iTunes 8: Now lets you edit sort fields for multiple tracks

Posted by Pierre Igot in: iTunes
October 10th, 2008 • 9:00 am

Phew. Finally someone at Apple has come to his/her senses.

In iTunes 7.1 back in March 2007, Apple introduced a new promising feature that enabled you to apply new tags to your music tracks called “Sort Artist,” “Sort Album Artist,” etc. But for some reason they made it incredibly cumbersome to actually edit these fields.

See, if you wanted to edit the “sort” fields for an individual track, there was no problem. You could just bring up the track’s information dialog, switch to the “Sorting” tab, and then edit the fields.

But if your selection consisted of multiple tracks, then this was simply impossible. The (different) track information dialog that came up when the selection included more than one track did not have a “Sorting” tab at all. This meant that you could not change the contents of the sort fields for a selection of tracks in a single operation.

Instead, the only workaround was to select a single track, bring up the track information dialog, edit the sort fields for that track, then hope that changing the sort fields did not remove the track from your current iTunes view altogether (and therefore deselect it and force you to find it again manually by other means), and then right-click on the track to use one of the commands in the “Apply Sort Field” submenu. Eek!

It was completely insane and totally inconsistent with the rest of the iTunes tag editing experience. Yet we had to live with it for a year and a half.

Now finally, in iTunes 8, Apple has revised the interface, and the track information dialog you get when you bring it up for a selection of multiple tracks does include a “Sorting” tab, which means that you can easily make batch changes to your tracks.

This does not address all the problems associated with the sort fields, however. It remains painful to have to reapply the specific sort field values you want to associate with a specific artist name each and every time you add new tracks by that artist to your iTunes library.

For example, if you have tracks by “Aaron Neville” and you want them to be listed under “N” in the alphabetical list of artist names, you have to use the “Neville, Aaron” value in the “Sort Artist” field for all tracks by Aaron Neville.

In iTunes 8, you can now relatively easily apply this value to all existing tracks by Aaron Neville in your iTunes library.

But if next week you get a new album by Aaron Neville and import it using the CD track names automatically provided by GraceNote, the tags for the newly imported tracks will not include the appropriate sort field values, which means that for this new album you will again have a separate “Aaron Neville” entry under “A” in your alphabetical list of artists. After adding this new album to your library, you will need to select all the new tracks and reapply the “Neville, Aaron” value to their “Sort Artist” field.

Surely Apple should be able to come up with a way to automate these Artist Name / Sort Artist value associations, so that when you add new tracks by “Aaron Neville” to your library, the “Neville, Aaron” value gets automatically applied to these tracks’ “Sort Artist” fields.

Until then, managing your iTunes library’s sorting scheme will remain a bit of a pain, even though it is now less painful in iTunes 8 than it was in the previous version of the software.

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