How to find missing iTunes album artwork

Make sure your whole iTunes library has its cover art

Find missing iTunes artwork

There's nothing quite like browsing through your iTunes music library, looking at all the gorgeous album cover artwork as you go, be that on your Mac, your iPhone, iPad or iPod.

At least, it is until you come to some tracks that haven't got any artwork attached to them, at which point the black square with the pair of quavers rather spoils the wow factor.

So we're going to help you get that pizazz back by making sure your whole iTunes library has its cover artwork present and intact.

Before we start, make sure you've got the artwork thumbnail visible in iTunes - it appears in the bottom-left corner, and you can toggle it on and off using the rectangle with the triangle in it, next to the repeat button. Just above the thumbnail, you'll see it either says Selected Item or Now Playing - flip between these by clicking on the words; the former will be what we're mostly interested in here.

And remember, you can enjoy album artwork in a variety of ways - see those little buttons to the left of the search bar at the top of the iTunes window? The right-most three all display album view in a different way, so try viewing your music library in each way to see which you like best.

View options

If you switch into Cover Flow view (the furthest-right option), you'll see a little button with an arrow in each corner just below all your album covers. Clicking this will make Cover Flow take over your entire screen for truly immersive browsing. Right-click while you're in this view to adjust the font size, too.

And if you enjoy leaving the Visualizer on as eye-candy while you play your tunes, the album artwork will display alongside the track information here.

Jazz it up

If you buy your music directly from the iTunes Store, it comes with the artwork already attached, so there's no need to change anything there. But if you prefer the more traditional method of going down to the record shop, buying physical CDs and then importing them to iTunes, you can save yourself a lot of time later by adding the artwork when you import the songs in the first place.

When you pop a CD in your drive, iTunes looks up the track names on the internet, but by default, not the artwork. And because you can't edit what's on a CD, you can't add the artwork until you've imported the album.

But there's an option in iTunes' Preferences that will automatically download any missing cover art for songs you import into iTunes. Tick the Automatically download missing album artwork option in Preferences > Store and click OK.

Note that if you're importing a CD, it'll only get the artwork once all the tracks have safely copied to your Mac, so don't be alarmed if nothing appears while it's busy. If you import a CD and it's not able to find the artwork, it's worth getting into the habit of adding it manually straight away, so that you don't amass more and more art-less music in your collection.

And don't forget that if you've got an iPod, iPhone or iPad with music on it (or audiobooks, for that matter), any artwork you add to your iTunes library will be transferred to your mobile player next time you sync with your Mac, so that you can take the visual experience with you anywhere you go.

So your mission, should you choose to accept it (and we suggest you do, because the results will be stunning), starts here. Follow these simple steps to produce an art-filled music library.

How to complete your iTunes album artwork collection

01. Automatically get album art

step 1

Make sure you're connected to the internet and fire up iTunes.

Now go to the Advanced menu and select the Get Album Artwork option. What this does is send the details of songs that are missing cover art to Apple, to see if there's a match for them. As the pop-up message will inform you, Apple doesn't keep any information about the contents of your music library.

Tick the Do not ask me again box, then press Get Album Artwork. You'll see the top bar work its way through your library - depending on the speed of your internet connection and how many songs (and indeed movies, apps and books) you've got, this could take some time.

When it's done, pop your view into List mode (the left most of the four buttons next to the search bar), make sure the artwork thumbnail is set to Selected Item, and browse through your library to check if any tracks are still missing their art. If there are, we've got some more tricks up our sleeve. Read on.

02. The Dashboard widget

Online retailer Amazon is a fantastic source of cover artwork, and there's a little widget you can install on your Mac's Dashboard to help you get it.

You can get the widget from here - click Download on the page and it'll prompt you if you'd like to install it.Do so, and click Keep when it appears, rippling as it does on your Dashboard.

Now, back in iTunes, select a song that's art-less, pop up your Dashboard and click the green iTunes button on the new widget. All being well, you'll see an image pop up below.

There may even be more than one to choose from, and if so, you'll see a checkerboard appear in the top-right corner of the art. Click this to see miniature versions of the other options and click the one you'd like to use. When you're happy, press Set as album art in iTunes. And that's all there is to it!

The only drawback of this widget is that it can only handle single songs or albums at a time - if you select tracks that require different artwork, they'll all be given the same cover.

It's also worth noting that you can click the little 'i' at the right-hand end of the widget to display more options, including which national Amazon site it searches on.

03. Scripts

Scripts

As well as iTunes' built-in album art search, various people have written scripts that attempt to do the same thing.

Fetch Art is one such example that's worth trying - even though it searches Amazon in the same way that the above widget does, its results differed. It's available from fetchartblog.blogspot.com, and although it hasn't been updated for a while, it works with iTunes 10.

When you install it, it'll appear in iTunes' Script menu in the menu bar. Select a single track or album and choose the Fetch Art option. Its results will appear in a new window, and if you like what you see, simply click Copy to iTunes.

04. Manual search

If you've followed the previous steps, your library's artwork should be more or less complete. If there are a few straggler tracks still without artwork, you can add them manually.

To make things a bit easier for yourself, why not install another script, which will put all tracks missing art into a single playlist, so you have them all in one place. Get the script from here. Copy it to your Library/iTunes/Scripts folder to make it appear in iTunes' Script menu.

In your iTunes library, press Command+A to select all your songs, then go to Script menu > Find songs w-o artwork.

To get the missing art for each track, type the artist and album name into Google Images (or if you've caught the scripts bug, there's one that performs the search for you available here) and click the one you want.

On the right of the new window that opens, click Full-size image, then right-click (or Ctrl+click) the cover art, select Copy Image and switch back into iTunes. Highlight the track, right-click the artwork area in the lower left corner and choose Paste.

Repeat this process for your remaining tracks - it may seem tedious, but just think of the looks on your friends' and relatives' faces as you nonchalantly flip through in Cover Flow mode. You know it's worth it…

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First published in MacFormat Issue 232

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