If Bento Could Import the Contents of an iTunes Library…

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A reader sent me an e-mail asking if Bento, FileMaker’s “simple” database tool, could read and import an iTunes library. It can’t, unfortunately, but if it could, it would be a very useful way for people to examine and organize a library. Not only would it be practical to view a music library in Bento, but given that the program offers a number of search options, users with large libraries would be able to search and sort in different ways.

In addition, record collectors who still buy those plastic and vinyl discs could take it with them on an iPhone or iPad when they visit record stores to know what they have and what they don’t. One of the features Bento touts is the use of the program to organize collections, and this would fit in perfectly. (The company has many user-created templates available for download, and there are a lot of templates for managing collections.)

All Bento would need to do is to be able to parse the iTunes Library.xml file, which is quite simple, and be able to create individual records with the information they contain. Adding album art would be a bit more complicated, but this should be possible as well.

While the number of people interested in this may be limited, I’m sure there are still a lot of people who would benefit from this ability. I get occasional e-mails from people who organize lots of sound files in iTunes – sound effects, sermons and others – for whom these advanced sorting and searching features would be a big help.

Update: There is a way. See Doug’s comment below.

9 replies
  1. Miguel Marcos says:

    Is the iTunes xml file simple? I never really took a long look but what I saw didn’t look very friendly!

    • kirk says:

      It looks complicated to a human, but for a database, it’s the opposite. It’s so well defined that it makes it easy to import.

  2. Doug Adams says:

    Select the “Music” playlist. Go to iTunes > File > Library > Export Playlist… . Choose “Plain text” from the Format popup and export. Change the “.txt” extension of the resulting file to “.csv”. Create a new blank library in Bento. Import the “Music.csv” file.

  3. Jerry says:

    I guess one would also want a way to synchronise changes bi-directional. And better yet an integration with Discogs.com (for both iTunes and Bento) with possibility of always overriding data imported and adding data manually. Then I am sure there would be a market.

  4. Des Dougan says:

    Great idea, Kirk. I’d love to see additional fields in iTunes to allow information like the date of purchase to be saved with the album information.

  5. John C says:

    Hey, Kirkville. Thanks for alerting me to these responses. I suggested this option (opening the actual iTunes library, not an export) to Apple in a forum years ago. The best response i could get was this export answer. This is not useful to me. Being able to see the library as a database would greatly benefit me to manage my 15,000 songs, many of which are classical. I don’t want to move the files around, but to manage the names, categories, genres, and so forth. I want more granular categories (Cajun, Zydeco, Dixieland, French Cajun), and less categories that i don’t want (electronic, techno, pop latino). I think the fear on Apple’s side is that if Bento gets hold of the actual iTunes file, and then the user messes with it, iTunes may break and you lose the database.

    • Rolf Kyburz says:

      Hi John, I fully agree with you on the statement that that the current limited linkage between Bento and iTunes (via clumsy, manual export only) is virtually useless; if Bento were able to have *read-only* access to the iTunes library (say, such that one could update the database from the iTunes library at the click of a button), this would already be a big step forward.

  6. kourious says:

    Does Bento have the ability to export music database files made with Bento into DDEX XML files music services sometimes require for delivery?


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