As I’ve hinted at in the past, if there’s one area where there seems to be a gap in the Mac line-up of applications it music collection management. Whether this is as a result of the omni-present iTunes or some other fact that escapes me, one thing is for sure – I need to find a suitable alternative to my current clutch of Windows apps, or resign myself to running them under VMWare Fusion on the Mac.
The benchmark I’m starting from is as follows:
- WinAmp 5.53. When I just want to play a quick track or soundclip, I might not want to load a heavyweight application just to do that. Under Windows I use WinAmp as the default application for double-clicking mp3 files. I don’t use WinAmp for anything else such as it’s music library or CD burning capabilities as I already have software to do that
- Tag & Rename 3.4.6. If it’s the ability to intelligently work with tag data as well as managing file and folder names based on those tags, then Tag & Rename is pretty much top of the heap. A lot of what it can do is replicated in Helium Music Manager, but I’ve been using Tag & Rename for a good five or six years now so I know where everything is and exactly what it can do.
- Helium Music Manager 2008. The big daddy of music management software. To understand it you have to think of the AllMusic website, but with your own music collection as the underlying data. Add to that a Last.fm compatible music player, intelligent tagger and file renamer, an almost limitless way you can view and report on your music collection, and you can start to get a feel for what HMM is all about.
- TagRunner. There’s one area where TagRunner really shines… lyrics. If you want to find and store lyrics in your tags then TagRunner is by far the slickest and easiest way to do it. Just point it at a folder and it will search various internet databases for the relevant lyrics and then optionally save the lyrics for you. It will automatically handle most of the other tag data including artwork, but I stick to Tag & Rename for that.
- MusicIp Mixer. I was debating whether to throw this into the mix or not. It’s an application that intelligently builds playlists by actually analysing your music and I have to say the results are pretty impressive. There are lots of web services that do this for you these days, e.g. Pandora, Songbird, etc., but it’s always nice to have the option to do it with your own music collection. Truth is it’s now a Mac OS X compatible iTunes plug-in so I’ll be seeing how it fares.
Now I appreciate that you can extend the capabilities of programs like iTunes by using scripts and other add-ons, which would go some way to giving it the functionality of something like HMM. However, the main objective is to keep it simple so that anyone can just use a program as-is without having to install, understand and manage a plethora of extras. That’s the joy of these Windows apps – the functionality is there right out of the box (just a shame they’re built on such a wobbly platform). But if it’s a case of just one or two add-ons that make a significant difference, then that’s probably ok.
There you have it – that’s my starting point, and my mission is to find Mac alternatives to each of these applications if they exist. I’ve already explored a couple of Mac programs with mixed results and I’ll be reporting my findings on these pages.
Oh and in case you were wondering, my music collection totals over 30,000 tracks. That represents nearly 30 years of buying LPs, CDs and music online, so the ability to handle large numbers of files safely and within a reasonable time will be important.
One final note (last one I promise!). I won’t investigate software that’s no longer being developed – well not unless it looks really cool. So that’s MP3 Rage (RIP whenever) and IDTunes (RIP 2006) out of the running already.