Review #3: Music Collection (Windows)

Tested on: Windows

According to MediaMonkey, I currently have 2764 music files on my laptop, 194 hours, 17 minutes, and 5 seconds in length if combined, from 371 artists, spanning 277 albums, 56 genres, and 32 years, and 21.3 GB in size. I somehow managed to collect that many music tracks in only 4 years (since I first got internet connection in my home). I downloaded most of them from the internet, and ripped a small minority of them from my CD collection.

Talking about my CD collection – I have 47 of them, and 21 cassettes too. Some of them used to be my parents’, or my uncle’s. I don’t listen to them often, though.

I don’t consider myself a music collector or something, but I always try to have my music files’ ID3 tag values complete, or at least just fill the track name, artist, albums, genres, and cover art. You can do it with apps like Mp3tag (for Windows) or Puddletag (for Linux). This way, your music files will be organised nicely on your music player app, no matter what your music player of choice is (except if you use a folder-based one, of course) , and you don’t have to dig through your folders. Also, cover arts are nice to look at.

I was searching for an app that works like an iPod manager, but works for other portable music players (still haven’t found it) last week when somehow I came across this app.

Music Collection is an app that, of course, will help you to make a collection of your music, no matter what their formats are, so they’re neatly organised and it would be easy for you to find an album or a track in your (presumably) wide collection.

The application is tiny, and fortunately for me, there’s a portable version. The app has made a sample collection of a few albums:

 

But I’m going to use my own collection for this review. Click on ‘New’ to create a new collection file, which is actually a Microsoft Access database (.mdb) file. Save it wherever you want, and you’re free to add your albums. There are several ways of doing it:

 

Adding Your Albums

Since most of my music are on mp3 files, the easiest way to do it is by ‘adding the audio album’. This way, you can choose a music file of an album stored on your hard disk, and the app will read the ID3 tag of the file, along with other files on the same folder with the matching album. I know this because I’ve tried to add a file which was stored along with other files from different artists and albums in a folder, and instead of adding all the files on the album, it only added the file I was choosing.

 

Then it would ask you what’s the album type and the artist’s role, because the app handles different album types and artist roles differently.

The difference between Non-classical and Classical albums is that you could only select ‘Composer’ as an album artist role when you have a Classical music album, and the difference between performer and group is that when sorted, the performers’ name would be displayed by their surnames first. Since group names are not based on first names and surnames, it would be displayed just like it is.

If you already have the cover art embedded on the file, when you click ‘Next’ it would be shown on the album’s thumbnails:

 

The advantage of using this method is that you won’t need any internet connection to get information of the files, and if your files are neatly arranged and tagged correctly, it won’t take very long to catalogue your entire (digital) collection.

But I noticed something weird after adding several albums by audio files. The app would not add albums that has numbers for its titles. For example, in my music library, it rejected 311’s self-titled album and Moby’s ’18’. It would add albums that has numbers somewhere on its title, but it would omit the number. For example, this was how it added ‘Music for TV Dinners – The ’50s’, and how it looked like after I fixed it (by editing the title and adding a cover image):

If you want to add your physical albums, you can search for the album on the internet, using information from music databases. Click on ‘Add album – web search’, and type in the artist’s name and the album title, and if you want it, the barcode:

By searching using barcode you’ll get the same version as the one you’re holding in your hand, but you might not find the album you’re looking for.

 

But if you search for the artist name/record title, it would show you the albums in all versions it could find. :

The app offered database searches on Discogs and Amazon (although it’s listed as MusicBrainz-Amazon, the database search seems to only include Amazon results.Which is a shame, since MusicBrainz is a huge music database). Double-clicking on the album would show you the cover art and the track list, which you could review and add. To get the closest version of your album, scroll to the left of the search result and it would show the release country (pick your country/the closest to yours).

But whenever I double-click on an album, the album type/artist role dialogue would pop out, although you’ve confirmed those things when you double-clicked on the previous album on the search result. That’s quite annoying, since it’s likely that you would get the right album after looking through several albums’ tracklists. You can set the dialogue not to appear on the Settings menu, though. Also, the album search dialogue went unresponsive at times, especially when I’m trying to close it. And this message sometimes popped when I double-clicked on an album. I somehow found it amusing:

I got it – maybe they meant ‘Connection Closed Unexpectedly’. There’s no info on the developers’ website about where do they come from, but I guess that English is not their first language.

The third way on entering your music into your collection is to pop it onto the CD drive of your computer. It is said that the app can detect audio CDs and add information from CD text or search the information of the CD on CDDB. Unfortunately, I don’t have any CD drive, both on my laptop or a portable one, so I can’t test this feature.

If you can’t find your albums on any of the included database, you could do nothing but add the information manually by clicking ‘Add album’.

To add an album, you must add the artist/group/composer name, album title, and genre, or the app won’t let you save it. The other tabs will let you add more details like performers, credits, tracks, lyrics, album cover (if it’s not embedded on your music file), and many more. This dialogue will also appear when you edit the properties of an album.

You can search for album covers on the internet by clicking ‘Search in Google’ on the Album cover tab. But instead of opening its own window, gmusicbrowser-style, like I expected, it would open up your default browser and search for the cover via Google images. Although it has quite specific keyword (album name followed by artist name) it only searches for images 160×160 px and less. I rarely found the right cover image that has this size (mostly logos and avatars); I needed to search for a bigger size to get the right cover image, usually 300×300 to 400×400 px.

Organising Your Collection

After a few hours, I’ve managed to add all of my music files, CDs, and cassettes (except some of them which were not found on the
databases, and I’m too lazy to add them manually). By default it would show a grid of album covers:

musiccol.png

You can switch between 4 views using the buttons on the right side of the bottom toolbar.

views.png

You can choose to view your music collection by the album grid, by the tracks, on a table, or one album at a time. By choosing the last
view you can also view the lyrics of songs (If you’ve added them):

lyrics.png

I prefer viewing my music collection as album cover grids, of course.

You can filter your collection using the pane on the right, and choose what it filters by the dropdown menu above it.

filter.png

filterartist.png

musiccol.png

Want to search for something? Instead of a unified search, there are two kinds of search tools: album search and track search. Here are
what they looks like:

albumsearch.png

tracksearch.png

The search tools were far from pretty, but they did their job well.

Statistics, Reports, and Exports

After a while, you would wonder how many albums do you have in your collection. The app could show you information about your collection
in many ways.

There’s a Statistic option on the Tools menu:

collectdata.png

You might notice that the amount of album in my collection according to this app differs from the amount of them according to
MediaMonkey, on the beginning of this review. Well, I only count albums (with all the tracks) and EPs.

You can also pick a category, and the app would show you a chart and table about that category:

chart.png

stattable.png

From the same menu you could also generate a report of your collection, with customizable columns:

report.png

You could also export your collection to html, xls, csv, and txt files:

export.png

html.png

xlsx.png

I haven’t told you much about the app’s settings: there’s nothing special about it (besides that you could set the app not
to ask about album role/artist type every time you add an album), but the app has various skins available:

skins.png

There are 30 skins available (I peeked at the app’s skins folder). Some of them are really nice-looking, but I noticed that the app runs
slightly slower than usual, and in my laptop, its memory consumption jumps from 20 to 29 MBs, so I’ll stick to using no skin.

Conclusion

I like this app. This app could satisfy my sometimes-obsessive need to organize everything in my collection (that’s why I uses
Calibre, Goodreads, and all those mp3 tagging tools),
in this case, my music.

I’ve tried some other cataloguing apps before, and there were usually two ways to add an album: either manually or by searching for
it on the internet. This app could add albums either way, also by entering a CD and adding audio files. The ability to add albums by
audio files is an amazing feature, and it’s what sets this app apart from other cataloguing apps. And once you have added an album,
you can add many information to it. I also like this app’s ability to create reports and export files, although I haven’t see
its use in real life. To brag to my friends about my wide music collection, I guess.

But this app has some quirks. None of them affects the usability of the app, but when I tested this app I wondered why did the
developers overlook such things. The app seems to hate audio files that has numbers for their album titles, omitting the numbers or
straight-up refusing to add them. I can add them by searching on the internet, but it’s a shame that the search didn’t include
MusicBrainz search results, since MusicBrainz has a wide archive of albums. Discogs is a great music database; it has a wide archive and
lists of versions for each albums, but it doesn’t always have the data for – in my case – Jazz and foreign albums. Amazon is pretty
good, especially for searching for barcodes of albums, but it annoyed me that sometimes the search result didn’t contain the
tracklists of the albums. There are also a few typos throughout the interface (‘croup’ instead of ‘group’, ‘Look
&& Feel’ instead of ‘Look & Feel’, and that badly worded ‘connection closed gracefully’ message) that
are quite distracting.

Looking at the changelog on this app’s
website, this app has been around since 2011 (the first release was version 1.2) and it seems to be updated regularly, at least once
every 3 months. I hope they keep on updating this app, or at maybe read this review so they would be able to fix and polish this great,
but imperfect app.

Pros:

  • Ability to add albums by its audio file
  • Ability to switch between album/track view modes
  • Advanced search tool
  • Create customizable reports and export collection in a variety of filetypes
  • Simplistic interface

Cons:

  • Search dialogue often hangs
  • Inability to add albums by audio files that has numbers for title
  • No MusicBrainz support

Suggestions:

  • Ability to bulk add (adding albums by multiple folders)
  • Ability to bulk edit album properties
  • Change the appearance of the search tools to fit the rest of the app
  • Search for album arts online by the app’s own window, instead of opening a web browser

Rating: 8.0/10

Get Music Collection from here.

Now listening to: Weightless by Marconi Union

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