Apple's iTunes software is well integrated with their line of iPod MP3 players. One
function it does not provide, however, is the capability to copy songs from your
iPod to your Mac. This can be a critical need, especially if your iTunes library,
for some reason, becomes corrupt and you have no other backup besides the songs on
your iPod. Findley Designs answers this need with iPod Access. iPod Access is an
application that can copy or backup songs from your iPod to your hard disk, and can
also add songs from the iPod directly into iTunes. The songs and MP3 ID3 tag information
are all obtained directly from the iPod. iPod Access also includes a function for
restoring songs from a damaged iPod database. iPod Access is not a replacement for
iTunes for the management of your music library. It is a supplemental tool that provides
added functionality that is not currently supported by iTunes.
- Mac OS X 10.1 or higher
- iPod software v1.2 or
- An iPod
NOTE: I used a 450 MHz G4 running OS 10.3.9, an iPod Photo and a firewire hard drive
during this review. There is also a Windows 2000 and XP version available.
iPod Access v3.2
downloads as a .sit file. Once expanded, I copied the iPod Access application to
my Applications folder. During the first launch, a dialog is displayed warning that
iTunes iPod preference must be in manual mode, otherwise your iPod may be overwritten
and the songs you want to retrieve may be lost. If your iTunes is setup for automatic
sync to your iPod, the steps to switch to manual mode without overwriting the iPod
- Start iTunes (ensure
iTunes is the front most window).
- Connect your iPod.
- Immediately hold
down the command-option keys.
- When the iPod appears
in iTunes source column, wait five seconds, and then release the keys. This will
skip the automatic iPod update.
- Select iTunes preferences.
- Select the iPod tab.
- Select radio button
"Manually manage songs and playlists".
There are two other
iTunes preference settings that need to be checked: "Keep iTunes Music Folder
Organized" and "Copy Files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library"
(both under the "Advanced" tab). These need to be selected to allow the
copy-to-iTunes and playlist clone functions to properly copy the iPod songs to your
iTunes music library. iPod Access is tightly coupled to iTunes causing it to be launched
when needed (hence, you do not need iTunes running when using iPod Access).
The iPod Access main display provides access to various functions using buttons across
the top. If an iPod is connected, it also displays the iPod database, including list
of artists, a list of albums, and a list of songs. Under the list of songs, you can
click on any column heading, such as song, artist, or album, to sort the list by
that column. The columns that are displayed can be changed under Preferences (or
clicking on the Settings button). You can pick and choose which columns to include,
but the columns cannot be rearranged. In addition to the song listings, iPod Access
also includes a controller that allows you to play any song in the list directly
from iPod Access.
iPod Access main window
The iPod Access primary
functions can be categorized as:
- Add to iTunes
- Clone Playlists
The Copy function copies the selected songs to the selected disk location on
your Mac. Contiguous songs are selected by shift click. Non-contiguous songs are
selected by command-click (just like in the Finder). The song file names can be changed
based on the iPod Access settings (see below).
The Backup function copies all the iPod music to the selected disk location.
The iPod Access preference "Remove Special CharacterÝ" should be selected
when performing a backup. Depending on the size of your music library, this could
take some time. The iPod Access main window can be minimized while performing the
backup. The Backup is incremental, meaning that only the new songs are backed up
during subsequent backups.
Add to iTunes
The Add to iTunes function will copy the selected songs to your iTunes Music folder
and update your iTunes library database accordingly. Be sure that the iTunes preferences
"Copy Files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library" and "Keep
iTunes Music Folder Organized" are checked when performing this function.
The Settings (which is the same as Preferences) provide various options for customizing
your use of iPod Access.
iPod Access Settings dialog
Under "ID3 Tag Display",
you can select which MP3 tag information is displayed in the iPod Access main window.
The "Filtering" popup menu controls what is displayed in the top left window
display, either "Artist/Album" or "Composer/Album" (the latter
may be more useful for those with large classical collections).
there are various radio buttons and checkboxes that control the directory naming
during copy or backup of songs to the hard drive. One radio button must be selected
for choosing type of directory organization:
- Single Folder - this
places all the songs into a single folder.
- Artist - places the songs
into folders named by artist.
- Artist/Album - places
the songs into folders named by artist and then a subfolder named by album.
- Composer/Album - places
the songs into folders named by composer and then by album.
When performing a copy
or backup, the "File Naming" popup menu provides the capability to control
the way the song file is named on your hard disk:
- Song Name - changes
the file name to the song name.
- Track_Song Name
- changes file name to the track number followed by "_" followed by song
- Artist - Song Name
- changes file name to the artist, "-", and song name.
- ID Number - Song Name
- changes file name to the ID Number and song name. The ID Number is the number displayed
in the iPod Access window.
- Song Name - Artist
- ID Number - changes file name to the song name, "-", artist, "-",
and ID Number.
- Track_Song Name_Artist
- changes file name to the track number, "_", song name, "_",
I'm not sure why some
options used "_" and others used "-"; different methods for different
tastes I suppose. The ability to rename the song file is a great feature when the
current file name is not how you want your files named.
iPod Access Auto-rename: Bottom window shows original iPod file name, Top window
shows new file name,
Over Original" setting allows the copy or backup functions to overwrite the
existing song. The "only If Newer" will overwrite only if the iPod song
has a newer date. The "Remove Special Characters" can be checked to prevent
special characters in fila names (that could cause file system problems). The "Disable
Free Space Check" will disable the disk space check prior to performing the
copy or backup. The "Appearance" setting has 2 check boxes: One allows
the playlist window to be placed n the left instead of the default on the right,
and the other enables or disables the shading of every other song row.
iPod Access provides the capability to search by the selected category of the
iPod database. A pull down provides a search category selection for the search function.
The "Playlists" button opens and closes the playlist window showing the
iPod's playlists and associated songs. Playlists in iPod Access are read only (i.e.,
a playlist cannot be created using iPod Access). The Clone button on the playlist
window will "clone" the songs of the playlist to your iTunes library. It
copies the song files to your music folder, and updates your iTunes library. This
function is useful for copying songs from a playlist in a simple one step operation
(versus having to select each song of the playlist manually and choosing the "Copy"
Cloning playlists from your iPod
In addition to the primary functions described above, iPod Access has a number of
other functionality that helps with the recovering and managing of songs from your
iPod. The "Play Selected Song" function provides the capability to play
the selected song directly from your iPod through iPod Access. There is a "Recover
iPod Database" function that attempts to recover songs from a damaged iPod database.
I was unable to test this function to determine how well it works. The "Help"
function provides a single dialog with iPod Access information. It seems a little
sparse, but this is a simple utility that works well, so it may be enough. iPod Access
also includes it's own "Eject" button for dismounting your iPod. In the
past, I have had problems with the iTunes iPod eject button, mainly when another
application was using the iPod. I did not find this behavior to be true with iPod
Access. When I chose to eject the iPod, it always dismounted.
I tried all the iPod Access functions and they all work well. I found the incremental
backup to be the most useful. By using the Settings dialog to configure the file
naming convention, I was able to easily rename a mass amount of files to names that
I preferred during backup. Depending on the size of your music library, backup could
take some time. I performed a backup of 216 songs, and it took about 5 minutes.
The other really useful function of iPod Access is that it can restore songs from
your iPod when your iTunes library becomes corrupted. A number of problems can corrupt
a music library, from having an internal hard drive crash, to corruption caused from
copying songs to and from an external firewire drive. If you have no other backup
to your music library than what's sitting on your iPod, iPod Access becomes an invaluable
tool for retrieving those songs. You can copy them to any folder on any Mac volume,
or you can copy them straight into iTunes. all with a push of a button.
The iPod Access
user interface is simple and intuitive. During this review, iPod Access never crashed
or froze up, and performed all functions as expected. I did however, have to force
quit iTunes a few times. I would get the spinning ball in iTunes with the appearance
of nothing going on. It's unclear exactly what caused that. With regards to documentation,
iPod Access is pretty simple and straightfoward. It uses a simple dialog that contains
several help steps.
iPod Access is an inexpensive shareware application that can access an iPod and copy
and backup songs to a Mac hard drive. iPod Access can also add songs and copy playlists
directly to your iTunes library and music folders. iPod Access obtains the song information
directly from the tags stored on your iPod. When used with iTunes, iPod Access can
be used to move songs on and off the iPod as needed. It has a well designed and easy-to-use
interface that includes some nice add-on touches, such as the ability to configure
the naming conventions for your song files. Moreover, it includes a vital function
to utilize your iPod as a backup for your iTunes music in the event your hard drive
gets corrupted (without having to use the iPod's hard drive function). iPod Access
is a great complement to iTunes for the management of your iPod and music library,
providing critical functionality for safeguarding your music library investment.
Anyone with a Mac and an iPod should seriously consider adding iPod Access to their
arsenal of Mac utilities.
- Intuitive interface
- Ability to copy songs
from iPod library to your Mac
- Good song file renaming
- Great iPod eject capability
- Help function is a little
4 1/2 out of 5 Mice