Related link: http://sofa.ouvaton.org/
Every now and then you get a piece of software, or an addition to something already pretty good, and you think …….. what’s the point? Thankfully, the software being developed under the Sofa Project is NOT one of those tools. It’s free and it is a simple addition to iTunes. But what we have here is no simple applescript frenzy … this one gets up in front of iTunes and uses Apple’s music management system as it’s puppet, with some interesting new features thrown in that just might work their way into the main tool in the future.
So, what does it do … on first look, not a lot (back to my initial reactions of ‘what’s the point?’) but once you get under the skin you start to feel much more encouraged.
For a vanilla install of iTunes with no iPod you will probably at first be looking at a simple application GUI that does no more than launch iTunes and provides a simple controller. However, the secret goodies are in the Web Services. Once these services are enabled appropriate web sites are searched for corresponding album artwork and then a conduit is set up between iTunes and Sofa to share the artwork that is found. No more scanning each page of that album cover collection again! The artwork for a particular album title from a specific source site is displayed and can be shared with iTunes or kept separate depending on your preference.
There are a few problems and ongoing issues with the version of Sofa tried for this blog. The application takes a long time to startup with a significant iTunes library or when an iPod is plugged in. In fact the tool crashed twice - but hey, it’s early days yet and this is not yet version 1!
Also, the software is free but …. free as in freedom? - well, actually, no … it’s free as in beer which is not the same thing but probably enough for most people. Although the program appears to be free there’s no source available so unfortunately this doesn’t appear to be an open source effort, let alone a free software one. This is a shame as I’m sure with a little community support the project could really come on in leaps and bounds by opening up the source using whatever licensing is appropriate.
My honest opinion of Sofa is that this version (0.6 v219) is still a little clunky and certainly doesn’t have the panache of a commercial product yet. Basically Sofa is just missing that feeling of ‘of course, that’s the way it should work!’ that you get from best of breed products on the Mac. If you can get past that criticism, and it’s a pretty minor one, then Sofa is a top notch helpful addition to iTunes. It won’t replace the iTunes front-end for this Mac user but for the lazy guy who simply can’t be bothered to scan in those album covers (myself definitely included) it’s a great energy saver all round and perhaps offers a capability that Apple might consider including in iTunes in the future.
Any comments from the guys (or gals) working on Sofa are more than welcome. If anyone’s using the tool and got a comment that’s good too…