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Edit ID3 tags on Linux and Windows with EasyTAG

Previously, we talked about ripping and encoding CDs; here, we'll cover how to make sure those files are properly tagged. We will do this using a program called EasyTAG.

First, however, what exactly is tagging? ID3 tags are small fragments of text stored within the MP3 file itself. These tags are what makes it possible for a music player or portable device to show the artist, album, song title and even the cover. All this information is stored inside the MP3. Without tags, you will see this:

With tags, you will see something else entirely.

Install EasyTAG

Download the Windows installer to install EasyTAG on Windows. EasyTAG is a powerful Linux application that labels MP3, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC and AAC files. To install it in Debian or Ubuntu (or their derivatives), just type the following in a Terminal window:

sudo apt-get install easytag

If you will use EasyTAG to edit AAC tags, you will need to install a version of the program with this command:

sudo apt-get install easytag-aac

Using EasyTAG to edit ID3 tags

Now that EasyTAG is installed, let's open it.

You will see a huge window, with a ton of different options that can be, to be honest, a little intimidating.

Let's take a look at some of the different parts of the interface, to try and learn what EasyTAG can do. As we do so, we hope its power becomes clear.

The first section we will highlight the file browser. Here where we navigate to the folder where our music to be tagged is stored.

Click on the folder in the file browser and in the next pane, you will see all the music files from that folder that EasyTAG can edit.

Some of these may be red. This means that EasyTAG has scanned them and found errors or is alerting you of the changes that need to be saved. Some files will be red for another reason; This is because the version of the ID3 standard that they use prior to the version used by EasyTAG and, since EasyTAG updates the "old" versions to the more recent ones, informs of this modification.

You can edit tag information for individual files or for all files at once (by clicking on a single song or highlighting all of them). When you do that, you will notice that certain information appears in a variety of fields in the tag pane, on the right.

In this image, some tags are already filled out. If it doesn't work, or if some information was incorrect, we could simply change it. In addition, each field has a small checkbox next to it. Once you fill in a field, by clicking on this box, EasyTAG indicates that the change must be applied to all the files currently highlighted. This is an excellent time saver when filling in Artist, Album, Year, Genre and other general information, but obviously it must not be used when filling in the Title field!

You will also notice a tab at the top of the image above, called Pictures. Click and you can add album covers to your MP3 files.

simply drag an image (downloaded from Google, Amazon or any other location where you can find the covers), in the window or select it by clicking on the plus sign at the bottom. To remove the cover already embedded in MP3, click the red X. Again, to apply it to all MP3 files in the same album, make sure all files are selected, add the cover art and click on the square checkbox.

Automatic modification of labels

There are two other ways (quick and fairly automatic) to edit tag information. First, you can have EasyTAG scan the metadata databases online.

With this feature, EasyTAG scans files and checks online databases for a match. You can also search manually, in case your file set doesn't appear. When you find the correct entry, press the Apply button and EasyTAG will fill in the fields for you.

The other great automated method for when your MP3 files are consistently named but tagged incorrectly. If you have a folder full of MP3 files all from the same album, logical that the folder has the same name as the album. And that folder could be inside another folder, using the artist's name. And the MP3 files themselves could be named with the track number and song title in the file name, like this:

01-Song_Title.mp3

In this case, choose the Fill Tag option from the Scanner menu and you will see this small window.

Just tell EasyTAG the pattern used by the files and folders and, based on this information (names of folders and files), fill in the correct tags according to the model. You can also do the opposite: assuming that your files are perfectly tagged but with inconsistent names, you can make EasyTAG rename your files based on tags.

There is much more that EasyTAG can do. a great program with many features (and a potentially heavy learning curve), but worth a lot more. If you are a Linux user who wants a powerful tool to tag your music, EasyTAG is one of the best, if not the best, tools.