Sunday, July 22, 2007

Automating and Managing iTunes with Ruby

We've spent a lot of time on this blog looking at how to get work done with Ruby and Microsoft Office (Excel, Word, Access, Outlook). Let's take a break and go play... with iTunes.

Apple's popular iTunes application for Windows includes a COM interface. This allows you to automate and manage iTunes with Ruby. You can launch the application, search for and play songs, set user interface properties, and manage your iTunes library and PlayLists using Ruby code. Let's take a look...

First, of course, we start by connecting to the iTunes application object, launching iTunes if it isn't already running:

require 'win32ole'
itunes ='iTunes.Application')

Controlling the iTunes User Interface

To place iTunes into MiniPlayer mode (or return it to Full Mode), set the BrowserWindow.MiniPlayer property:

itunes.BrowserWindow.MiniPlayer = true

To toggle the play/pause button, simply call the PlayPause method:


To increase or decrease sound volume, adjust the SoundVolume property:

itunes.SoundVolume = itunes.SoundVolume + 50
itunes.SoundVolume = itunes.SoundVolume - 25

To go to the previous or next track, call those methods:


Managing Your iTunes Library

OK, that covers several standard user interface features. Now, let's look at how you can work with your content.

Let's create an instance of the Library, which is a child object of the Application object:

library = itunes.LibraryPlaylist

We'll be working with this LibraryPlaylist object a lot going forward. It provides several methods that will return collections of Track and PlayList objects. For example, calling the Tracks method returns a collection of all tracks in the library:

tracks = library.Tracks

You can then select a song by name from this collection of Track objects:

song = tracks.ItemByName('At Long Last Love')

...and then play the track by calling its Play method:


To search the LibraryPlaylist, call its Search method, passing it a string to search for, and an integer that determines what field to search, such as Artist, Album Title, or Track Title:

artist_tracks = library.Search('Sinatra', 2)
album_tracks = library.Search('Come Fly With Me', 3)
title_tracks = library.Search('Fly Me To The Moon', 5)

The Search and Tracks methods return a collection of Track objects, which you could iterate over. We might want to add all track objects in this collection to a ruby array called songs:

songs = []
for track in tracks
songs << track

This would then allow us to use Ruby's excellent sort_by method to sort the songs array:

songs = songs.sort_by{|song| [song.Artist, song.Year, song.Album, song.TrackNumber]}

The Track object includes dozens of attributes pertaining to this track. As indicated above, there's Artist, Album, Year, and TrackNumber. But there's also Time (in minutes and seconds), Duration (total seconds), BPM (beats-per-minutes), Composer, Genre, and many more.

You could iterate over the songs collection and write data for each track to a file:

songs.each do |song|
my_file.puts [song.Artist, song.Album, song.Name, song.Time].join("\t")

...or add the data to an Excel worksheet or SQLite database.

Working with iTunes PlayLists

To create a new PlayList, call the Application object's CreatePlaylist method, passing it the name of the new PlayList:

playlist = itunes.CreatePlaylist('My Playlist')

To add a song to a PlayList object, first get a Track object by calling the ItemByName method on a Tracks collection:

song = library.Tracks.ItemByName('At Long Last Love')

...then call the PlayList's AddTrack method, passing it the Track object:


In the iTunes object model, PlayLists are child objects of Source objects. So, to create an array of all PlayList objects, we iterate over each Source object and get each PlayList object:

playlists = []
itunes.Sources.each do |source|
source.PlayLists.each do |playlist|
playlists << playlist

This gives us a collection of PlayList objects that we can now work with:

for playlist in playlists do
puts playlist.Name

To select a single PlayList by name:

playlist = itunes.Sources.ItemByName('Library').Playlists.ItemByName('All Sinatra')

To play the first track of a PlayList:


To exit the iTunes application, call its Quit method:


Further Reading

Further details can be found in this Microsoft TechNet article.

For further examples in Ruby, you might want to check out the itunes-control (itch) library source code.

And for those running iTunes on Mac OS, you may find this blog post by Zack Hobson to be of interest.

I hope you have found this information helpful. As always, post a comment here or send me an email if you have questions, comments, or suggestions.

Thanks for stopping by!

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Unknown said...

Great articles. You da man!

Basaah said...

Really nice.
I actually tried some windows media player stuff as well.
cause I hate iTunes as media player.
didn't found how to do searches with anyway.
only thing possible is retrieving all audio files and make a search function in ruby (with shouldn't be a very big problem, but the native wmplayer is a much faster en better search I guees)

Anyhow, Can you please consider writing an article about how to control media player, and then in particular the search part, I would really love that.

Keep up to good work with this site please.

greetings bas

Charles Roper said...

Is it possible to do this kind of thing in WMP?

David Mullet said...

Thank you, christopher!

@basaah & charles:

As requested, I have just posted a new article about Automating Windows Media Player with Ruby.


Anonymous said...

Nice stuff man!!