Adding Files to Your Library
Setting System Options
VisiTunes is a content-based MP3 playlist generator and jukebox. It uses the audio content of MP3 files to calculate a measure of similarity between songs, and uses this information to generate and play lists of songs determined to be similar to a seed song selected by the user. It can create playlist files in M3U format that can be played with any media player program, or it can be used as an automated jukebox, selecting and playing similar song files on the fly.
VisiTunes can be a great help if you want to select songs from your collection that match a certain style or type of music. It can perform this task automatically, saving the time and manual effort of searching for the right songs. You can use VisiTunes to select songs to copy to your MP3 player or PDA, to select songs to burn to a CD, or just pick a song and let it play in jukebox mode. Of course once VisiTunes makes its recommendations, you can still edit and fine tune the list to your liking. VisiTunes helps you dig deep into your music collection, bringing up songs you may have forgotten about, or making connections that might not occur to you.
The current version of VisiTunes, which is version 0.9.1, runs only under Windows (any version from 98 through XP) and works only with MP3 files. Future versions may support other file formats and other operating systems.
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Adding Files to Your Library
Before you can generate playlists with VisiTunes, you will need to add your music files to the VisiTunes library. During this process, Visitunes reads your music files and extracts and stores the audio frequency content that will be used to calculate similarity between songs. Other information, such as artist and title, and the full path name of the file, is also stored to identify the file. The first time you start VisiTunes, or anytime your library is empt yupon startup, a Configuration Wizard will launch to guide the process of adding files.
The process of extracting data from your audio files can be time consuming, and will depend on the speed of your computer and the number of files in your music collection. It may take from 5 to 10 seconds to process each song, or longer on an older, slower computer. A library of a few thousand songs could most likely be processed overnight. A library in the tens of thousands of songs could take several days to process. This is a one-time process, though it can be repeated as needed to add new songs (only the new songs need be processed, so the addition of new songs is a quick process).
To begin adding songs to your library, click the "Add" button near the top left of the main VisiTunes form, or choose "Add Files" from the File menu. A dialog box will ask you to supply the directory where your MP3 files are located. The directory selected, as well as all subdirectories, will be searched for MP3 files. You could also choose to search an entire drive, though it will be faster to select the location of your music files.
During the add process, a progress dialog will indicate the current status. A "Cancel" button on the progress allows you to stop the process at any time with no ill effects. Adding files can be done all at once or in multiple steps. When a new MP3 file is located (one not already added to the VisiTunes library), the artist and title are displayed and a progress bar shows how much of the file has been read and processed.
Once all MP3 files have been added, the final step in the add process is the recalculation of the average frequency values of the songs in the library. This only takes a few seconds for a library of a few thousand songs, but it can take a minute or more if the library size is in the tens of thousands. This process can be cancelled, but successful completion is required for VisiTunes to work properly. Part of the process of calculating similarity between songs involves knowing how a songs frequencies relate to the averages for the library. If this process is not completed at the time files are added, it will be run the next time the VisiTunes application is launched.
The MP3 files added to the VisiTunes library are displayed in a scrollable and searchable list in the center of the main form of the application. This display shows the artist, song and album for each song, as determined from the ID tag of the MP3 file. Also shown in the column labeled "Use" is an indicator of whether the song will be included in VisiTunes playlists. All new songs added will show a check mark, indicating their availability for inclusion in playlists. If you wish to exclude a song, that field can be edited by double-clicking on it, or by selecting the song by highlighting that row and toggling the Use value using the space bar. The total number of songs in the library is shown on the status bar at the bottom of the form.
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One use of VisiTunes is as a continuous play jukebox, starting with a user-selected song and calculating and playing in turn a series of songs determined to be similar to the most recent song played. To begin play in auto-play mode, be sure the "auto" box near the lower right of the screen is checked, select any song in the scrollable list of songs, and press the play button. You can use the search function (described here) to help find the song you want. The selected song will begin to play, and the auto-play status screen will be displayed. The auto-play status screen shows the current song being played, and the status of the selection of the song that will follow. As the library is searched for the best similarity match to the current son, a status bar indicates the percentage of the library read, and the best song found so far will be shown as "Up Next".
The Auto-Play Jukebox screen has two rows of buttons across the bottom of the form to access various functions, some to display information about the current playing song, some to navigate the player. The Detail and Viz buttons will display data about the playing song, these functions are explained in greater detail here. The Write button will pause playback and open a playlist screen of the songs the jukebox has played. This way you can save a playlist that you have generated in jukebox mode. The Set button displays the Playlist Parameters screen, which helps you determine which songs will be included. The Reject button will remove the Up Next song from consideration and move to the next song in similarity order.
The Play button will restart the current song. Pause will halt playback until another actions cuases it to restart. At any time in auto-play mode, the Next button will advance to the next selected song, The Prev button will replay the prior song played. The Quit button will end auto-play mode and return control to the main screen. The screen also shows a list of the songs played so far. Songs already played will not be repeated.
Other options are available in auto-play mode by checking the boxes just above the status bar. If the preview button is checked, the player will advance to the next song as soon as it has finished reading through the entire library, it will not wait until the current playing song is finished. If the opposite button is checked, VisiTunes will search for the song most unlike the song currently playing.
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The other primary use of VisiTunes is to generate a playlist based on a selected song. This playlist can be exported to be played in any media player application, or it can be used to copy the selected songs to a CD, a USB drive, a PDA, MP3 player or other device. To generate a playlist, simply select any song in the library. You can use the search function (described here) to find the song you want. Press the Playlist button at the upper right of the screen. While your library of MP3 files is being analyzed to find the most appropriate songs for the playlist (which could take from a few seconds to a few minutes) a progress dialog will be displayed. Upon completion, a new window will open containing the playlist song information.
From the Playlist screen, you can play individual songs to help determine if you want to keep them in your playlist. You can delete songs from the list. You can write the playlist to an M3U standard format playlist file which will be playable from your preferred media player, such as WinAmp, iTunes or Windows Media Player. Optionally, you can copy the MP3 files selected for your playlist to another location or device. This option lets you copy selected files to a USB drive, a writable CD or an external device. Whether you are creating a playlist file or copying files, the number of files included are determined by the playlist parameters currently selected. You can open the Options screen from the Playlist screen to review or set those parameters. A description of the available options can be found here. Close the Playlist screen to return to the main VisiTunes screen.
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Setting System Options
There are a number of options that can be adjusted to influence the way that similarity is calculated and which songs will be included in playlists. There is a parameter screen to set all of these options, that screen can be accessed from the Option menu of the main screen, and can also be accessed from the playlist screen.
The first set of options controls how many songs will be included in a playlist. This value can be set by number of songs, but total play time in minutes or by storage space. Use the radio controls for Count/Time/Size to pick which measure you wish to use and enter the desired value in the related space.
The seconds filter determines the minimum and maximum song length that will be considered for inclusion in a playlist. Checking/unchecking the box determines whether time filtering will be applied, the two spin controls set the minimum and maximum values that will be included when the filter is active.
The artist filter determines whether multiple songs by the same artist will be included in a playlist. The three options allow for no artist filtering, a playlist of a single artist, or no two songs by the same artist.
Boost parameters determine which frequencies are emphasized in the similarity analysis. Boost, if selected, can emphasize the lower frequency range, the higher frequency range, or can be set to automatically boost the frequencies that most distinctively define the selected song. The sliders for Boost and Random determine the amount of boost or the amount of randomness included in the similarity calculation. Experimenting with different boost types and depths, and including some random element will prevent repetitive playlists where the same songs always follow each other.
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Visitunes can also be used as a standard MP3 player playing songs in sequential or random order, though it lacks the richness features found in other media players. Select any song in the library and use the Play, Stop and other buttons to control play. Checking the Random box will activate the random play feature, otherwise songs will be played in the order displayed, by song within artist.
The Search function can help you find any song in your library. Enter any character string in the search box and use the Search button. The library display will scroll to the first song found that contains the search string anywhere in its artist or title. Subsequent clicks of the Search button will find the next song containing the search string.
This help file can be displayed from within VisiTunes by selecting the Help/Contents menu. Also available from the Help menu are an email support request, which will use your default email application to generate a message to email@example.com, and an error log, which displays problems VisiTunes has encountered with your MP3 library, such as missing or invalid ID tags or unplayable files.
There are also several screens available to display more detailed information about a selected MP3 file. These screen can be accessed by right clicking on the library screen or from the Song menu. The Display Details screen shows in addition to artist and title, the length of the song and the full path name where the song is located. The Display Visualization screen shows a simple summary of the frequencies found in this song relative to the library as a whole. This graphic display is shown in three parts. The gray area of the graph shows the overlap between this song and the library average. Red areas are frequencies where this song exceeds the library average and blue areas show frequencies that are less prevalent in this song than in the library average.
Selecting which songs in your library are eligible for inclusion in your playlists can be done by toggling the Use flag on a song by song basis, but there is also an option under the File menu to turn all the Use flags on. The Delete All option under the File menu will remove all the songs from your Visiunes library, which you may want to do if you have relocated your audio library and want to start over. This option will not remove any files from your system, it only removes the information about them from the VisiTunes database.
Finally, it is also possible to generate a playlist that represents the average of your collection. To do this, select the Song/Average Playlist menu. The playlist will select the songs that are closest to the average for your library as a whole.
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Troubleshooting and Tips
VisiTunes is a work in progress, and there are a handful of known problems that you may experience. First, keep in mind that at this time, VisiTunes can only read and play files in the MP3 format. If your music files are stored in another format, such as AAC or WMA, VisiTunes simply will not be able to work with your files.
Other common problems have to do with the quality of the MP3 files. If the ID tags in the files are missing, corrupted or incorrect, VisiTunes will not be able to display correct artist and title information. Any song without a valid ID tag will show up as artist and title "unknown". Also, there are some valid MP3 files which are simply unplayable by VisiTunes. This will be addressed in future releases, but for now do not be alarmed if you find files in your library that VisiTunes indicates are unplayable.
In order to prevent simultaneous activities that could potentially corrupt the VisiTunes databases, the activation of some functions lock out the ability to launch other functions. So during the process of adding files to your database, generating a playlist, or in auto-play jukebox mode, access to the main VisiTunes form is disabled. To regain access to the controls of the main screen, wait for the current process to end or use the Cancel or Quit buttons provided by the running function. Likewise, when accessing the Playlist screen from Jukebox mode, the Jukebox screen is disabled until the Playlist is closed.
It may be possible in the future to use the StreamZap remote control with VisiTunes, check http://www.naivesoft.com for news.
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