What a good sort!

Is your hard drive more MP3 than PC? PC Eric Dahl shows how you can keep your burgeoning music collection under control.

I've spent a lot of time cleaning up my MP3 collection recently, and it's come to remind me of a scene in Nick Hornby's novel "High Fidelity". Rob, the obsessive music fan narrating the story, has just been dumped by his girlfriend. He proceeds to regain some control over one aspect of his life the only way he knows how: he reorganises his record collection. This is no typical reorganisation, mind you. Rob arranges his records by the date he bought them - a sort of personal music fandom biography.

Of course, now that music's gone digital that "Great Reorganisation" can be done in one click of the date-added tab. Sorting by genre, release year, artist name, or even track length is just as simple. Or it can be, provided your MP3 collection is in good shape to begin with.

Organising a collection of records or CDs is time consuming, but at least it's unambiguous. MP3s on the other hand, have metadata, file names, and directory structures. Unless you've ripped your entire music collection yourself using the same program, you're likely to have some tracks that don't fit your naming scheme or that don't have all the correct data associated with them. This month, I'll show you how to whip your music collection into shape, discussing tools to help you perform a Great Reorganisation of your own.

Get it together

ID3 is not this summer's latest movie block­buster; it's the most-used for­mat for storing the additional data that goes with your digital audio files. The ID3 tags in a file can store the year the album was produced, what genre the music belongs in, the track number, and a bunch of other metadata. Unfortunately, those tags have gone through several versions, and MP3 ripping programs don't fill them out consistently. My collection at work, for example, has track numbers in a couple of different formats, and the year field is blank for over half the tracks.

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Eric Dahl

PC World
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