iTunes and media file organization

In a recent Mac OS X Hints blog entry, I explained how to prevent iTunes from changing filenames (in the Finder) when adding items to your iTunes library. As this is something I don’t normally pay any attention to myself, I included a disclaimer, to let everyone know that I don’t use this hint myself, and as such, may not be able to answer many questions about it. I wrote:

Now, I’ll admit that this particular preference change was meaningless to me—I really don’t care, nor do I even know, what iTunes names my songs when it imports them. I use iTunes to make listening to music easier, and not having to care about filenames is a key part of the “making it easier” bit.

I’ve now heard from a couple of readers that the above could be construed as insulting for those who do care about filenames on imported music. In re-reading what I wrote, I can see how it could be read that way. For that, I’m sorry, as that wasn’t the intent at all. However, these e-mail exchanges got me thinking about the broader question at hand, which is simply…why do you care what iTunes names your tracks, or how it organizes the files in the Finder?

For me, the filenames and folder structures for my media files are irrelevant, because iTunes manages all those details for me. I use iTunes to play, tag, track, and otherwise handle all the mundane aspects of managing my music and movie collection. Using iTunes’ built-in tools, the actual filenames (and storage locations) of the songs or movies being managed are invisible. iTunes presents all the information I need to know—song or movie title, artist, purchase date, etc.—within the iTunes interface, and without having to show me each file’s name or storage location. If I ever want to see one of my songs in the Finder, I just Control-click on it in iTunes and pick the Show in Finder option from the contextual menu. (I use iPhoto in much the same way, only rarely bothering to title images—I do, however, spend lots of time with keywords and Smart Albums to keep my images organized).

But I know that many of you prefer to have full control over the file naming and storage location of your iTunes media, and I’m just curious as to why you want this control? What do you give up if you simply let iTunes manage all those details? This isn’t meant to imply that my “ignore everything” method is better—I’m genuinely curious as to why some people care about the naming convention for media files that iTunes is going to manage. So how about it—if you’re one of those users who manages every aspect of your media collection, including the filenames and folder structures, why do you prefer to do it this way?

  
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