iTunes U and ID3 Tags

We are getting closer and closer with our iTunes U implementation here at PSU.  We are a little late with it all, but will have a nice sized pilot for the Fall semester.  As we discovered last Spring, faculty are very interested in being able to protect their podcasts so only their students can see/hear them.  I wonder how much of this is thinking based on the years of LMS/CMS utilization?  At any rate, iTunes U gives us the option of making content open to the world, closed to a specific class, and a few other options in between.  It should make for an interesting pilot.

One thing we are doing as we get ready to open the doors is collect existing content from all sorts of sounrces all over campus.  We are talking to both Colleges and Administrative Units to make sure our iTunes U space doesn’t open as an empty shell.  It is actually a very good process as it requires us to go out and touch all corners of the University in an effort to get the best digital media out there.  Pulling in content has posed an interesting challenge however …

What we are discovering is that iTunes U uses the ID3 meta data for naming once you have completed uploading a file.  This makes it a pain as very few people actually attach meta data to the file before they hand them to us.  So once they hit the iTunes U space they have ugly file names and we can’t alter meta data once it is in there.  This has created an extra step in the process that is annoying to say the least — it requires us t obounce out of iTunes U, then import the files into iTunes itself to first add meta data, then locating the edited version, then renaming it, then returning to iTunes U, then going through the iTunes U form based upload process … it isn’t fun.

So, the big question I have is what is the best way to edit these tags without using iTunes?  Are there tools people are using to do this?

iTunes U List

8 thoughts on “iTunes U and ID3 Tags

  1. So what does this mean for the slick Podcasts at Penn State environment your group has developed (is developing)? Will you migrate the content to iTunes U? Host in both spots? Or do you really see them as separate initiatives?

  2. Hi Cole,

    You could look at something like

    It provides a command line tool for reading/setting iTunes meta data. I am not sure how sophisticated you would like to get, but say you have a group of files with a similar foundation (all of these files are from Psych 101 – Fall 2005, taught by XX) for example; you could script part of the process without needing to touch iTunes.

    You could get a bit fancier too if you wanted to build an AppleScript processor application to help facilitate the process.

    It’s a good problem to solve. If we could dedicate any resources to it in the short term, we would, but our focus has to stay on ProfCast’s core for a bit.

    David Chmura
    Humble Daisy, Inc
    Makers of ProfCast

  3. Hi Cole,

    You could use a tool like

    It is a command line tool for applying iTunes meta data to files. You could script it in fairly sophisticated ways (ie: if you have a bunch of files that you know are all from Psych 101 – Fall 2004 – taught by XXX, you could run them in a batch.)

    It’s a good problem to solve! We would build something ourselves, but we need to keep our focus on ProfCast’s core development right now.

    David Chmura
    Humble Daisy, Inc
    Makers of ProfCast

  4. I downloaded ID3 Editor, but it told me I was already past the 30 day trial date. So far, no good.

    Tried Atomic Parsley next. No problems there, worked like a charm (thanks, David!). It ain’t for command line novices, but maybe ID3 Editor works once you give the developers $.

    All good for movies, now I want metadata on my PDFs (always asking for more). According to Apple Education, iTunes doesn’t support this (see page 4). But that has to be wrong, since I’m looking at David Gilmour’s PDF sheet that accompanies his On an Island album. And I can even modify the metadata.

    I tried adding PDFs into my iTunes lib, tweaking the metadata, then uploading. No go…I get a nicer title, but other fields don’t appear in iTunesU. Gave up after trying different approaches. Any thoughts on this would be much appreciated.

    The right answer is simply to get back the ability to edit ID3 fields once a file is uploaded into iTunesU. Apple does this…can they give us whatever they use?

    The upside is that the system generates a group for class content automatically, so it’s easy to find downloaded files in a packed music library (and I’m guessing mine is small compared to my students’ collections).

  5. Good point … meta data on a PDF is critical. If I am going to use this as a place to share content it has to be clear and make sense to my students from the second they show up … macdaddy_b, no sense making needed — just easy is what I want and need/

  6. As the site administrator of iTunes U you can use the Track Preferences settings to create site-wide policy for meta-data which will allow you to make sure that meta-data gets populated for tracks where it is missing (or override it, if needed). These settings work across your entire site and don’t require you to re-upload the file.

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