Getting your hands dirty
In the previous article we looked at the capabilities and applications of ID3 tags in MP3 files. That's the theory covered; now, it's time for the practical. For starters, we'll take a quick look at the ID3 tag editing capabilities of Winamp. Then we'll explore other applications that provide batch ID3 tagging, CDDB support, and file renaming based on ID3 tags. We'll also take a look at some applications that provide access to some of the more esoteric possibilities of ID3v2 tags.
Winamp - the hard way
First up, to be fair to Winamp, we should state that this program is not intended to be a fully-featured ID3 tag editor. Instead, it is best described as a fully-featured MP3 player with ID3 support. That said, however, Winamp is still pretty good for basic tag editing. It has 13 fields to store as much text info as you want in your MP3 files. Plus, you can easily copy from an ID3v1 tag to a v2 tag or vice versa, without needing to retype everything. You even get an undo if you mess things up. See Figure 1 for the Winamp ID3 tag dialogue box, which you can view by hitting
CDDB MP3 Tagger - the easy way
With this freeware program -- you can download it from http://www.batsanyi-tapolca.sulinet.hu/tagger -- you can retrieve song, artist and track information from the Internet using CDDB. You can then use this information to automatically write ID3 tags as well as rename all the files to a naming convention of your choice. The main screen is shown in Figure 2.
To retrieve song data from the Net, select all the tracks in the album and click the 'freedb' button (Figure 3). In the freedb window, enter an e-mail address and click Query Album. You should then be presented with a list of possibilities, from which you can select the correct one. The options button will let you configure any file naming or tagging options to use for the selected files. Click Save and it's all done in a moment!
You can also standardise your MP3 files by batch renaming them from their ID3 tags. To do this, select the MP3 files in the file window and click ID3 -> Filename. If your filenames are already well formatted, you can use them to generate ID3 tags by clicking the FileName -> ID3 button.
Another feature that will save you from creating playlists by hand in Winamp is the export button. Not only will this create M3U files, it will generate HTML pages for your MP3 files! (see Figure 4).
ID3v2 Tag Editor - the deluxe way
This program, available freely from http://www.audioxl.com/oldtagger.html, has many extended ID3 tag options including support for album covers. It also has a Winamp player built in that lets you preview and play your MP3s using Winamp within the program itself (see Figure 5).
Bear in mind that this program is a little long in the tooth, and doesn't support the latest ID3v2.4 version, although it is still the most versatile v2 editor available. You can add as many images to your MP3 files as you like, and there are dozens of data fields for text information. For example, there are categories for artist and album details including remix information and cover art credits. You can also include multiple URLs, song information such as original album, lyricist and artist, as well as add multiple comments.
Unfortunately, unlike CDDB MP3 Tagger, there are no batch options or file renaming, so this is an app for the serious perfectionist!
EAC - the all-in-one approach
An MP3 feature would be incomplete without a single mention of EAC, so here it is. Unfortunately, this is probably the one feature of EAC that we can't sing praises about. Its ID3 tag editing makes Winamp look like a tag word processor. Basically, you get a very simple ID3v1 edit capability without any batch processing -- although you can batch rename files from ID3 tags (see Figure 6). To its credit, though, EAC will write ID3 tags on the fly when you are ripping from CD, but that's another story (see the previous three-part series on CD ripping by doing a search on the PC World Web site).
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