iTunes Catalog 1.7, by KavaSoft
Posted: 28-Mar-2005

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: KavaSoft Type: SHAREWARE

Reviewer: Mel Krewall Class: MULTIMEDIA
     
$9.99   Download

Overview
iTunes Catalog (iTC) is a clever companion to iTunes for those who (like me) are a little compulsive about the song information and album art that goes with your music library. It also creates gorgeous HTML catalogs of your library that you can share via your dotMac account or other web host.

Requirements
The required computer configuration was not specified by
Kavasoft. I ran iTunes Catalog on my G4 Quicksilver upgraded to a 1.4 GHz processor, with 1 GB of RAM. You must have an internet connection to search for album art and song lyrics. iTunes Catalog did not strain my computer at all, so I would suspect that most G4 Macs running OS X would have no trouble with the application. iTC is $9.99 shareware. You can try it out for free on artists that begin with A through E.

Gathering Album Art
When iTunes Catalog starts up, you use the Preference panes to select the iTunes music library that the program will refer to for creating catalogs. iTC will then scan the library for album art and will show colored dots to indicate if the albums in iTunes or iTC have artwork. Green dots mean the artwork is there, yellow dots (at the artist level) mean that the artist has album art for one or more albums but not all albums, and red means no artwork
.


iTunes Catalog main window

Once your library is displayed in iTC, you have two options for acquiring album art that your library does not have. You can have iTC download all the album artwork from Amazon.com for every album in your library, or do it individually. When an individual album is selected in the main window, you can search for just that album. In the figure below, the artwork drawer is on the left, and it shows the artwork retrieved for the album "Jesus Freak". When searching for album art and more than one is found, there is a selection pulldown in this drawer that lets you switch among the ones that were found. If no album art is found, the drawer will have "no image available" in it.


iTunes Catalog - Choosing artwork

I did not see way to search for a selection of albums all at once. It appears that iTC lets you search for just one at a time, or all of them. I tried both options and found that for much of the older music I had, Amazon was not consistently reliable. For the older albums, I had to search manually at allmusic or Lycos music to find the covers I needed. The newer music was pretty readily available at Amazon, so those that have mostly newer music will have an easier time locating art.

iTC also includes a menu option for showing your iTunes playlists in a separate window. The playlists are taken from iTunes, and if you double-click a playlist, it opens the iTunes playlist window. This window is set to open by default, but I always closed it. I did not find it very useful and rarely used it.

Toolbar
The iTC toolbar buttons can be customized in the same way as Apple Mail or other Cocoa applications. From the View menu, select Customize Toolbar, and a variety of buttons will be presented that can be dragged to and from the toolbar. There are twenty or so buttons. The ones I most frequently used are
Play, Hide Artwork, Get Lyrics, Buy Music, Refresh, Make Catalog, Publish on .Mac and Preferences. The Play button plays the selected song in iTunes. Show Artwork toggles the artwork tray on the left (or right based on screen position). Get Lyrics will search the web for lyrics to the selected song. Buy Music will go to the iTunes Music Store for the selection. Refresh is a button I used a lot while building the artwork in my library. It refreshes iTC's view of the iTunes library, so that the artwork and indicators are correct. The Make HTML Catalog and Publish on .Mac buttons do exactly what they say, creating the catalog either on your computer or on your .Mac site. Preferences, of course, allows you to change settings for iTC. There are more buttons for Make Text Catalog, Make PDF Catalog, Collapse and Expand (artist/album/song listings) Copy Years and more.

Preferences
iTunes Catalog has an extensive list of Preferences that allow you to customize the behavior of the program. The preferences are divided into panes as follows: General, Links, Font & Color, Media Sources, Publishing, and Amazon.


iTunes Catalog - General Preferences

The General pane has items to change startup behavior, naming of new catalogs, whether the catalogs are arranged by genre or alphabetically and sorted by year or name. Treatment of compilation albums can also be specified.


iTunes Catalog - Links Preferences

Under Links, the user can decide where a click on a link in the catalog will send the browser. Links for artist, album, song and artwork can all be change to one of 17 built-in sites, or you can add your own. Font & Color changes the text and link color in the catalog.

Under Media Sources, Artwork sources can be changed among local and Amazon and you can change the location of the Music library that will be the source for streaming over a network when a catalog link is connected to music. This is most useful for small networks with no firewalls. Publishing is where the location of the catalog iTC constructs will be identified. You can change web host addresses or .Mac, or both. Finally, the Amazon pane configures whether the artwork should download automatically or manually and whether to use the US, UK, Germany or Japan Amazon site. If you have an affiliate ID for Amazon, that can be entered as well. Then, if someone looking at your catalog links to a CD on Amazon and buys it, you will get your affiliate commission. An option to empty the Amazon link cache is for use when you change countries or affiliate IDs.

Cataloging
This program delivers beautifully on its basic promise. It helps you gather album art for CDs that you have ripped into your iTunes Library and then it creates a catalog of your music in one of several styles. Catalogs can be formatted as HTML, PDF or plain text. The HTML catalogs are created in the same brushed metal that Apple uses in Mac OS X. They can be published as a local HTML page, on a web host or to your dotMac account, all of which can be specified in the Preferences. For an example, check out the
music catalog I posted on my dotMac homepage. The hyperlinks for the art will show a larger view of the album. The links for artist and album will search allmusic and bring up a page with results. Links for songs will search for lyrics and show results. Additionally, iTC creates an alphabet link bar between groups of albums that start with different letters to make it easier to navigate. Preferences for all of these cataloging behaviors can be modified within iTC.

Additional Features
The program also offers a lyric search. I liked this feature, but there results were often inconsistent. In fairness, this seems to be more indicative of the problems copyright presents in finding music lyrics on the web than with the program itself. Since the record companies would probably frown on a major provider like allmusic or Lycos aggregating lyrics, iTC must search a variety of sites for the lyrics, with results that are sometimes good, and sometimes less than adequate. I have not been able to determine what sites iTC searches each time, as it has directed me to a wide variety of lyric sites with no discernible pattern.

Also, for automatic artwork search, in addition to Amazon, iTC can search Google for links to the music in your library. The accuracy of the results, again, are dependent upon the search site (aka, Google's index).

Summary
iTunes Catalog is a nifty iTunes extension that does a complete job of cataloging your iTunes library and helping manage album art. Based upon my original expectations, I found that I liked this program even more than I thought I would. It was very stable and seemed bug-free. No crashes or glitches manifested during my use. All that said, this program is probably not for everyone. If cataloging your music and going to the effort of finding old album covers seems like a lot of trouble and a waste of your time, then you may not see the value in iTC. If you like to have your iTunes Library well organized with album art for all your music, and/or you want to show off your catalog to your friends, you will love iTunes Catalog. From my perspective, it was great fun and and an enjoyable task. I highly recommend iTunes Catalog.

Pros

  • Simple album art search
  • Easy transfer of art to iTunes
  • Solid and stable interface
  • Choice of format for catalogs (HTML, PDF, Text, .Mac)
  • Attractive web-published catalogs


Cons

  • Not for everyone
  • Sometimes results are constrained by web content
  • Cannot perform a search on a selection of albums


Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice