Windows Explorer tag editing - sometimes simple is best

Windows Explorer

Think of a tag editor and there are a bunch of common options. MP3Tag, Picard, Tag&Rename... but for Windows users there's a lesser known editor that comes for free: Windows Explorer!

It's true that Windows Explorer's tag editing capabilities are not advanced. There's little low level control, no batch editing actions and no automation. But for certain situations, where you just need to make a simple change to a few files, it can be invaluable.

Having low friction solutions to problems is a powerful thing. I thought the same about file format converters, so I wrote this matrix. Here's how you can use Windows Explorer to no-fuss, free tag editing.

Editing MP3 tags in Windows Explorer

Editing your music tags in Windows Explorer is pretty easy. Fire up Windows Explorer, then find your music files. Right click a file and click Properties:

Right click a file in Explorer and choose Properties

In the resulting dialog box, choose Details and there you have all of your tags:

Edit tags on the Details tab

Editing the tags is now as simple as changing the Value for the field you want to change. Once happy, click OK or Apply.

It's not all that simple...

There's one caveat - the values you are changing don't always end up in the files (see Unmapped below), and sometimes the fields they end up in don't always make sense.

Windows Explorer tag mapping

So I did some research and produced a mapping table so you know which tag each of the properties changes.

Property MP3 WMA MP4 FLAC
Description Title TRACK TITLE TRACK TITLE TRACK TITLE TRACK TITLE
Subtitle SUBTITLE SUBTITLE Unmapped Unmapped
Rating RATING (WMP) RATING (WMP) Unmapped Unmapped
Tags Not shown CATEGORY Unmapped Unmapped
Comments COMMENT COMMENT COMMENT Unmapped
Media Contributing artists ARTIST ARTIST ARTIST ARTIST
Album artist ALBUM ARTIST ALBUM ARTIST ALBUM ARTIST ALBUM ARTIST
Album ALBUM ALBUM ALBUM ALBUM
Year YEAR YEAR YEAR YEAR
# TRACK TRACK TRACK TRACK
Genre GENRE GENRE GENRE GENRE
Length [not a tag, taken from audio file header]
Audio Bit rate [not a tag, taken from audio file header]
Origin Producers Not shown PRODUCER Unmapped Unmapped
Publisher PUBLISHER PUBLISHER Unmapped PUBLISHER
Content provider Not shown CONTENTDISTRIBUTOR Unmapped Unmapped
Media created Not shown Unmapped Unmapped Unmapped
Encoded by Not shown ENCODER Unmapped ENCODER
Author URL WWWARTIST WWWARTIST Unmapped Unmapped
Promotion URL Not shown WWWCOMMERCIALINFO Unmapped Unmapped
Copyright Not editable Not editable Not editable Not editable
Content Parental rating Not shown PARENTALRATING Unmapped Unmapped
Parental rating reason Not editable Not editable Not editable Not editable
Composers COMPOSER COMPOSER COMPOSER COMPOSER
Conductors CONDUCTOR CONDUCTOR Unmapped CONDUCTOR
Group description CONTENTGROUP CONTENTGROUP Unmapped Unmapped
Period Unmapped PERIOD Unmapped Unmapped
Mood Unmapped MOOD Unmapped MOOD
Part of set DISCNUMBER DISCNUMBER Unmapped Unmapped
Initial key INITIALKEY INITIALKEY Unmapped Unmapped
Beats-per-minute BPM BPM BPM Unmapped
Protected Unmapped Unmapped Unmapped Unmapped
Part of a compilation COMPILATION COMPILATION COMPILATION COMPILATION

Some definitions:

Unmapped
Allows editing and saving, but the results are not stored in the underlying music file.
Not editable
The value is displayed but cannot be edited.
Not shown
The property is not displayed.

We can see that, perhaps not surprisingly, Microsoft's own WMA format is best supported, and the popularity of MP3 means it takes a solid second place in the support stakes. While less well supported, the fact that FLAC works at all is a positive in my book; this wouldn't have been the case a few years ago!

In addition, I tested with a WAV file and an Ogg Vorbis file. The WAV file showed the fields but did not allow them to be edited, despite Microsoft introducing the RIFF format. The OGG file was not even recognised as a music file and offered no extended properties.

Inline editing in the Details Pane

An extra approach: It's potentially more convenient to edit tags using the Details Pane. Click the View ribbon, then in the Panes group click the Details pane button. This shows a new area to the right of the selected file.

Inline editing using the details pane

Click on a supported music file, then press Tab twice, and you can tab through the different fields, pressing Save when finished.


If you've anything to add to this, leave a comment and I'll see to updating the article!

tags: simple low friction
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The Music Library Management blog

Dan Gravell

I'm Dan, the founder and programmer of bliss. I write bliss to solve my own problems with my digital music collection.