March 16, 2009

One Click Album Art Grabbing with Songbird 1.1

Songbird, the open-source music player just updated to v 1.1. Click a button and your missing album art will now be filled in with cd cover art from Last.fm's music/social networking site. Here are other features of Songbird, which is for Windows, Mac and Linux.


Posted by Eric Fritz | Permalink

July 09, 2008

New Cover Art Features in Playwatch v1.2 iTunes Controller

Playwatch is a very unobtrusive, yet powerful menu bar controller for iTunes. It sits on the menu bar, providing title, artist, album and other information as a ticker with smooth scrolling and transition effects. Album Cover-Art and lyrics are displayed on demand. Two new Cover-Art views now display the tracks belonging to the album. With just one click, a track can be selected and played in iTunes.

Playwatch 1.2 is a free upgrade to registered users and is compatible with Mac OS X Leopard (10.5). New Users may purchase the software for $13,20 directly from the AQUARIUS software website. New users can also download a free, fully functional 30-day demo from the website.

More screenshots and download Playwatch from Aquarius Software

Posted by Eric Fritz | Permalink

May 02, 2008

Flip Though Album Covers on Blackberry and Windows Mobile Smartphones

Looking for that iPhone-like interface for your Blackberry or Windows Mobile phone. FlipSide turns your smartphone into your favorite MP3 player allowing you to visually "swoosh" through music quickly and easily. Scroll though album covers or flick through them with your finger.

FlipSide downloads and displays the cover art of each album and even links to FlipSide Extras to provide biographies of the artists, recommendations for similar artists and more.



FlipSide retails for $19.95 and a free trial download is available now from the FlipSide website.


Posted by Eric Fritz | Permalink

January 27, 2008

2 Dashboard Widgets for Finding Missing Album Art

album-art-widgets-header.gifHands-on with two Dashboard widgets for iTunes: Amazon Album Art and Album Art Widget. Both can search for and add missing cover art to your iTunes library.


Amazon Album Art

HOW IT WORKS: Type in an artist or title and click the button to search Amazon sites. Click the thumbnails button to review all the search results. When you like what you see, click the "Set as album art in iTunes" button. But BE CAREFUL.The default setting is to operate on the selected (highlighted) track in iTunes, which might not be what you're currently listening to. That makes it easy to accidentally apply the art to the wrong album! Unfortunately, I'm speaking from experience here :( I'd recommend changing the preferences to "operate on the current album" if you plan to use it while listening to your iTunes library. Clicking on the cover art itself takes you to the album's page at Amazon.com. NOTE: iTunes must be running before you can apply any artwork.

Another preference allows you to choose between searching Amazon's "Popular Music" or "Classical Music" sections. In addition, you can specify an international Amazon site search: (.at, .ca, .co.jp, .co.uk, .de, .fr).

OPINION: Works well as a handy Dashboard widget for quickly searching the various Amazon sites for missing album art. It functioned fine on my laptop running Tiger OS. Just make sure you apply the cover to the right album - check those preferences! The widget does appear to select the largest size available at Amazon, but it would be nice to see pixel dimensions of the search results.

free download page | developer site


Album Art Widget

HOW IT WORKS: Displays cover of the currently playing track. If none is available it can be set to auto-search from various Amazon sites, Google images or yesasia. If you like what it finds, click the "Add artwork to iTunes song" button. Doing so brings up 3 button options: 1-save to song only, 2-save to all songs in the album, and 3-cancel. In addition to the album art features, the widget also lets you rate the currently playing song, displays album tracks (did not work for me), can show you the source page for the searched cover image.

OPINION: Worked well for me, but the cover display is pretty small and the image seemed overly blurred. The ability to rate songs is nice, this widget certainly has more functionality than the Amazon one. Unfortunately the track listing feature didn't work for me.

free download page | developer site

If you're a real widget lover, one of these may be for you. However, broader searches and more options are available with other album art software programs.

Posted by Eric Fritz | Permalink

January 14, 2008

Browse and Embed Better Quality Album Covers Into iTunes

Art Collector 1.5, a free program for Mac, is a great way to find out which of your iTunes library's tracks are missing album art, to find and compare new cover options for quality, and then embed the new art into the ID3 tags of your song files. It also be set to search for lyrics if the song has none. If it finds lyrics it slips them into the ID3 tags also. It sports a very Mac-like multiple column display. Items that are highlighted pink are either missing album art or don't have the art embedded.

art collector mac app screenshot

Click on an album title to begin searching. The proposed artwork column will begin filling up with cover options. The pixel dimensions are shown for all image thumbnails, making it easy to decide if there is a better option than what you currently have. Drag and drop a cover from the "Proposed Artwork" column onto the album (or song) name. The art is embedded into the ID3 tags and iTunes automatically reflects the changes. As each song gets updated, its pink highlighting disappears. You can also remove the old cover art after upgrading. Just click to highlight the old cover from the "Current Artwork" column and choose "Delete Selected Artwork" from the "File" menu. Covers must be removed from songs individually.

I found Art Collector perfect for determining which of the 7000 or so tracks in my iTunes library did not have the cover art embedded. Clicking the "Hide Covered Tracks" button displayed only the albums I needed to repair. My iTunes had a cover file in most cases, but wasn't embedding it. I just dragged the cover from the "Current Artwork" column onto the album's name and it started embedding.

I'm not sure that development is continuing on this program, but it worked for me using Tiger OS. Art Collector comes with Menuet, a system preference that puts a tiny cover in the Mac menu bar. It has playback controls also. Both are charityware, so check it out.

Get Art Collector and Menuet

Posted by Eric Fritz | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 10, 2008

The Most Downloaded Yahoo! Widget for iTunes

iTunes Companion Yahoo Widget

Searches for album cover art for your current iTunes track at amazon.com and downloads it to your hard drive. The next time you play that track, it uses the image on your hard drive. You can also choose to save the art to iTunes

iTunes Companion is a highly customizable, highly functional iTunes remote which also searches for song lyrics. Lyrics are saved right into iTunes, so you can also see the lyrics on… your iPod.

This Yahoo! widget can also publish cover art and track info as an html page for a web server.

source: iTunes Companion Yahoo! Widget (Konfabulator)

Posted by Eric Fritz | Permalink | TrackBack

January 06, 2008

Embed Album Artwork Into iTunes Song Files: Free AppleScript

iTunes 7 stores downloaded album artwork in a separate folder, "Album Artwork" in ~/Music/iTunes, by default. The Embed Artwork AppleScript by Brian Webster will re-apply the artwork data to the selected track's files. It ensures that cover art is stored in the ID3 tags of each song file.

Embed Artwork iTunes Applescript

Very handy if you take your music files to work or move them to another computer. That's how many people prefer to keep their iTunes library. Still others like to have all their album art separate from the song files - for file size considerations, or in order to use cover art for other things. If that sounds like you, here's how to get album art out of iTunes.

Posted by Eric Fritz | Permalink

January 02, 2008

Best Free Album Art Desktop Display for iTunes Windows

CD Art Display works alongside your Windows music player, neatly displaying the current track's cover art in a stylish floating window on the desktop. It also sports playback controls and the ability to search for missing cover art and lyrics. Several viewer display options are available - all with nice reflection effects. In addition, user-created skins can be downloaded and created.

Free CD Art Display on Windows desktop

The display window can be moved anywhere on the desktop and can be set to float above all other windows. Volume is controlled with your mouse's scrollbar (when you hover over the cover). There is also a nice dissolve transition when the album art changes. Double click to open the song in your media player.

Pull up the lyrics window and CD Art Display will search for and display song lyrics, saving them to a folder on your hard drive. You can also easily search for missing album art though Amazon, Google and Discogs, but you must manually get the cover image from your browser to the program.

In the diagram I'm using albumart.org (read earlier post) to search for cover art. Simply drag the chosen image from browser window to desktop, then from desktop onto the display. iTunes also gets updated, so you can delete the file you just dragged to the desktop. Unfortunately the cover art does not get embedded in the actual song files.... but that's a future post.

search for and add album art to CD Art Display and iTunes

The program works with many popular music players - AlbumPlayer, Helium Music Manager, iTunes, Winamp (not Winamp lite), Windows Media Player, MediaMonkey, foobar2000 (with Winamp API Emulator plugin), MP3Toys, QMP and musikCube.

I think this is the best Windows iTunes display companion mainly because of how the 2 transparently work together: Rate a song or add missing album art in one program, the other reflects the change automatically. That helps to keep your iTunes music library organized and complete. It's also free, simple, looks pretty slick, works with many popular players, and it's skinnable for future display freshness.

One wish for v2 is some overall size control. I'd like to make the covers bigger when I'm working on another computer.

CD Art Display is for Windows XP/Vista and requires VB6 Runtimes. Version 2.0 is in limited beta (at the time of this writing).

CD Art Display download page

Some info sourced from FreewareGenius

Posted by Eric Fritz | Permalink

December 22, 2007

iTunes Album Art Cover Flow on your Desktop

Getting to your music without having to launch iTunes is handy. Doing it visually is a plus. Cover Stream is a new iTunes controller that puts Cover Flow view on your desktop in a stylish floating window.

Cover Flow View on Desktop

Like many of the album art tools, you can click to flip covers around and select individual tracks. Cover Stream also allows searches, access to your playlists, lets you assign hot keys for volume, pause, skip, hide etc. and it puts the current cover design in the dock (nice touch). Leopard is required and the full version is $14.95.

Cover Stream Flip For CD Tracks

cover stream docks album art icon

Cover Flow certainly has come a long way since it's early days as a somewhat obscure iTunes plug-in from a few inspired independent programmers. Quickly gaining poplarity, it utilized Apple's Core Graphics technology so well that Apple purchased the code, releasing it as one of the cover art features of iTunes 7. Now it's built right into the OS. This is the first external iTunes controller I've seen that uses the Cover Flow view.

Posted by Eric Fritz | Permalink

July 30, 2007

Make a Poster From Freed iTunes Album Art

Once your covers are free from iTunes, there are may possibilities for creating and displaying something that represents your music library. How about a poster? There are probably many programs that can do something similar, but I've got Photoshop and it's got Contact Sheet, which is just one solution.

contact-sheet-II.jpgIn Photoshop go to File>Automate>Contact Sheet. Once Contact Sheet loads, point the source to the folder that Album Art Extractor created, then choose your document size, number of rows and colums, and whether you want any spacing between the covers. Click OK and watch it go. IMPORTANT: You'll want to use Album Art Extractor to create a folder without thumbnails before using Contact Sheet, or else the thumbs will be on your poster too. Also, leave "Flatten All Layers" unchecked in Contact Sheet and you'll be able to set a background color and tweak any covers that don't line up perfectly. Contact Sheet won't force the covers into a perfect square, so some tweaking may be necessary. As mentioned, there are probably other programs tailor-made for this kind of thing, but this is an easy technique for Photoshop users. Contact Sheet has been a part of Photoshop since way before there was a Creative Suite, so even old PS versions should have it.

The quality of the poster will be only as good as the original cover art images in your iTunes. You may find higher resolution covers of your favorites and more at albumart.org.

So free your cover art files from the grip of iTunes' format. Then mash 'em up, script something, print something. I'm off to make a desktop wallpaper and maybe a cover design for a mix cd.

Posted by Eric Fritz | Permalink

July 17, 2007

Free Your iTunes Album Art!

free-your-itunes-album-art.jpgNow that iTunes can automatically retrieve album cover art, it's easier than ever to get cover designs INTO iTunes, but what if you want to get them all OUT? Maybe to create a collage display for your personal website? Or make a poster? iTunes doesn't make it easy for you to retrieve all those covers. But it can be done.

On a Mac, the cover design files are by default in a folder named "Album Art" (home folder>Music>iTunes>Album Art). Inside there you'll find a ton of nested folders. Digging down through each eventually brings you to a file with a .itc file extension. However, those files won't open in graphic design programs like Photoshop. Hmmm... well, there's always the option of copying and pasting the covers one by one from iTunes into a photo editing program, then saving them... uh, maybe not.

Enter Album Art Extractor, a beta program from SourceForge that extracts all the cover art files in your iTunes library and saves each one as a JPEG or PNG file in a new folder.

album-cover-poster.gifIt can also create an html/javascript web display of all your covers complete with thumbnails that continuously rotate new cover designs. Clicking on a thumb shows the cover full size in a new window. Check out the sample display we made. Album Art Extractor is currently Mac only and, as mentioned, is a beta program. Enjoy at your own risk!

Posted by Eric Fritz | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 11, 2007

Big Daddy of Album Art Search Sites

albumart-org-logo.pngHigh quality CD DVD cover art is a click away at albumart.org. Type in a title or artist, click search, then choose from the results. The site does its best to find large sized images. A quick search for the band "Weather Report" yielded 123 results, many of them 500x500 pixels. Domestic and international cover designs were included in the results. This is a good place to fill in the missing art from your digital music library, or enter an actor's name and see covers from their movies.

As iTunes continues to mature, resources like this may soon be on life support, but albumart.org often retrieves larger sized cover images that iTunes does.


Posted by Eric Fritz | Permalink