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Some Nice Features in J River’s Media Center 13

February 23, 2009

I have been meaning for a while to write a post on some of the nice features I have come across in using J River’s Media Center 13 (JRMC) for the past month or so, but I was pushed to write today after reading the Why I Hate iTunes article on The problems that the author has with iTunes as it relates to media files are all handled much better by JRMC.

Although JRMC 13 has a host of new features, here are some that I have used and enjoyed personally:

  • Significant improvements in speed. For a while I have known of no other app that handles large libraries (in my case about 30,000 audio, video and photo files) as well. The new version adds to JRMC’s advantage in this area.
  • The ability to save “views.” JRMC has always done a great job of being letting you view and organize your files however you want. Version 13 now lets you both (i) save these views (e.g. what tag information to display, whether to display thumbnails, what hierarchy to use in the tree in the left hand pane) so they can be used in other contexts, and (ii) associate different views with different nodes of the tree that you happen to be viewing (e.g. when looking through audio files, the view at the album level (maybe a thumbnail of the cover) may be different from the view of the files within the album (maybe a list detailed data on each track).
  • JRMC 13 is great for photo tagging. I recently processed about 1800 photos in space of about 4 hours. That processing included deleting bad shots and shots that were not the best among multiples, as well as adding information about the location each shot was taken and who was in it. I used a view that showed thumbnails to select photos for deletion (helped by the fact that mousing over photo quickly (even though the photos are multi-megabyte files on a separate server) displays a blowup of the photo). I used a similar view with a PEOPLE pane at the top to select multiple photos containing the same person and then click a line in the People pane with that person’s initials to tag them as being photos with that person in them. I use a details view making in-place edits to tags that aren’t as dependent on the contents of the individual photo, e.g. tagging an entire group of photos as being associated with the Event “Christmas 2008”.

JRMC has three other capabilities that, although not new, are worth calling out:

  • The ability to move files into a folder structure based on their metadata. After tagging photos, I can use the “Rename, Move and Copy Files” function to put all my new files into a new structure of subdirectories based on the metadata associated with the file in my JRMC library.
  • The ability to parse filenames to populate metadata associated with each file. To allow our home video files to be replayed in Vista Media Center, I transcode them all to MPEG2. Because MPEG2 does not have a very robust (if any) spec for dealing with embedded metadata like the date a video was shot I put the date into each filename itself. I am then able to use JRMC’s “Fill Properties from Filename” function to put that date information into my JRMC library.
  • The ability to populate XML Keywords in photos from JRMC library data. All you have to do is create an “expression” using JRMC’s powerful expression processor that creates a comma delimited “Keyword” field based on the contents of other JRMC fields. This XML Keyword field allows me to manipulate data in different fields in JRMC and then convert it into a form readable by other third party photo applications—Vista Media Center for me.

One reason I write about these useful features is that although the functionality of JRMC is great, it does not seem that great at exposing that functionality. The help files are now Wiki based and have not kept up with all the new features that have been added, finding a feature you are looking for is not always intuitive and often a feature will exist, but the user will be unaware of it. I don’t mind this, but others may balk at it.


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