Edit ID3 tags in Linux and Windows with EasyTAG

Earlier we talked about ripping and encoding CDs; here we discuss how to make sure those files are tagged correctly. We do this with a program called EasyTAG

But first, what exactly is tagging? ID3 tags are small bits of text stored in the MP3 file itself. These tags allow a music player or portable device to show you the artist, album, song title, and even the album art. All that information is stored in the MP3. Without tags you will see this:

You see something completely different with tags.

MP3 with tags

Install EasyTAG

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

sudo apt-get install easytag

If you are going to 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.

Open EasyTAG

You’ll see a huge window, with a bunch of different options that, to be honest, can be a little intimidating.

EasyTAG Main Window

Let’s take a look at some of the different parts of the interface, to try and discover what EasyTAG can do. As we do this, hopefully its power will become apparent.

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

Navigate to music folder

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

Track window

Some of these may be red. This means that EasyTAG has scanned them and found errors or warns you of changes that need to be saved. Some files will be red for another reason; this is because the version of the ID3 standard they use is older than the one EasyTAG uses, and since EasyTAG updates all the “old” versions to the newest, it informs you of that change.

You can edit the tag information for individual files or for all files at once (by clicking on an individual number or by highlighting all of them). When you do that, you’ll notice that certain information is displayed in several fields in the tag panel on the right.

tag window

In this image, some tags are already filled in. If not, or if certain information is incorrect, we can simply change it. Each field also has a small checkbox next to it. After filling in a field, you can click this box to tell EasyTAG that the change should apply to all currently marked files. This saves a lot of time when filling in the artist, album, year, genre and other general information, but of course should not be used when filling in the title field!

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

Image tag panel

Simply drag an image (downloaded from Google Image Search, Amazon, or anywhere else you can find album art) onto the window or select it by clicking the plus sign at the bottom. To remove cover art already embedded in the MP3, click the red X. Again, to apply this to all MP3 files of the same album, make sure all your files are selected, add the cover art and click then click the small square checkbox.

Automatic tag editing

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

Search CD database

With this feature, EasyTAG scans your files and checks online databases for a match. You can also search manually, in case your file set is not listed. When you have found the correct entry, press the Apply button and EasyTAG will fill in the fields for you.

The other automated method is great for when your MP3 files are consistently named but incorrectly tagged. If you have a folder full of MP3 files that are all from the same album, it makes sense to name the folder the same as the album. And that folder can be in another folder, with the name of the artist. And the MP3 files themselves can be named with the track number and the song title in the file name, like this:

01-Song_Title.mp3

If so, choose the Fill Tag(s) option from the Scanner menu and you will see this small window.

Scan tag and file name

Just tell EasyTAG what pattern your files and folders are using, and based on that information (folder and file names) it will populate the appropriate tags based on the pattern. You can also do the opposite: assuming your files are tagged perfectly but have an inconsistent name, you can let EasyTAG rename your files based on the tags.

There is much more that EasyTAG can do. It’s a big program with lots of features (and a potentially steep learning curve), but it’s well worth it. If you are a Linux user who wants a powerful tool to tag your music, EasyTAG is one of the best tools, if not the best.

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