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Old 08-06-2008, 03:26 PM
Menneisyys
5000+ Posts? I Should OWN This Site!
Join Date: Jun 2007
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Default The Definitive Multiplatform Multimedia Metatag & Library Tutorial & Bible

Compared to the capabilities of desktop multimedia players (see for example the excellent WMP vs Winamp vs iTunes vs MediaMonkey for more info on their capabilities), the mobile ones certainly lack when it comes to fetching, searching for, editing, storing and, in several cases, even accessing / displaying different kinds (album art and/or other images; textual genre / composer / title etc. info; lyrics etc.) of information in audio files. In this Bible, I explain what the non-audio information you can store in an audio file is, how you can easily and quickly find missing information and store them in your songs and what mobile players are able to access them.

Whatís the point in all this?

Current media players coming with non-Windows Mobile (WM or WinMo for short) players donít any more support direct file system access. (And Windows Mobileís approach requires quite a few taps / button presses too, as opposed to just selecting something from its library.) This is diametrically opposed to the approach of older or not very sophisticated players, where all you needed to do is going to Open File, and you could browse the file system of your handheld right away, changing directories and selecting files to play. In some of the recent built-in multimedia players (for example, on BlackBerry (BB for short) and Symbian S60), this is plain impossible and you MUST rely on the library functionality, which is pretty much useless if your audio files donít have metadata in them. Actually, in these cases, it's much worse than the old, library-less approach where you just opened a directory for playing back all songs in there. If you made sure your directories contained only one album, this was an adequate solution for most needs.

When you rip an audio CD in Windows Media Player (or any similar CD rip-capable app; for example, my personal favorite is CDex; see my remarks & quick tutorial HERE), WMP may not be able to fetch any information on the songs themselves.

There are major disadvantages of not tagging your songs. First, on all the operating systems, several library-based media players will list the similarly-named and non-tagged music inside only one (All music) category:


(WMP, showing the filenames. As can be seen, not even the file directories are shown. You can, fortunately, still see them by tap-and-holding a song, selecting Properties and checking out the Location attribute. In THIS screenshot, the path \Storage Card\UUSNAM is clearly visible. Still, you wonít be able to (easily) play unnamed files in a directory, unless you manually pick every, say, third 13 Track 13, 14 Track 14 etc. file and add it to a playlist. Itís really complicated. Alternatively, you can still initiate playing a file in a specific directory using [Menu/][Library/] Menu/Open File and this allows for switching between songs in the directory, but itís still pretty awkward.)


(BlackBerry 4.5 shot. By default, it lists the files using the same name stored in different directories one after another and only Options / Properties (see the content of the pop-up dialog screenshot) can be used to make a distinction. In addition, the BlackBerry operating system doesnít have a built-in file explorer tool; that is, you canít start playing a given song in a given directory by simply navigating to it with a file explorer tool. Finally, the multimedia player in BB doesnít let for selecting an individual file from inside either, unlike Windows Mobileís media player.)


(Nokia N95 (Symbian S60v3 FP1) shot. Thereís no way of getting the directory of a given file (Options / Song Details only lists Ė and lets for editing Ė the ID3 tags and doesnít show the file system path of the song, unlike under BB or WinMo. You canít force the player to play a given file from inside either. When you start playing back a file from File Manager, the player 1. wonít play back other songs from the same directory (unlike the case of opening a file from the WinMo WMPM, using Menu/Open File from the Library view) 2. wonít provide you access to the menus (like the equalizer or the stereo widening settings) Ė all youíll see instead of the menu is THIS).

All in all, in all the three covered operating systems, NOT having tags in your audio files severely degrades the usability and flexibility of the built-in (and, at least with Windows Mobile and Symbian, some other) media player. When your songs do have metadata in them, separating different genres, albums, artists and, in some, more advanced players, even more sophisticated attributes like years etc. becomes a breeze. This is why you do want to read this Bible thoroughly to find out how this can be accomplished. Learning to make your songs tagged will save you a lot of frustration and greatly enhances your enjoying music. And donít think itís hard and complicated! Not in the least, particularly not with the latest tools.

Turning back to the question of current, (in cases, strictly) library-based built-in factory players on all the three platforms, all you see, when you transfer some new songs to the card or insert a completely new one is the player creating / updating the library when you start it and/or it senses a card insertion and/or you explicitly force it to update / refresh the library (Symbian: Options / Refresh on the Library screen; Windows Mobile: Menu / Update LibraryÖ; on the BlackBerry, itís not possible to manually initiate a refresh):


(BlackBerry)


(Symbian S60)


(Windows Mobile)

Donít think of the recent, library-based approach is a bad thing. Just the opposite. If you do make sure your files are correctly identified and tagged (metadata added), your life becomes much easier and everything you can do with your repository of songs becomes much more flexible.

With traditional (non-library-based) media players all you could do was using (multiple) playlists where you could collect some songs based on some criteria (for example, a given album of a given artist; all albums of a given artist; all songs belonging to a given genre, your top 50 songs you prefer listening to etc.). This all required a lot of work, particularly if you didnít use the advanced auto-playlist creation features of more advanced desktop media players. By this, Iím referring to creating playlists exactly using some / all of the above criteria. An example screenshot of the auto-playlist creator of the desktop WMP 11, available under Library / Create Auto Playlist:









For example, in the above three screenshots, Iíve shown a way to create a playlist containing the songs of a Finnish pop band (here, referred to as "2n maanantai") which is rated at at least 4 stars. The playlist is named Best of 2n maanantai and can directly be used on mobile clients after synchronizing them there.

Auto playlist creation is, generally, non-existing on mobile devices. Doing the same manually, in general, involves considerably more work.

With the library-based approach, you can do, essentially, the same on mobile devices as with auto playlist creation: you can select what you want to listen to based on several factors. With simpler approaches employed by most players (except for CorePlayer, which has an even more advanced approach), you can traverse in at least the categories Artist, Album and Genre and select the artists, albums and/or, inside them, the songs youíd like to play. You can play the entire (sub)category too Ė as with all songs.

This in no way involves playlist creation. You only need to create playlists in a library-capable app when you need to express some logical functionality otherwise not playable using the traditional library approach. For example, if you have albums A, B and C of, say, the Artist X, and youíd only want to listen to two of the three (and not the third) albums, you canít easily do this using the standard library functions of any of the three operating systems (none of them support multiple selections) Ė you must create a playlist, putting the two favorite albums in it.

The even more advanced (but, unfortunately, for a newbie, pretty much convoluted) CorePlayer is an exception: with it, you can make multiple selections, which helps in not having to make playlists at all to account for logical decisions like the above. For example, to select three of the five artists to play back, you only need to check in the checkboxes in front of the given artists:


(WinMo screenshot; the same is done in exactly the same way under other operating systems)

This will make sure the playback will only iterate over the songs of the three selected artists, not all of them. You canít do the same in other, non-multiple selection-capable players Ė again, in them, you could only select one artist to play back. In this respect (too), CorePlayer is vastly superior to all the (current) alternatives. Unfortunately, this also means people do complain about CoreThequeís (the name of CorePlayerís library system) being overly complicated. I thought exactly the same when it was first released Ė it took even me a bit of time to learn it and to understand in what ways itís superior to the single-selection, far more restricted library system of the other players.

Now that you see the point in having correctly built-up and managed libraries, letís take a closer look at how you can actually provide your songs with this metadata.

1.1 WMP tag finding & reading

Fortunately, you can save yourself some hours of entering all the metadata (genre, artist, album, song title etc.) by using automatized tools. Of them, I recommend Windows Media Player (WMP) the best for looking up and entering at least textual, non-lyrics data (artist, genre etc.). (Please donít come telling me why I donít recommend other tools instead. For example, THIS thread states WinAMP also has auto-tagging capabilities. I want to keep the size of this Bible acceptable; this is why I donít review other tools in this chapter.)

When you let WMP to read all your (still untagged) audio files into its library (and you do have an Internet connection), WMP will automatically connect to its database back-end to try to recognize your songs. (Please consult THIS tutorial on how the library should be operated in WMP. I do not elaborate on the basics of it, only the advanced features like auto playlist generation.)

To do this, it in no way tries to make use of the current filenames or the directory name your files are stored in. Instead, it compares how the song sounds to the stored songs in its library. (While Iím also a DSP engineer and am pretty well versed in everything physical telecommunication, I donít know how exactly this is done other than it should be some kind of a simple time-domain or a combined time & frequency-domain pattern matching, also making use of the actual song index inside an album. One thing is certain: WMP doesnít upload the full song to an approximate comparison to the database, only a small "blueprint" of it.)

This library is based on customersí existing tag (and album art) contributions. Just for a check, to see whether I have better results with a locked-in, fully commercial system like the Zune, Iíve tested the same with my Zune to see whether being commercial and only available to paying Zune customers. The desktop Zune app (which is definitely inferior to that of WMP Ė as is, in my opinion, ALL the media manager apps coming with ALL non-Windows Mobile platforms) only found few additional titles; 9 of them was a false hit (for example, mistaking nine of the songs for Snoop Doggís The Blue Carpet Department), only a few OK (Ismo Alanko; Juliet Jonesin Sydšn - Helppo Elšmš Ė Haluan olla poikaystšvšsi; Leevi & the Leavings; Raggars). In some cases, it found the artist (SIG) on compilation disks but took it for another song based on the index of the songs. An example of this is SIGís Hyvšš Syntymšpšivšš, which it mistook for Purppura Ė Paratiisikesš because the formerís index was 9. It didnít find more album arts than WMP either. Frankly, I would have thought Zuneís desktop manager fares better than the free WMP in this respect.

After WMP has found all the missing info, sooner or later, it updates the original song files (MP3 and WMA only; itís only with additional plug-ins like WMP Tag Support Extender that it becomes able to write - and, with some formats like OGG, only read - tags) with the just-found info on the hard disk. (On my HP TC1100 tablet PC with 1 GHz CPU, 1.5G RAM and 160GB HDD & no other programs running, this happened almost instantaneously, on my IBM Thinkpad a31p with 768M RAM and 120 GB hard disk, only after some days. I couldnít find a way to force WMP to do this Ė "Apply Media Information Changes" doesnít seem to do the trick.)

Before this physical file update takes place, itís only WMPís own library that has the newly found tags, not the physical files themselves. During this, you can only make your only media files that you synchronize with your handset with WMP have all the newly-found tags. In addition, this information will be strictly available for the built-in stock player only (on Windows Mobile, WMP Mobile; on the N-series Symbian S60v3, Music Player), not other third-party players (or at least not the ones Iíve tested) - not even CorePlayer. The reason for this is simple: WMP uses a special library descriptor format not compatible with most? all? third-party multimedia players.

This also means non-updated files that you physically copy to your handset (through, say, a card reader with a simple file copier app like Total Commander or the built-in File Explorer) wonít have any tags in them. Therefore, you should wait until WMP does update the song files physically with the song metadata. You can easily see this because, then, their timestamp changes (and their size may also increase). After this, you can safely use any tool to copy your files Ė all third-party apps will be able to read and process their tags. Library-capable apps will be able to create a library very similar to that of WMP; non-library-capable apps (the majority of the players) will, at least, display this info and use it for other, dedicate functionalities like looking up lyrics or album art. Iíll later elaborate on the library-capable, advanced mobile multimedia applications.

1.2 Searching for missing tags not found by WMP

There inevitably will be cases when your desktop WMP doesnít recognize your songs, particularly when they arenít English or they arenít stored in an album but are separate songs. Then, youíll need to do some extra work. Donít be afraid: itíll be much easier than you think! There will be almost absolutely no manual work and tedious metadata entry involved.

Probably the best tool to look for & quickly enter / transfer missing tags is the free MP3Tag. (See for example THIS for other choices.) Itís capable of both importing the song titles and other metadata, including album art, into files from the Web and Ė which is really useful! Ė convert metadata stored in the filenames to inline ID3 metadata and vice versa. The latter will be really useful when you have a bunch of files only containing song metadata in one form but not in the other. Itís pretty useful to have accordingly named files for, for example, file sharing and handling with non-library-capable multimedia players (the desktop WMP doesnít have auto-renaming functionality Ė in this regard too, MP3Tag IS better). On the other hand, library-capable players only take into account the contents of ID3 metatags and NOT the filename when building up the library. With a song that only has the song metadata in its filename, itíll keep the song as "Unknown" in the library. You will most definitely want to avoid this. That is, the cases when you will want to use the two-directional conversion are:

- The files have ID3 tags only (filled in by, say, WMPís auto-find), but are still named, say, 10.wma because theyíre CD rips made with WMP. WMP, as has already been mentioned, isnít able to rename these files based on the ID3 tags and give them a more meaningful name. Then, selecting Convert / Tag - Filename will convert these tags into files. Note that itíll use spaces upon encountering characters incompatible with the file system; for example, slashes (/).

- The files have all the album / artist / title metadata in the filename but not in the metadata. This is pretty common particularly with old files. Then, Convert / Filename Ė Tag will help. Here, you may end up having to modify the default %artist% - %album% - %track% - %title% filename parsing scheme. For example, if your filenames are names like "Všrttinš - 1st Album - 01 - Ruskie neitsyt.wma" (where Všrttinš is the artist, 1st Album is the album name, 01 is the track number and "Ruskie neitsyt" is the title), then, you can do the conversion right away. With filenames different from this, you may end up having to edit the filename parser string before the conversion.

Note that youíll want to use mass-selection (Shift + up/down with the cursor keys or Ctrl-Shift + left click with the mouse) to make the conversion much easier.

Looking up song metadata at freedb.org is equally easy. You manually navigate to freedb.org, enter for example both the artist and album name in the "Search the freedb database" textbox at the top (here, I entered "Varttina" to look for Všrttinšís albums). In the result list, just click (open) the album. If thatís what youíre looking for, look for the "Disc-ID" attribute (in THIS screenshot, itís just to the left of the mouse cursor). Youíll need to pass MP3Tag both the unique ID given in hexa numbers (here, bf0b160d) and also set the genre when populating songs with ID3 metadata. Itís very easy Ė the rest will be done by MP3Tag. (Also note that MP3Tag is also able to play back songs Ė it just uses the system-level player to do the trick.)

Now, let me show you a thorough example of doing this all. Letís assume we have an album WMP didnít find any info on and is in, therefore, its just-grabbed state with filenames XX Track XX.wma (again, without any inline metadata; that is, tags). Start MP3Tag and make sure you make the directory having these files visible to the program. To do this, just enter (copy) the home directory of your files to the bottom-most "Directory" input field. In the following screenshot, itís c:\TYO\080805\full id3\Suomen laulu - kotimaan kasvot:



MP3Tag quickly reads the tags of the songs. Now, search for the artist / album at freedb.org. Note that if thereíre more than one word you search for, there will be an OR relationship between the words. You can, however, easily reduce the number of hits by unchecking either the Artist or the Title checkboxes. In the following screenshot, Iíve unchecked Artist as "kotimaan kasvot" is (part of) the name of the album; allowing for searching for the artist too would have resulted in a lot more (false) hits.



As you can also see, itís "Misc" and b3116b1f that youíll need to pass to MP3Tag. Letís do it: select all the files in the right pane of MP3Tag (you can also do this, in this case, by using Ctrl-A) and, then, select Tag Sources / freedbÖ:



In the dialog displayed, select enter:



Now, enter b3116b1f to freedb ID and set Category: to misc:



Press OK. Now, youíre presented a filename-metatag pairing dialog. In this window, you need to make sure the records in the two lists at the bottom mutually coincide. In this case, they do. There may be cases when they donít; for example, when instead of 01 Track 1.wma, 02 Track 2.wma etc. files, you have 1 Track 1.wma, 2 Track 2.wma etc. (Notice the lack of the leading 0!) Then, youíll need to manually rearrange the list by selecting a record in the right list and pressing Up / Down to move it one step up/down, respectively.

Also make sure the metadata in the uppermost textfields is OK. Soemtimes you will need to adjust the Genre drop-down list.



Now, just press OK; the tags will be updated:



Now, youíll still want to accordingly rename your files so that their filename also reflect their contents (unlike the output of WMPís CD grabber). To do this, keep all the files selected and select Convert / Tag - Filename:



if the (standard) %artist% - %album% - $num(%track%,2) - %title% naming convention is OK with you (the results can be seen underneath the text input field), just press OK in the following dialog:



As can be seen in the Filename column, the files have indeed been correctly renamed:



Thatís all Ė this is what youíll need to do with most grabbed and, by WMP, not recognized files.

Let me also show you an example of filling in the ID3 tags based on the filename (that is, the exact opposite of the work weíve done in the last few steps). Do the same as in the first step to make the files visible to MP3Tag:



Select all the files and, then, Convert / Filename - Tag:



Weíre lucky: the default format string, %artist% - %album% - %track% - %title%, just matches the filenames of the files; you can make sure this is the case if you look at the area under the text input field:



After this (checking the conversion will be successful), just press OK; the ID3 tags will be created, as can also be seen in the following screenshot:



Let me know if you need a more thorough tutorial on using this excellent tool. Also note that several similar questions have been answered by the tutorial HERE (posted in the official FAQ section of MP3Tag).

1.3 Searching for Album Art

Another thing you may want to consider adding to your music is album art, which, in most cases, is just the front of the CD leaflet (but can be anything else, based on your needs).

Physically, there are two kinds of album arts: inline (stored inside the files) and folder-based; the latter can use the WMP format (using "Folder.jpg") or its own (like (on Windows Mobile and Symbian) LCG Jukeboxís Artist Ė Album.jpg filename convention). Both the inline and the folder-level approaches have their advantages, problems and (with the mobile players,) incompatibility issues.

The compatibility matrix with these two kinds of images is as follows (given for WMA and MP3 "only"):


(HTML original HERE)

(Note that, on Windows Mobile, Lyrics Magic, WinVibe, Pocket Music, Resco Audio Recorder and GSPlayer donít support any kind of album art.)

The desktop WMP can also fetch album art automatically and will certainly do this with commonly known albums (but donít except almost anything for sparse languages like Finnish). For example, it found the Madonna and Všrttinš CD covers at once. After finding the images, itíll store them in the directory first as a separate Folder.jpg file (which is compatible with most players compatible with directory-level images except LCG Jukebox) and, then, also include the inline version in the sound files themselves (a little later Ė again, in this operation, lagging may occur, as is the case with other tag update operations).

If, on the other hand, you look for an album art not found by WMP, youíll need to use third-party tools.

1.3.1 Third-party tools

1.3.1.1 MP3Tag


First, you can use the already-mentioned MP3Tag to include not only textual metadata, but also images. To do this, just search for the given album art in, say, Google Images (or any, similar service), right-click the image and select Copy:



Now, right-click the empty disc image in MP3Tag and select Paste Cover:



And, to save the image, select File / Save Tags:



Itíll save the images as an inline one in each of the selected files. Note that it wonít create a directory-level one; if you donít want to download the image and rename it to Folder.jpg, youíll want to play at least one of the converted files in WMP. Itíll create this file, along with AlbumArtSmall.jpg, automatically.

(You may want to check out THIS for additional, related tips; note that this tutorial no longer has the inline images.)

1.3.1.2 Other tools

In addition, there are a lot more utilities; some automatized, some not. The automatized ones are mostly commercial but, if you have hundreds or thousands of albums to quickly download album arts for, may still be purchasing Ė you save a LOT of time if you use them (no manual searching, file downloading and dragging will be necessary Ė everything is done automatically, you only need to issue 1-2 clicks per album to accept an automatic album art selection or select another one). The best list of these tools is HERE.

1.3.1.2.1 Strictly iTunes-only plugins

Most of these tools are for iTunes only; for example, iArt, TuneSleeve and iAutoArtwork. The first also downloads lyrics (more on lyrics in my dedicated Lyrics Bible). Note that some of the links are dead; for example, iTunes Art Importer, which is no longer available (the old link doesnít work).

1.3.1.2.2 Standalone

As far as standalone (that is, non-iTunes plug-in) products are concerned, I recommend two of them (in addition to the akready-shown MP3Tag, of course).

1.3.1.2.2.1 Album Art Downloader

Album Art Downloader is a free, self-contained app and searches everything (not just Amazon); however, it doesnít parse sound files (Artist and/or Album name must be manually entered) and you canít easily paste the resulting image into WMP either (need to save it first to the file system and paste from there). This can be pretty awkward with several albums (but is still definitely better than the fully-manual way). And, again, itís free!

1.3.1.2.2.2 MuvUnder Cover

MuvUnder Cover is, as opposed to Album Art Downloader, commercial; the trial version supports saving up to 15 albums. Itís REALLY easy to use and saves album art right inside files. It canít be instructed to save dir-level thumbnails instead, though (which isnít a problem because, if you really need them, you can still load your songs into WMP; itíll make sure it creates the necessary Folder.jpg files based on the inline images).

Note that, by default, it doesnít search Google Images and, as it doesnít search for example amazon.de, it wonít find many European non-English titles (like Finnish ones). Fortunately, you can easily make it search Google Images too by enabling "Automatically search for Google Images for artwork if not found from default source" in Options / Artwork. After this, about 70% of my Finnish album art images were found (while only one or two, out of the 30-40 tested albums, before enabling this). Note that it restricts the number of hits to 5. This can be a problem in many cases (Google Images, in general, has far more hits; some of the real hits ranked lower than the fifth). In this regard, some other solutions (even LCG Jukebox) is much better.

Note that, in cases, with images (only) available at Google Image, Album Art Downloader (see above) didnít find anything, while MuvUnder Cover did. An example of this is Vesa-Matti Loiri - Eino Leino (Google Images link). This may signal a problem with Album Art Downloaderís Google Images search module.

Finally: another famous title, Album Cover Art Downloader 1.6.0 (ex-home) doesnít exist any more. The Romanian server linked from HERE hosts a version with a CRC error. I could only find it HERE. Unfortunately, I continuously had problems with all the files Iíve thrown it at Ė it complained about "junk" in the album art. It seems itís useless.

1.3.2 LCG Jukebox

LCG Jukebox (available on WM and Symbian) is famous for its built-in capabilities of album art searching capabilities over several album art sources, including Google Image (and several others). Fortunately, it doesn't limit the number of hits, unlike the desktop MuvUnder Cover (see section 1.3.1.2.2.2), as can be seen in the following screenshots:






(WM VGA (as can be seen, it makes use of the high resolution) screenshots; itís exactly the same on Symbian)

Note that it also saves the image file in the file system using the Artist Ė Album.mp3 file name convention.

Also note that you can also set a JPG file in the file system on Symbian (Options / Album Art). The player, however, has no support for searching the Web for album arts Ė you need to do the same with an image saving-capable browser like Opera Mini. In addition, unlike with LCGís app, it doesnít store the associated album art image in the file system either Ė the changes will only be reflected in the library.

1.4 Media manager apps coming with mobile devices; synchronizing with desktop WMP

Under WinMo, you donít get another media manager software. Not that you would need any: the desktop WMP is one of the best tools for this, particularly if you use additional apps like MP3Tag to find / set info WMP couldn't find.

You can find a tutorial on using its built-in mobile synchronization capabilities (which works with all the reviewed three mobile operating systems: WM, Symbian and BB) HERE.

Note that the article discusses WinMo as a client. If you connect a Symbian handset and want to be able to synchronize it with the desktop WMP, select Media Player upon connecting from the list:



With BB, youíll need to select Mass Storage Mode upon connecting the USB cable:



Otherwise, they remain invisible to Sync in the desktop WMP.

As far as the additional multimedia apps coming with non-WinMo OSíes are concerned, I donít really recommend them.

I donít at all recommend Roxio for BlackBerry coming with the (pretty big) download of the BB Desktop manager Ė itís far less featureful than WMP and has severe CPU usage problems (RoxMediaDB9.exe using the CPU at 100% even after exiting the main app). Other BB users have found out to be equally bad; see for example THIS and THIS. All in all, never ever even think of even downloading it. WMP is WAY better.

As far as Symian is concerned, Nokia Music Manager (part of PC Suite) is a bit unfriendly too. The new Nokia Music for PC (now in beta) will replace it; it starts shipping with the brand new Nokia N78. I havenít still tested it; hope (but, sincerely, I doubt) itíll be on par with the desktop WMP.

2. Main chart

In the following chart, I provide you with a VERY detailed comparison of the currently available, library-capable multimedia players on all the three mobile platforms. Note that the links lead to several screenshots demonstrating the usage of a certain feature.

Library based onÖ: the categories you can select from. The more, the better. They can be based on either existing tags and the data auto-added by your listening habits. For example, CorePlayer remembers how many times a given song has been played (which may be related to it being popular) and also lets you select the songs to play back based on this frequency.

"All songs" view: if you plan to have access to all songs on your device at once without artist / genre / album etc. restrictions and without having to create playlists and all, youíll certainly welcome the fact that all of the reviewed players support this operation.

Library scanning: ex/including folders?: for some reasons, you might want to opt for excluding some directories from scanning when building up the library structure to avoid, for example, game sound files being included in the library. (That is, you might want to exclude \Program Files (on Windows Mobile) and the like on your storage cards.)

Only one library, necessitating a card re-read after swapping?, MP3 scanning speed (2136 titles taking up ~7.5G on a 8G class 4 Sandisk microSD card)? and HE-AACv2 scanning speed?: In the chart, I also explain a common test: swapping cards. I have three different microSD cards: a 8GB, a 4GB and a 2GB one. I mostly use the 8GB one in my digicam (so that I can always make sure I have sufficient storage for even longish video recordings), leaving the 4G and 2G cards for my microSD-only WM, Symbian and BB handhelds and handsets. As my music library (even in the super-small, 48 kbps HE-AACv2 a.k.a. aacPlus format) takes up about 7 GBytes, I needed to put one half to the 4GB and some of the rest to the 2GB card and rely on swapping the cards when needed. The need for doing this may be pretty frequent with other users too. In this regard, itís essential to look at the "Only one library, necessitating a card re-read after swapping?", "MP3 scanning speed" and "HE-AACv2 scanning speed" rows, which (as far as the latter two benchmarks are concerned) compares the speed needed for a full library-(re)read. The former row, "Only one library, necessitating a card re-read after swapping?", elaborates on whether the given player needs to re-read the entire library (which can be very time-consuming with some players / platforms Ė see for example the HUGE time needed to do this on the Symbian Nokia N95, with CorePlayer!), or, does it have card-specific, stored libraries. As a rule of thumb, players that store their library on memory cards are very fast at swapping cards. In this regard, Nokiaís Music Player and the built-in WMP in Windows Mobile are certainly the best. Some other (Windows Mobile & Symbian) players store their library in the built-in storage and fully recreate it when you insert a new card and initiate a library refresh. However, if you follow my instructions on locating and renaming these library files before inserting the new card, you can avoid all this. Just use a quick, file rename-capable scripting language / environment like nScriptm or MortScript. Search my earlier articles (for example on my blog) for more information on these two scripting languages. They make library switching really-really easy.

Background file / library scanning supported?: Some (not all) players allow for scanning for changes in the background, while letting you do anything else (for example, playing music, traversing the already-built library etc.)

Auto / manual scan? With the latter, scanning initiation?: all the players support automatic scanning when they notice the card has been changed, (re)inserted or a synchronization has taken place. In addition, most of them (except for that of, for example, the BlackBerry OS) also allow for explicit, manual refresh.

Speed of library traversing with a lot of entries: some players (for example, Pocket Tunes on Windows Mobile and, to a lesser degree, Music Player on Symbian) can be / are pretty slow when traversing a library with several hundreds or some thousands of entries.

Again, remember that with the two players mentioned, itís only over several hundred songs that youíll start encountering slowdowns while traversing the library, not with fewer ones!

Social networks: Song transfer options from inside the library: Nokiaís Music Player allows for directly uploading your songs to social networks from inside the library view. In this row, I elaborate on the comparable features of other players.

Auto / manual ranking system? If supported, can it be synched back to desktop WMP? Ranking may be very useful, particularly if you restrict playing music only to titles youíve previously, manually ranked high. Unfortunately, very few players allow for this on mobile platforms: only CorePlayer (WM and Symbian) and WMP (on WM) and neither of them support synchronizing the rating back to the desktop WMP. This should be fixed at least in WMP Mobile!

Manual database comment adding / tag editing?: Symbianís Music Player and CorePlayer allow for editing tag info (or, with the latter, at least adding a keyword you can use for searching later). Unfortunately, neither player allow for storing the changes back in the files, "only" in the library.

Artist, Album / Contributing Artist separation? : in cases (see the URL in the chart), it might be useful to separate Artist and Contributing Artist. Unfortunately, very few players have so sophisticated a categorizing system in their library.

Multiple same-level category selection to greatly speed up creating playlists / selecting multiple categories to listen to: Iíve already explained the advantages of the multiple category selection capabilities of CorePlayer. As can clearly be seen, not any of the other players are capable of this.

Creating playlists based on library?: all players allow for creating playlists based on the library. In this, I explain the player-specific additional features or problems you may encounter.

Other playlist goodies: sort (TCPMP: only title, of course) Speaking of playlists, some players lack even the most basic sorting capabilities when it comes to playlists. In here, I explain based on what you can do this. As is stated right in the header of the row, TCPMP (for Windows Mobile and Palm) is only capable of sorting by title. Compared to this, CorePlayerís dedicate sorting capabilities are quite big a leap ahead.

Quick find: particularly with huge libraries (multiGigabyte cards and/or supersmall formats like HE-AACv2), you may have a very hard time finding your stuff if you, for example, forget the artist and, consequently, canít use the Artist view to find your tunes. Then, some kind of a searching functionality might be advantageous. In this row, I explain how each player fares in this respect.




(HTML original HERE Ė itís only in this version that you can click the links!)

Note that on Windows Mobile, HTC Audio Manager (Iíve tested version 1.02.919713) is also library-capable. As it uses the same library as WMP on WM (and is, therefore, fully compatible with the library format WMP creates / uses), I didnít see the point in including it in the chart. That is, if you insert a card with a WMP library, HTC Audio Manager will also be able to use it. Otherwise, the player is very simple and definitely inferior to Microsoftís built-in WMP Mobile.

3. Some other links

Use metadata to organize digital media in the Player's library

Alpha Geek: Whip your MP3 library into shape, Part III: Metadata

Symbian: music players: 1 2 (both a bit outdated and lack for example CorePlayer)
 
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