Music Management in Linux: Using EasyTAG

If you’re like me and you love music, you probably have thousands upon thousands of songs in your library. It’s good to have choices, right? If I want to listen to Led Zeppelin, then I should have that option. If I’m more in the mood for some instrumental folk music like John Fahey, I should be able to play it wherever I’m at. Managing the filenames and ID3 tags of such a library, though, is anything but easy. Enter EasyTAG, literally easy tagging and renaming for your entire music collection.

The first question we should ask, however, is “Why EasyTAG?” Linux is not wanting as far as for music management tools. Why not use Cowbell, or one of the many other Linux tools? Well, that’s why you’re here, isn’t it? ;)

While Cowbell manages your music on a per-album basis, EasyTAG manages your music on a per-anything basis. You can manage anything from a single song to your entire music collection in one swoop. Cowbell is really only tailored to being a simple ID3 tag editor for your individual albums, while EasyTAG aims to be a full-blown, all-purpose tool for managing your entire music collection. It supports almost all ID3v2 tags, including the ability to embed images in your music files for album art. It supports MP3, MP2, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, MP4 files, and much more. It sports album and song information lookup using free web services. It also operates asynchronously and writing to files is only initiated after a user asks it to do so. Until then, changes are stored in a list of operations which EasyTAG will perform on saving the files to disk.

Let’s get started using EasyTAG real quick. We’re going to be using Ubuntu, but if you’re using any Debian-derivative, you should be able to follow the installation line-by-line. If you’re using another distro, check out EasyTAG’s website to download a package appropriate for your distribution. Here we go!

Let’s install EasyTAG. In a terminal, type in the following command:

sudo apt-get install easytag

(Or, if you’re lazy, click this link.) After it installs, you should have a new entry under Applications->Sound & Video called EasyTAG, like so:

Screenshot of Menu

Screenshot of the location of EasyTAG within the Ubuntu main menu

Go ahead and start EasyTAG and we’ll get you familiar using it in no time!

After you start EasyTAG, you’ll be presented with something like this:

Screenshot of the main window of EasyTAG

Screenshot of the EasyTAG home screen.

On the left, you have your file browser, in the middle, you’ll see all music files in the selected directory, eg:

When you select a directory, EasyTAG shows the files in the middle content pane.

And on the right, we have our tag-editing fields of glory. You may have noticed that next to each field is a small box. What this box does is, when clicked, it tags all of the selected files with the tag you have selected. For instance, if I wanted to change the album tag of this album, I would select all files in the middle that I wanted to edit, then make the change to the tag on the right, and then click the box next to the album name input. What this does is add the changes to the queue at the bottom. One of my favorite features is that EasyTAG never just “assumes” anything and never writes any changes to disk without explicitly being told to, as mentioned above.

After making that change, this is what my EasyTAG window looks like:

Now, EasyTAG has stored the operation you just performed to be executed later. Brilliant!

As you can see, it recorded the changes in the bar below. It also tried to automatically correct a file within the directory, which can be configured using the preferences. After editing your tags, you can click the save button in the top bar to write your changes to disk, as shown below:

The all-too-important "Save to Disk" button.

Click this button, and your changes will be written to disk.

Well, what about renaming files? For that, you’ll need to select the files you wish to change, then click the “Scan” button at the top of the screen:

The scan button for scanning, retagging, and renaming files.

This should pop up a new window allowing you to set a renaming filter to apply to the files. Make sure you select “Rename File and Directory” via the dropdown box, and then click the green icon next to the dropdown box.

The scan dialog box. Provides some interesting options for renaming and retagging the selected items.

After you’re done, hit close. Now, you should see that the changes propagated to the selected files in the status box below. When you’re all done, again click the “Save to Disk” button pictured above to write your changes to disk.

Though this is only a cursory introduction to EasyTAG, it’s easy to see how incredibly powerful this is. My music collection just hit the 4000-plus club the other day, with so many different files acquired over the years, following no rules as to file naming and tagging. Now, my entire collection has been renamed to follow the pattern pictured above “%n – %t” which is basically “TRACK_NUMBER – TRACK_TITLE,” so the third song of an album called “Billy Joe” will be renamed on disk to “03 – Billy Joe.mp3″. EasyTAG makes what is simple to do with one song simple to do with your entire library.

To be honest, we really haven’t even scratched the surface of what EasyTAG is capable of. EasyTAG simplifies the process for embedding cover art in each individual file as a tag, which is a huge plus for me. As mentioned before, it also provides a song-info lookup service for finding all of the tags for your songs and albums, removing yet another painful step in managing a large collection.

Due to my circumstances outside of my control, I’m using a Windows machine at work, and as far as filenames go, Windows and Linux are very different beasts. For example, a folder named “Lord of the Rings: The Return of The King” would work great on a Linux machine, but on a Windows machine, colons (“:”) are a no-go. Fortunately, EasyTAG automagically prevents these problems by adjusting filenames to be crossplatform. Another headache I didn’t have to endure.

As the reader can probably see, EasyTAG is a vital tool for anyone who manages a music library. Almost any collection can benefit from some organization, and why put it off when you can do it today? EasyTAG certainly makes a valid case for putting your collection back in order.

6 thoughts on “Music Management in Linux: Using EasyTAG

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