourite tools for cleaning up their MP3 tags in this week's Hive Five. Photo by Darin Barry.
We've rounded up the top six rather than five—thanks to a particularly close call among the top candidates—and we're back to share and help you pick a program to get your MP3s in order.
TuneUp (Windows/Mac, Basic: Free; Gold: $US19.95)
TuneUp is a music cleaning addon for iTunes. TuneUp's simple drag and drop interface combined with an extensive database of more than 90 million acoustic fingerprints makes cleaning up your music a breeze. You can drag hundreds of songs onto the TuneUp sidebar in a single go and let it chug through the pile. When it's done, you'll have a list to approve with any tricky songs or albums flagged for your approval before the tags are altered. The same drag and drop system works for cover art; you'll be presented with a list of available cover art for coverless albums. The free version of TuneUp is limited to 100 songs and 50 album covers per month, the Gold version is unlimited. If you try TuneUp and love it, the Gold version is currently 15% off (with the coupon SONGFLU) through June 2, 2009.
MediaMonkey (Windows, Basic: Free; Gold: $US19.95)
MediaMonkey is a popular iTunes alternative among Lifehacker readers and also a rather robust tag management tool to boot. Once you have your music collection imported into MediaMonkey, you can automatically update tags from Freedb and update cover art from Amazon. MediaMonkey has a very strong focus on tag-based organisation and support for user scripts to speed up the process. If you dump a bunch of music into MediaMonkey and that music has incomplete, corrupted or mismatched ID3 tags, MediaMonkey automatically flags them and puts them in an Edit/Unsynchronized node on the program's file navigation tree, making it extremely easy to find the bad apples in your music collection and fix them. Once you get your tags in order, you can use Media Monkey to automatically organise your music into folders using the ID3 tags as a guide, creating directories based on artist and album names. If your primary focus is tag cleanup, the free version has all the same tagging features as the pay version.
ID3-TagIT (Windows, Free)
Although development was discontinued on ID3-TagIT in 2007, it still has a base of happy users. It isn't the most spartan or automated entry in the Hive Five, but it does offer an extremely granular amount of control over even the most minute details of tagging. If you're not interested in digging into the more obscure tags, the app's quick edit box handles basic changes. Like MediaMonkey, the program will query the Freedb to help you out. ID3-TagIT has no help file or online documentation, so be prepared to spend a little while going through each menu bit by bit to get a feel for all the features and their layout.
MusicBrainz Picard (Windows/Mac/Linux, Free)
MusicBrainz is an enormous user-maintained metadatabase of album information. Their popular iEatBrainz music tagging tool has been replaced by the cross-platform PicardTagger. On top of using available information, like file names, to suggest changes to your tags, Picard also uses AcousticFingerprints of songs to semi-automatically identify songs in your collection. Once Picard finishes scanning your collection and checking it against the MusicBrainz database, it flags the tracks with a green, red or orange flag to indicate how close of a match each file is to a fingerprint in the MusicBrainz database. From there you can check the suggested changes against your existing files side by side before approving them. Picard has an extensive drag and drop feature list, and almost every type of dragging and dropping within the interface does something useful. Dragging a file from the browser pane onto an album for example, prompts Picard to check the file against that particular album. Picard is open source and scriptable, leaving it wide open for tinkering to suit your needs.
Mp3Tag (Windows, Free)
Mp3Tag is a an MP3 tagging tool with a rather spartan interface which lends itself to easy use. You can batch edit your MP3 tags, including iTunes specific tags like media type or TV Show settings. If your MP3 files are named with tags in the file name like band-album-track-title.mp3, you can tell Mp3Tag to convert the naming convention of your files into the actual tags. You can also go in the opposite direction, renaming your files to reflect their tags. The latter trick is handy if you'd like to make the file name easily recognisable during searching and also have a backup of sorts should the ID3 tag become corrupted or overwritten with an incorrect tag. Mp3Tag also supports expression-based renaming, allowing you easily reformat the naming convention or formatting style of your files. Mp3Tag supports multiple online databases such as Freedb, Amazon, Discogs, and more for easy tag importing.
Foobar2000 (Windows, Free)
foobar2000 is a music player before all else, but it does have some basic tag editing functionality built in. Many readers were more than satisfied fixing the occasional misplaced tag in foobar2000, not needing the more robust automated scanning and tagging of more advanced tagging software. foobar2000 can query the the Freedb, and the basic tags like artist, album, genre and such can be edited quickly.
Passionate about one of the contenders? Shocked that not everyone edits their ID3 tags in Notepad? Sound off in the comments below.