When you buy a CD, you get not just the audio files, but a package consisting also of the album artwork and liner notes (often the lyrics, too)—not to mention something you can hold in your hand, which is a quality sorely lacking in the digital music world. While this hack won't have you turning over your monitor in your hands like a CD jewel case, it will inject some of that visual appeal into your iTunes collection.
The latest version of iTunes incorporates cover artwork into its interface. If you purchase a song from the iTunes Music Store, this artwork is downloaded for you right along with your AAC tracks. To view the album cover, just click the Show/Hide Song Artwork icon, as shown in Figure 4-21.
In all likelihood, though, you've not repurchased all your CDs as AACs from the iTunes Music Store. You're more likely to have ripped some portion of your collection to MP3s/AAC files, CD by CD [Hack #55] . While iTunes does gather and fill in the CD metadata for each track/album from the CDDB for you, it doesn't take the extra step of grabbing the album covers. That, I'm afraid, is left to you.
If you want to go the manual route, visit Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com) or Allmusic (http://www.allmusic.com) —a fantastic source for information on music—search for your album, and drag the album artwork from your web browser to iTunes's song artwork pane. iTunes copies the artwork, and it will appear whenever you are browsing or listening to that album. Make sure you have all the songs associated with that album selected in iTunes, though, or the album artwork will be associated only with the single track you have highlighted.
Don't break out in a cold sweat wondering how you are going to find the time to search for all the album artwork in your collection; there are some nifty tools out there for both Macintosh and Windows that make easy work of automating this unenviable task.
On the Mac side, iTunes Catalog (http://www.kavasoft.com/iTunesCatalog; $9.99; limited trial version available) is a fantastic tool. Not only can you use it to import all your album artwork into iTunes, but it also comes in handy when you're creating a web page for your iTunes library [Hack #63] . In one fell swoop, iTunes Catalog grabs the artwork for all the albums in your library from Amazon and import it into iTunes. Now, that's service!
The limited trial version gives you a chance to evaluate the software, limiting you to artists starting with the letters A–E.
When you launch iTunes Catalog, it opens your iTunes library. Select Artwork → Copy All Artwork to iTunes to have iTunes Catalog download cover art for all of the albums in your library, drop the artwork files into iTunes, and associate them with the appropriate tracks from each album. Depending on the size of your library this can take quite a bit of time, but it is well worth the wait. The next time you open iTunes, all the artwork that iTunes Catalog could find on Amazon shows up as if by magic—or at least as if you'd bought the tracks from the iTunes Music Store.
Should you come across some music in your library for which Amazon doesn't have artwork, try finding the covers on Allmusic (http://www.allmusic.com) and (gasp!) manually adding the artwork. Another good source is Google's Image Search (http://images.google.com;) just Google, drag, drop, and repeat as necessary.
On the Windows side, life isn't quite as convenient, but some help is avail-able. Launch Internet Explorer and browse to art4iTunes.com (http://www.art4itunes.com).
Then, go back to iTunes and select File → Export File List, as shown in Figure 4-22. From the Save As Type drop-down menu, select Plain Text.
Now, go back to art4iTunes.com in IE. Click the Choose File button and browse to the song list you just exported from iTunes, as shown in Figure 4-23. Click the Send File button to send your song list to art4iTunes.com. It'll take a few minutes as art4iTunes.com goes about collecting your album artwork for you; it actually uses Amazon.com in the background.
Once art4itunes.com is done, it opens a browser window listing all of your albums and tracks, along with cover artwork, where available. Getting the artwork from IE into iTunes is, I'm afraid, a manual process. However, it's a simple (if repetitive) task. Select an album or all its tracks in iTunes, switch to IE, and drag the artwork to the cover art pane in iTunes, as shown in Figure 4-24. Repeat as necessary.
Mac users should be sure to check out Clutter [Hack #56] (http://www.sprote.com/clutter/; free), Playalong (http://www.geocities.com/suitts/sw/playalong. html; free), and OnDeck (http://holocore.com; free). Clutter places album covers on your desktop. You can organize them any way you want. To play an album, just double-click on a cover.
Playalong places a small window on your desktop that shows the album cover for the current song playing, as well as its My Rating score and a link to buy the album from Amazon.com.
OnDeck displays your album cover in a Finder window and allows you to adjust the opacity of the window—thanks to the power of Quartz. If you don't want OnDeck's window to dominate the desktop, simply scale back the opacity. If you haven't been a good boy or girl and followed the first part of this hack, OnDeck will even go out and download the artwork for you.
On the Windows side, unfortunately, there currently aren't any such utilities available.