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4.3. Ripping CDs into iTunes

Ripping a CD means "converting its recordings into digital files on the computer." (Too bad recording-industry executives didn't know that when they accused Apple's "Rip, Mix, Burn" ad campaign of promoting piracy, evidently equating "Rip" with "rip off.")

With the proper iTunes settings, ripping a CD track and preparing it for use with the iPod is fantastically easy. Here's how to go about it.

Transferring Your MusicMatch Library to iTunes

Okay, okay! This chapter has already convinced me to switch to iTunes, but I have thousands of songs in MusicMatch Jukebox already. How do I get them moved over to iTunes without missing a beat?

Fear not, gentle Windows friend. Moving your vast audio collection from one program to another can be painless, and you'll definitely have fewer backaches than if you were hefting around boxes of CDs or LPs.

If you haven't downloaded iTunes yet, do so. During the installation process the program asks whether you'd like to search for any music files to add to the iTunes music library. If you agree, iTunes automatically gathers up copies of all MP3 files on your PC.

If you've already downloaded iTunes but skipped the music roundup option, don't worry. Just launch iTunes and follow these steps.

First, open your My Music folder (or whatever folder you've set MusicMatch Jukebox to use for song storage). In its window, you see all of the subfolders that contain your music.

Position the My Music window so that you can see the iTunes program window—specifically, the Library icon on the Source list.

Now drag the songs out of the My Music window and onto the iTunes Library icon. iTunes adds the songs to its music library.

If you want to bring the playlists you made in MusicMatch into iTunes, choose File→Import (in iTunes) and navigate to your MusicMatch playlists. You can import any playlists in the .xml, .txt, and .m3u formats.

4.3.1. Phase 1: Choose an Audio File Format

Before you get rolling with ripping, decide which format you want to use for your music files: MP3, AAC, AIFF, or WAV.

To make your selection, choose iTunes→Preferences (Mac) or Edit→Preferences (Windows), click the Importing tab, and choose the format you want from the Import Using pop-up menu (see Figure 4-4).

Figure 4-4. The Importing Preferences box is where you tell iTunes which file format and bit rate it should use when ripping tracks from a CD. Turning on "Create files names with track number" arranges the songs you import in the same order in iTunes as they were on the CD—even if you don't choose to rip every song on the album.

Chapter 3 provides a detailed overview of these formats, and most people use either the familiar old MP3 (.mp3) format or the spunky new AAC (.a4u) encoding option. But here's a quick recap:

  • AIFF and WAV offer better sound quality than MP3 and AAC, but result in larger file sizes.

  • Both MP3 and AIFF offer good sound quality in the resulting files, but AAC usually creates files that are 30 to 40 percent smaller than an MP3 recorded at the same bit rate (Section 3.3).

Before you stack up the CDs next to the computer for an afternoon of ripping, you may want to test your format preferences by ripping test songs as both MP3 files and AAC files. Let your ears tell you which format and bit rate sounds best to you.

4.3.2. Phase 2: Download Song Names and Track Information

When you first insert a music CD into a Mac or PC, you may be disappointed to discover that to the computer, the album is named "Audio CD," and the songs on it are called "Track 1," "Track 2," and so on. It turns out that most audio CDs don't include any digital information about themselves. So if you don't do anything to solve the problem, after you've ripped, say, seven CDs into iTunes, you'll find that you have seven songs called Track 1, seven songs called Track 2, and so on—not the easiest way to organize your music.

There are two ways to remedy the problem: You can type the information in manually, or let iTunes go on the Internet to find out for itself. The manual method

After you load up a CD, you can type in all of the song information for each track. To do so, click the track's name once to highlight its row, and then a second time to open up the renaming box. Edit away.


You can edit the information in the Artist, Album, or Genre columns the same way.

You should consider this purely theoretical information, however; you'd be nuts to go about naming your CDs and tracks this way. Read on. The online way

If you have an Internet connection, choose iTunes→Preferences (or press -comma) on the Mac or Edit→Preferences (Ctrl+comma) in Windows. The Preferences dialog box opens. Make sure that the settings in the bottom half of the dialog box match Figure 4-5. This setup allows the computer to zip out the Internet to go get the specific song information for the CD you've just inserted.

Figure 4-5. The iTunes Preferences dialog box, shown here in both Mac and Windows, is where you give iTunes permission to go to the Internet to bring back CD information. You can also set the size of the program's display font for the Source and Song lists to either "Small" or "Large," and opt to show the Genre column in your iTunes browser window. Got a lot of CDs to rip but no time to burn? From the "On CD Insert" pop-up menu, choose "Import Sings and Eject" to make iTunes automatically snag the track names, rip the tunes, and hand the CD back to you.

Behind the scenes, it's consulting a massive, comprehensive CD Database (CDDB), maintained by a company called Gracenote (http://www.gracenote.com). After iTunes sends information from the disc to the Gracenote CDDB servers, the database identifies the album and sends back the song titles and other data for iTunes to display.


Firewall software may interfere with some iTunes functions, like downloading CD track information or listening to streaming Internet radio. If you're using iTunes on a network that uses an HTTP proxy (ask your administrator) for security reasons, check the settings in the Network pane of your Mac's System Preferences area or the LAN Settings section on the Connections tab in the Windows Internet Options control panel to make sure you have the information entered correctly.

If you don't have a high-speed Internet connection (cable modem or DSL), you may not want the computer constantly dialing up every time you insert a CD. In that case, turn off the "Connect to the Internet when needed" box. Instead, you may prefer to ask for the CD information when you're already connected to the Internet. Just choose Advanced→Get CD Track Names.

4.3.3. Phase 3: Convert the Song to a Digital Audio File

Once the songs on the CD have been identified, the song and artist names, time, and other information pops up in the main part of the window, as shown in Figure 4-4. Each song has a checkmark next to its name, indicating that iTunes will convert and copy it onto the computer when you click the Import button.

If you don't want the entire album—who wants anything from Don McLean's American Pie album besides the title track?—you can uncheck the boxes next to the songs that you don't want. Once you've picked your songs, click Import in the upper-right corner of the screen.


You can -click (Mac) or Ctrl-click (Windows) any box to deselect all checkboxes at once. To do the reverse, -click (or Ctrl-click) a box next to a list of unchecked songs to turn them all on again. This is a great technique when you want only one or two songs in the list; turn all checkboxes off, then turn those two back on again.

Another way to select a single song is to click it in the iTunes window and then choose Advanced→Convert Selection to MP3 (or whatever format you have chosen for importing). You can also use this menu item to convert songs that are already in your library to different audio formats.

As the import process starts, iTunes moves down the list of checked songs, ripping each one to a file in your Home→Music→iTunes→iTunes Music folder (Mac) or My Documents→My Music→iTunes→iTunes Music (Windows). Feel free to switch into other programs, answer email, surf the Web, and do other work while the ripping is under way.

Once the importing is finished, each imported song bears a green checkmark, and iTunes signals its success with a little melodious flourish. And now you have some brand new files in your iTunes music library.

Figure 4-6. When you click Import, iTunes converts the selected songs from the CD to MP3, AAC, AIFF, or WAV files on your hard drive (depending on what you've selected in Preferences). The status bar at top shows the song being imported, the amount of time left, and the speed of the conversion. Songs in progress sport a wavy line in an orange circle.

4.3.4. Phase 4: Add Cover Artwork

Songs you download from the iTunes Music Store (Chapter 6) often include artwork, usually a picture of the album cover. iTunes displays the pictures in the lower-left corner of its main window.

But you shouldn't have to be a slave to the artistic tastes of some faceless, monolithic record company; you can install any art you like for any song. If Pachelbel's Canon in D makes you think of puppies, you can have baby dachshund photos appear in the iTunes window every time you play that song.

The only stipulation is that the graphic you choose must be in a format that QuickTime can understand: JPEG format, GIF, PNG, TIFF, or Photoshop, for example. Just keep in mind that the bigger the image size, the bigger the overall file size of the audio file and the more hard drive space you fill up. Adding an image to an individual song: drag-and-drop method

To add an image file to a song you're listening to in iTunes, click the Show/Hide Song artwork button at the bottom of the iTunes window. The artwork pane appears. As shown in Figure 4-7, faint gray words appear in the pane, telling you exactly where to drag the image file. Just drag any graphics file right off of the desktop (or any other Finder folder) and into this space to install it there.

Figure 4-7. To copy a picture into the iTunes artwork pane, just drag it into the designated spot in the corner of the window (after you've selected the song you want to illustrate), as shown here before and after. You can also double-click any image that appears in this panel to view it in a separate window.


If you find an image on the Web that you love, right-click (or Control-click) it and choose Download Image to Disk to save it to your hard drive (the wording depends on your browser). Most browsers nowadays let you drag images off the Web page onto your desktop, too. Either way, you can drag the resulting graphic into the iTunes artwork pane. Adding an image to an individual song: dialog box method

Instead of dragging a graphic off your desktop, you may prefer to use the Get Info dialog box, where at least you can inspect the image before accepting it. Figure 4-8 shows the way.

Figure 4-8. Click a song and press -I (Mac) or Ctrl+I (Windows), or choose File→Get Info, and click the Artwork tab. Click the Add button to select a digital photo from your hard drive. You can use almost any kind of photo or image file with your music. If you like the result, click OK.


You can even install multiple graphics for an individual song. Just drag multiple images into the artwork pane; thereafter, you can click through them with the arrows at the top of the Selected Song bar. If you use the Get Info dialog box shown in Figure 4-8, you can click Add, and then -click (Mac) or Ctrl-click (Windows) the multiple graphics files to achieve the same result.

If you decide you want to get rid of any artwork or change what's attached to your songs, click the track and press -I (Ctrl+I). Click the Artwork tab, then click the art in the window. Click the Delete button to remove the image. Adding an image to an entire album

To select the same art for all the songs on an album (or by the same artist), saving yourself a little time, open the iTunes browser (Section 4.7.2) by clicking the eyeball icon at the top right of the screen. Click the name of an artist or album in the browser, and then press -I (Mac) or Ctrl+I (Windows) to open the Multiple Song Information box. (You'll see a worrisome alert box from iTunes, asking if you're sure about editing multiple items. Click Yes.)

In the Multiple Song Information dialog box (Figure 4-9), turn on the Artwork checkbox, and then double-click in the white area. In the window that opens, navigate to and select the image file you want to use for all the songs on the album, and then click OK. (Of course, you can also drag a graphic into this white box, right off your desktop.) You'll see a progress bar as iTunes applies the artwork and any other group settings you've chosen for the files.

Figure 4-9. The Multiple Song Information box can save a lot of time because it allows you to change information all at once for all the songs listed in the Artist, Album, or Genre categories. For example, you can assign the Equalizer's "Classical" preset to all your files in the Classical genre, add a picture of a yellow submarine to all of your Beatles tracks, or adjust the title of all the songs at once on a mislabeled album.

Click OK, confirm your decision one last time, and then enjoy the new album art.


On the Mac, you can apply the same image over and over again into all the songs in the same playlist. Visit http://malcolmadams.com/itunes and download a copy of the "Selected Artwork to All in Playlist" AppleScript. The next time you have an image that you want to associate with all the songs on a particular playlist, just fire up Doug's AppleScript (see Section 13.1.3).

Artwork Made Easy

If you have a scanner, the original CD, and a large amount of free time, you can scan in album cover artwork yourself.

Alas, life is too short already. If that scenario doesn't appeal to you, there are plenty of places around the Web to download pictures of album covers that have been previously scanned and are just hanging out for you to copy.

Amazon.com and http://AllMusic.com have comprehensive selections, as do most sites that sell CDs. That's still a lot of manual effort, though: looking up an album, Control-clicking or right-clicking its artwork, choosing Copy from the contextual menu, and finally pasting into iTunes.

Fortunately, a great little free Mac OS X program called Clutter can spare you even that effort. (You can download it from http://sprote.com/clutter.) After you launch Clutter while playing a song in iTunes, it recognizes the song and automatically downloads an image of the album cover from Amazon.com.

The program has a pretty good track record, so to speak, for finding pop and rock album covers, but more esoteric fare may come up blank.

The album cover art appears both in Clutter's Now Playing window and the Dock. You can also drag the image onto your desktop to create a sea of tiny, floating album-cover windows, as shown here. When you click a cover, iTunes jumps to that album and starts playing it.

Clutter stores the album images it uses on your hard drive, where you can snatch a copy for use in your iTunes artwork window. To find the images, go to Home→Library→Images→com.sprote.clutter→CDs and open the folder name of the artist you're looking for. Drag the JPEG file into the iTunes artwork pane to add the image to your song file.

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