Ripping CDs in iTunes: Can you change the naming structure?

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mpb2000

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I searched around for a while to find an answer to this question but couldn't come up with anything. I don't see any way of making iTunes save ripped tracks as anything other than "track number" "title." This seems pathetic considering windows media player and even really old versions of winamp allowed total customization of filenames when ripping CDs. Am I missing something? Currently, I'm using a PC, so I continue to use my old version of Winamp with its CD ripper, but my computer is on its last legs and I would like to get a mac the next time around, so I would lose my old version of winamp. I want to know if I can make iTunes do what I want, but I can't see how. I guess I could still use Winamp with VMware, but that seems like a huge waste.

I use tag and rename for other tag editing, which I would also lose. Are there programs out there for macs that are similar to tag and rename and/or that would allow me more naming customization with ripped CDs?
 

Essin

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The naming convention iTunes use is Artist:Album as folder hierarcy and then "CD-Track#-Title.mp3" but I guess you already knew this.

I've got to ask, how'd you like them named? And why? Filenames can only take you so far and will never reflect more than a fraction of a songs metadata.
 
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You can actually turn off the track number if you like -- it's found under the "Importing" tab in your iTunes preferences. In this case the files would be named based only on the song title.

That's about the limit of the customization you get, however. iTunes doesn't really expect you to mess around in the underlying file system, and in truth you should rarely need to if you're using iTunes as your primary media management application. Most of the things that people need to do with the file system can be done in iTunes itself.
 

mpb2000

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I personally prefer 'artist - title' for all my music. Very simple. But Winamp allows you to put just about everything in there (artist, title, album, year, genre). I don't let iTunes control my organization scheme either. Yes, I know theoretically, iTunes should be the only thing you use for your music and you should never need to go view the actual files in Windows Explorer, or whatever the mac equivalent is, but I guess I can't give up that control. If all I had were full CDs, then I guess this would be ok, but I have the folders in my iTunes folder set up as Artist - Album for full CDs, then I have various other folders for individual songs. For example, I have folders for various genres, one for modern rock, one for rap, one for classic rock, etc. I put "single songs" in these folders. For example, I think I only have one Black Crowes song, Hard to Handle. So, I leave the album tag on that song blank so it doesn't show up on my iPod. Otherwise, when I browse by album, I would get every "single song's" album showing up and I could never see only the true "albums" that I have. If I included the album tag on every file I have, browsing by album would be useless.

I don't want a folder called Black Crowes, then another folder with whatever the album is underneath, and then the file called Hard to Handle.mp3 or track # - Hard to Handle. This would make hundreds, probably thousands of folders due to all the different artists that I do not have whole CDs for. It would be impossible to navigate my music outside of iTunes. Instead, I just want to put that song in the appropriate genre folder and have it listed as Black Crowes - Hard to Handle.

One thing this is particularly important for is having multiple libraries. My wife and I each have an ipod with different music and we each have different libraries, so we drag and drop stuff from Windows explorer into our separate libraries all the time. This would be a huge pain if I used iTunes naming/storage scheme.
 
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The need to drag-and-drop independent groupings of music out of your music folders is a common argument for managing your own file structure, but there is actually a little-known feature in iTunes that makes this far easier... You can drag and drop tracks directly from iTunes to a Windows Explorer window to copy the underlying files to a new location.

You can do this for an individual track, or for a group of tracks (just highlight all the tracks you want to copy out and then drag and drop the whole set).

This would allow you to drag out tracks by any of the valid tag information.... If you wanted to grab all of your tracks in the "Modern Rock" genre, for instance, you could filter by that Genre in iTunes and then highlight all of those tracks (ie, hit CTRL+A) and then drag them out to a Windows Explorer window, and although you can do this if your file/folder structure is organized by genre, what if you really did want to get all of the tracks out based on some other criteria.... For instance what if you want to grab all of your tracks by a single artist, regardless of genre.... Your file-system organization makes that complicated if you're using "Genre" sub-folders, but in iTunes you would just filter by the artist and drag-and-drop.

The bottom line is that a file/folder structure gives you a purely two-dimensional method for organizing your music, whereas iTunes let's you search, filter, and sort in a whole variety of different ways. Another useful trick that I use all the time to get music between my wife's library and my own is the "Date Added" column... Sort your library by "Date Added" and the newest tracks will be at either the top or bottom, regardless of what folders they may be in. Select those "new" tracks and then drag them out to a new location and import them into your other library.

Another very important thing to keep in mind about letting iTunes organize your music... If you're maintaining your own organizational structure and want to move your iTunes library to another hard drive at some point, it's going to be very difficult to do this without reimporting all of your tracks into iTunes again, which will result in losing any rating, play count, or playlist information that you've accumulated. If iTunes is organizing your music for you then it's simply a matter of setting a new music folder path and then using the "Consolidate Library" function.
 
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mpb2000

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My wife updates her ipod much less frequently than I do, so let's say she hasn't updated it for a month and now wants to see what new music I have. If I organize my own music, she can sort the files in Windows Explorer by date and then drag and drop into her iTunes library. This way we only have one copy of each file, regardless of how many different libraries we have. If I let iTunes control my organization, she could obviously sort the files in my library by date added, but then what? Would she have to drag them to a new folder on the HD, creating a whole new set of files, then close iTunes and reopen with her library with the shift key, and drag the new files in? This would then either link directly to these new files in some random location, or would copy them to her library folder. Either way, there would then be multiple copies of exactly the same file. How do you get around this with multiple libraries? Can you have two instances of iTunes open and drag and drop between them without creating new files? Basically, how do you have multiple iTunes libraries with only one hard copy library on the HD and control everything easily?

Also, as for your statement about migrating music to a new hard drive, no matter whether you take control or you let iTunes organize your music, the only way you're going to save your playlist, rating, etc data is to save the iTunes library database files. I can't remember exactly what they are off the top of my head, but I know I have them backed up weekly on my external HD just in case. There are only one or two files, but that's where all that information is saved.
 
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Essin

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Optionally, have your wife sync to your library (but only selected playlist(s) of course).
The downside of this is that you'll also share ratings, play and skip count, play and skip date and some other stuff. Don't fancy that? Then you'll need two libraries.
 
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mpb2000 said:
My wife updates her ipod much less frequently than I do, so let's say she hasn't updated it for a month and now wants to see what new music I have. If I organize my own music, she can sort the files in Windows Explorer by date and then drag and drop into her iTunes library. This way we only have one copy of each file, regardless of how many different libraries we have. If I let iTunes control my organization, she could obviously sort the files in my library by date added, but then what? Would she have to drag them to a new folder on the HD, creating a whole new set of files, then close iTunes and reopen with her library with the shift key, and drag the new files in? This would then either link directly to these new files in some random location, or would copy them to her library folder. Either way, there would then be multiple copies of exactly the same file. How do you get around this with multiple libraries? Can you have two instances of iTunes open and drag and drop between them without creating new files? Basically, how do you have multiple iTunes libraries with only one hard copy library on the HD and control everything easily?
When you indicated two libraries I was assuming you meant on two different computers...

Using multiple iTunes libraries against the same content on a single computer is not something that iTunes was designed to do very well. As Essin suggests, you can share a common library database (even on two different user accounts) using playlists as a subset, which is the more appropriate way to do this, but it does carry with it the problem of the ratings and play counts being shared.

There are a couple of ways you could handle two separate library databases with the same content depending upon your specific needs, and the simplest would be to put your tracks in a common location and then point both iTunes libraries to that common music folder. Any new tracks would still have to be manually added to the new library, but if you add a track to your iTunes library that's already in the iTunes Music Folder, iTunes won't create a duplicate -- it will merely import the copy that's already there as a reference, just as it would if you have the "Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library" turned OFF.

The key in this case would be your wife finding the tracks she wants to add. If you simply wanted to keep the two libraries in sync, you could just do a File->Add To Library every few weeks, and point at the common iTunes Music Folder. Again, iTunes would skip all those files that are already in your iTunes library, adding only those additional ones that are "missing"

You can of course find the underlying file locations by right-clicking a track and choosing "Show in Windows Explorer" but since you're working on the same computer, that likely wouldn't be a very useful option in this case.

If you're trying to share a common folder with only selective tracks, however, this is definitely one area in which a manual organizational structure might be more efficient, at least in terms of finding the files.

Also, as for your statement about migrating music to a new hard drive, no matter whether you take control or you let iTunes organize your music, the only way you're going to save your playlist, rating, etc data is to save the iTunes library database files. I can't remember exactly what they are off the top of my head, but I know I have them backed up weekly on my external HD just in case. There are only one or two files, but that's where all that information is saved.
Of course I understand that, and I wasn't talking about saving the database -- that's necessary regardless. However, the problem is that if you're not letting iTunes manage your library for you, then your iTunes database gets rendered useless if you move your content files to a new location. iTunes stores the full path to your files, whether it manages them or not.... This means that if you move your library to a different location manually, iTunes is going to "lose track" of all of these file locations, resulting in broken links to pretty much your entire music collection.

The "Consolidate Library" option in iTunes solves this by moving all of the tracks into your iTunes Music Folder path (as set in your preferences) and updating the paths accordingly, but of course it's also going to reorganize your music in the process.

So if you were to move your music files to a completely new location or even the same location on a new drive letter, you're either going to have to let iTunes reorganize it all for you in the new location by using the "Consolidate" function, or create a brand new iTunes library database and re-import all of your tracks. The only other option would be to go through hundreds of tracks individually to repair the broken links (ie, select each individual track entry in iTunes and then browse to it on your hard drive, one by one). Even for a few hundred files that's a tedious task -- for a few thousand it's next to impossible.

The only way you'll avoid this headache is to ensure that if you're going to move your iTunes library to a new location, that it's in the same path and organization as your existing iTunes library. From one external hard drive to another that won't be too painful, since you can just reassign the drive letter, but you'll definitely have challenges trying to move your library from your C: drive to an external hard drive, since reassigning the letter is not an option in that case.
 

mpb2000

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My wife only has a 4 GB nano, while I have a 60 GB, and our music preferences are similar, so maybe we could just operate out of one library. I could continue auto syncing and just have the songs of hers I don't want unchecked, and then she can sort by date added and just drag and drop new files from the library directly to her nano in manual mode the few times she does update her ipod. Is that doable? With that option I could even let iTunes take over control of my music organization.
 

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Well, if you have your wife's iPod set to manual handling, the above problem with shared ratings, playcounts and playdates will be a non-issue as nothing will sync back to iTunes.
 

mpb2000

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Yeah, and she's not particularly techno-savy so, she's not making fancy playlists or using playcounts, ratings etc. so as long as those are just tied to my ipod, that wouldn't be a problem.
 
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That actually sounds like exactly what I used to do with my wife's iPod nano before she got her own MacBook. She never used the ratings and playcounts either, although the music she listened to had an impact on my own smart playlists, so I eventually had to set her nano to manual mode.

This is definitely doable, and probably far simpler than your current strategy of trying to manage two separate libraries. You can also use a set of playlist folders to group your wife's playlists, and as long as you're using the recent-model iPods, you can sync by folder grouping as well.

In fact, you can even still share the same library across multiple user profiles if she's still going to use her own user account.... Just hold down the SHIFT key when starting iTunes to specify a different location for the iTunes library database directly in your home folder -- you can either just point her user profile at your database (assuming she has rights), or you can move the database to a common location and point both of your user profiles at it.
 

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I share your frustration and also prefer my filenames to be in the "'Artist' - 'Song Name'" format. I'm forced to copy and paste the artist into the beginning of the file names after I rip.

If I'm sending someone a track via email and it is attached, it's nice for them to be able to see the artist in the filename before downloading as opposed to only the song name.

It's just one of those things that Apple is going to be stubborn about (like the alphabetical ordering structure having numbers appear after the letter Z).
 

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Essin said:
The naming convention iTunes use is Artist:Album as folder hierarcy and then "CD-Track#-Title.mp3" but I guess you already knew this.

I've got to ask, how'd you like them named? And why? Filenames can only take you so far and will never reflect more than a fraction of a songs metadata.
From my experience, I think the field taken into account is "Album Artist" if any, otherwise "Artist".
 
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Yes, that's right, at least as of iTunes 7.x. Album Artist didn't exist in previous versions, so even if it's in the tags of those it will be ignored.

Further, if you've upgraded from older versions, then unless you've done a "Consolidate Library" or otherwise forced iTunes to go through your existing files and reorganize them (unchecking and re-checking the "Keep Organized" setting is one way to do this), then your tracks may still be organized by the "Artist" tag. Putting an "Album Artist" into a track should cause iTunes to move it (if the "Keep Org" setting is on), but it was hit-and-miss in the early 7.x releases. I haven't checked it more recently.
 

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RatherPlayHalo said:
I share your frustration and also prefer my filenames to be in the "'Artist' - 'Song Name'" format. I'm forced to copy and paste the artist into the beginning of the file names after I rip.
You don't have to do this manually. That would drive you crazy, especially if you were ripping thousands of songs.

There are tons of 3rd party utilities that will rename files based on the ID3 tags. The one I use (for Mac OSX) is Better Finder Renamer, which will allow you to select a folder (even a group of folders), click a couple of buttons, and automatically rename all the MP3s as "Artist - Title" or whatever else you want.

For Windows, you can get Better File Renamer, but I'm not 100% sure they have the ID3 tag feature working for Windows yet. They should soon, however.

You can also use tagging utilities like Tag & Rename (my fave, even though it's Windows-only) to rename large groups of song files based on ID3 tags.

I agree, it's very frustrating that Apple doesn't provide this ability within iTunes. At the least, they should allow custom file-naming formats like "Artist - Title" in the user prefs.
 
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