I have a bit of an OCD streak at times. That has spilled over into organizing my library and getting it to display properly on the device itself. Here are few tips for organization and verification of your library.
Organizing your library on your hard drive is important and should go without saying. Still, making my living as a software developer always keeps organization in the forefront for me. Still, you should spend some time making sure files are stored where and how you like to make using the Zune software go a bit easier. By no means does one have to organize this way but you may find something useful in my methods.
First, pick a central location for your various types of files. I separate my content into the following:
I no longer have separate directories by genre. However, I do follow an Artist/Album/Tracks structure. Much of the other organization can be performed using the tags for each file.
I monitor all of the library directories but have some control in that there is a special Video and Pictures directory set up for the Zune library. Normally, I will rip to an unmonitored directory and then move files over when ready to bring them into my library.
Using a tool like Magic File Renamer can help in organizing the tags but there are many other tools one can use. The important thing would be being able to batch process so that you can rename or retag large groups of files at one time. A tool that can also use the tag information to build a filename is also useful. I have chosen to store my music in the following filename format:
I chose this format simply because the other information is in the tag -- personal preference really.
Next comes the organization in the Zune software itself. One of the things you may have noticed is that when viewing by Artist or by Album on the device, songs show up as not grouped into an album even though they have the same album title. The browser on the Zune itself as well as the Zune software will parse (or read) the tags and determine how the content is displayed. For that reason, files that should be grouped must have similar tagging. The usual suspects are:
- Contributing Artist
- Album Art
To properly group tracks into an Album, the tags should match exactly on the following:
- Album Title
- Contributing Artist (when possible)
Albums that really buck the trend are compilation discs (ex. Best of the 70's) and Soundtracks. Typically, with these I set the artist to Various Artist for the Album and make sure the Contributing Artist has the correct Artist information.
All of this so far is pretty basic but what do you do when it appears everything is tagged correctly but it is not displaying correctly? This is where my OCD really kicks in. There are several different views you can use to troubleshoot anomalies in the way your content is displayed. However, I usually start by looking at how it appears on the device. Rather than unplug the device, I will use the navigation tree to browse the contents. This should be a fairly accurate representation of how it will appear when it is in your hand.
My first cut will be a view by Album. Selecting the Album link displays all of the covers and will quickly show you if a single album is showing up as a multiple album. This is evident because it looks like more than one album cover stacked on another. Use the Search box to isolate just the album(s) you want and then double-click on them to view the tracks. Most likely, you will have two entries. Go back to your Library, and perform the same search and view the tracks in the library. Change the Album, Artist, Year, and Genre tags to match and the tracks should be merged into one album. If they are not, time to go to phase two.
Change the display from Icon to detail so the album art is gone. Then use Customize Columns and ensure that Contributing Artist, Year, Genre, and Album are visible. For tracks that don't have the correct information, make your changes. Once you have made all of the changes, perform a quick sync. You can now go back to navigation and view your device and ensure that the changes synched over.
Once you have looked at your device by Album, you may want to now correct all of the Artist information. By that, I mean some songs may be tagged Beatles while others are The Beatles. This can easily be seen when viewing detail by Artist. Make your changes and sync again. You should be able to browse the device using the Navigation tree and see your changes.
My next little bit of OCD comes in with Genres. If you view by Genre, you may see tracks you want to consolidate. You may also want to get rid of the Unknown genre. Typically, I will merge Rap with Rap/R&B, Heavy Metal with Hard Rock, etc. This is mostly for when listening by genre. You don't end up with the odd symphony not being on the playlist because it is Easy Listening and not Classical. You also don't want to end up with Pods, Podcasts, Podcast, and Webcasts strung out over different genres.
You may also want to take a look at sorting by Year. Although I don't research the year of every track, typically I don't like Unknown showing up when sorted.
As with all of these, you can select multiple tracks and Edit Tag Info to make mass changes. Occasionally, these changes don't seem to be saved and you may need to edit individual tags for individual songs. In each case, syncing and browsing the device in the navigation window will give you an idea of how it will be displayed on the Zune.
Using the Find Album Info feature is useful but is not always foolproof. At times, tracks will not be matched or the tagging doesn't quite fit. I have seen on more than one occasion 10 tracks on an album with genre A while one track has genre B. If you right-lick on the album and select Find Album Info, it will try to match all of the songs. If it is having a problem finding the songs, you may also Find Info for each song individually. This has yielded results in quite a few cases for me. Once the Album info has been updated, you may want to use the previously mentioned steps to make sure all of the tagging is in order.
Amazon.com is your friend when it comes to Album Art. Normally, once I have added a new album, I will give it a few minutes to let the software try to find information. I may hurry that along by clicking the album cover and Find Album Info. If art doesn't show up, I'll do an Amazon search and find the cover. Right-click on the picture of the cover and select copy. Go to the Zune software and right-click on the blank album cover and Paste Album Art. All tracks will be updated with album art.
If you still find tracks that appear to have all of the tagging in order but still show up as multiple albums when they are not, you may want to Edit Tag Info, click the pictures tab, and for each track delete anything that is found. Normally, your pasted album art will not be deleted and this may fix the problem. Shortly after I purchased my Zune, I had more than a few tracks for which I had added multiple pictures and that seemed to throw off the sorting.
I would not try to do all of this at once. I had considered my collection fairly organized but ended up spending an hour or two over the course of a week to get the library itself organized. If you do much of the validation when you add new tracks, it will make things go much more smoothly.
Keeping the tags organized will also be helpful in making playlists. Rather than search for particular artists for my Alternative list, I simply pick songs from that genre. I can do the same when building an oldies list and simply sort by year (not as useful for re-pressings and re-releases though).
As you are using the Zune and you see things out of place, use the Flag feature to mark a file so you can take a look at it later. While the file is playing, press the center button and select Flag. The file will then show up in your Inbox. When you get home to sync, view the files in your Inbox, correct whatever tags may be incorrect, remove them from the Inbox and re-sync.
One thing that happens from time to time is a file is not flagged to be re-synced. In this case, you may get a file tagged one way in the library and a different way on your device. I will usually do one of the following to correct this.
- Change a tag to something completely different (like year or Artist) and sync. Change the tag back and re-sync.
- Delete from the device using the navigation in the software. Go to Sync Results and flag that file to be synched. Re-sync and check the file.
- Completely remove file from device and library. Sync. Add file back to library and re-sync.
This will be a lot of work at the start but makes maintaining the library quite easy going forward.