iPod Access 3.2, by Findley Designs
Posted: 31-May-2005

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Findley Designs Type: SHAREWARE

Reviewer: Terry Telke Class: MULTIMEDIA
     
$12.99   Download

Overview
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.

Requirements

  • Mac OS X 10.1 or higher
  • iPod software v1.2 or higher
  • 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.

Price
$12.99

Setup
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 are:

  • 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).

In Use
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:

  • Copy
  • Backup
  • Add to iTunes
  • Settings
  • Search
  • Clone Playlists


Copy
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).

Backup
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.


Settings
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).

Under "Copy/Backup", 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 name.
  • 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, "_", and artist.

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,


The "Copy 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.

Search
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.


Search Categories


Clone Playlists
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" function).


Cloning playlists from your iPod


Other Functions
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.

Summary
Findley Design's 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.

Pros

  • Intuitive interface
  • Ability to copy songs from iPod library to your Mac
  • Good song file renaming conventions
  • Great iPod eject capability
  • Inexpensive


Cons

  • Help function is a little sparse


Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice