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The importance of tagging with metadata

By Jean-Claude Elias - Jul 06,2017 - Last updated at Jul 06,2017

Do you use metadata to tag your multimedia digital contents? How do you store and organise your photos, music and videos? Most of us would collect and keep thousands of them in digital format, whether on our computer’s hard disk or somewhere in the cloud. Therefore, the best possible, the most thorough organisation is key to fast and easy search and retrieval. Failure to do so often leads to mayhem and frustration.

Poor filing, tedious and time-consuming search take out the pleasure from enjoying multimedia digital contents. Unless you can instantly have access to that song or that photo, playing it or viewing it stops being fun.

Relying just on the file name and the date the file is saved is usually the basic way to go when you save a file. This, however, is far from being enough. There’s a whole set of precious information called metadata and that provides invaluable help and power to organise multimedia digital contents and libraries.

This consists of “tags” that can be: artist name, album name, genre, comment, composer, director, duration, bookmark, keywords, instrument, language, style, popularity, mood, preference, country, ISO, people, places, and so forth. There is about 150 of them! You don’t have to use all of them, understandably, only those you need and that are relevant.

When multimedia digital files are consistently tagged, they let you carry out quick searches such as: look for the version of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, played by Martha Argerich and conducted by Charles Dutoit. Or for the photo featuring your cousin Leila that was taken in Mykonos, Greece circa 2005. Or for all songs in your entire collection and that are sung in Italian. Or for all photos that were taken in Aqaba by Jimmy between 2000 and 2010. Or…. the rest is only limited by imagination and your needs, by the way you want to manage and enjoy your digital contents.

Tagging photos, music and video digital files is neither easy nor simple directly from within Windows Explorer (if you are a Windows user that is…). For that it is strongly advisable to use software players or librarians like J.River Media Centre, to name one of the best and most popular ones and that handles all types of multimedia files. It makes tagging and managing libraries a breeze.

Other software can be more specialised, like for instance Adobe Bridge for photography, or Foobar2000 or MediaMonkey for music.

Some applications are free, others would cost anything from $30 up to $150, but rarely exceed this price. J.River Media Centre comes in a paid version ($50), while at the same time the company also nicely offers a free one for those who do not necessarily need complex library management. But even the simple, free version has tagging capability.

Again, relying on just the file name and date may be enough for types like Word or Excel, for instance. When it comes to multimedia files, tagging with metadata fields becomes almost a necessity.


Learning metadata and tagging takes little effort and time. It is definitely worthwhile and infinitely rewarding.

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