When we finally got a DVR, after a few weeks we realized that it had become an indespensible addition to our home entertainment package of goodies. Recently, at the recommendation of WTJU's own Chuck Taylor, I have acquired the best music collection management software I've seen. It's called CD Trustee and it's already become indespensible. It's a quick download, and you can try it out for free with a limited edition that lets you catalog 30 CDs. Try it and you'll want to buy it (around $40).
CD Trustee automatically catalogs your CDs - it uses Gracenote's CD database, which includes nearly all commercially-available CDs and a surprising number of non-commercial recordings. Here's how it works: you open a program and put it into the right mode, then insert a disc. It reads the disc (each disc's table of contents is sort of like a fingerprint and is relatively unique). Once you've had it read however many discs you want to add (I usually do about 20 at a time), you tell it to look them up at Gracenote.
The data it returns varies in depth. For some discs you get just the title and track names, but for others you get all of the performance credits and even liner notes.
And it is really, really fast. I have well over 1,800 CDs, and was able to archive them in a few days. It "found" nearly all of my commercial discs, and probably about 75% of my boots. I'm now in the process of adding the discs Gracenote doesn't have listed - adding them both to Gracenote and to my own files. Gracenote is a lot like Wikipedia in that respect - much of the information in its files has been added by users, not record companies. Therefore, the next person who tries to catalog their copy of Alligator playing Fridays after 5 in 2001 will have all the data at their disposal.
The real beauty of this program isn't simply the ability to create a list (I actually had everything listed in an Excel file already). The beauty is the ability to automatically add everything and more importantly the ability to search the database by artist, title, or keyword. If I want to see a list of songs about trains, for example, I can do a few fast searches and see every song that matches in less than a minute. If I have a song title and just can't recall all the artists who recorded it, all I have to do is run a search on the title and "ta-da!"
The database is easy to export to a spreadsheet or text file so backing everything up is no problem at all. If you have a lot of CDs, decent collection management software is a huge help - if there's something out there better than CD Trustee, I haven't seen it yet.
The preceding message brought to you by the shameless commerce division of Sunshine Daydream.