Half-Star Song Rating in iTunes
I eagerly followed along yesterday as Steve Jobs made his return from medical absence and introduced the new Apple products at the “Let’s Rock” event. As expected Apple introduced a new generation of iPod Touch although without the rumored camera included. Instead the iPod Nano went through yet another iteration this time adding an FM tuner, a pedometer, a larger screen, and a video camera. The video camera was an unexpected feature and it will be interesting to see how users will utilize this new feature.
Besides the iPod offerings, Apple also introduced iTunes 9 which sports a new interface to the iTunes Store as well as other long-requested features. For iPhone and iPod Touch users the new iTunes offers a way to manage applications and introduces Genius for applications that will suggest applications based on what you have previously purchased.
One feature of iTunes that continues to be left out is a better rating system for content. Since its inception iTunes have provided the user with the ability to rate content using a five-star scale. Approximately five minutes after the first user downloaded iTunes they began complaining that five stars were not enough to catalog their content appropriately.
Over the years there have been Apple Scripts and other hacks that would circumvent the five star scale into more options. The most often used are scripts that will allow the user to assign half-star ratings. Until now these solutions were not very elegant and met with limited results.
Over the past couple of weeks I have run across a couple of solutions that make the implementation of half-star ratings a little easier. Since my household includes both Macintosh and Windows computers running iTunes (my Linux box does not have iTunes), I needed a solution that could be implemented on either platform.
The Macintosh solution to allow half-stars is one simple line that can be entered in Terminal. In order to implement this hidden feature you will need to close iTunes on the Macintosh and open Terminal (/Applications/Utilities). With Terminal opened type the following command followed by the ENTER key:
defaults write com.apple.iTunes allow-half-stars –bool TRUE
You may then close the Terminal window and launch iTunes. When you want to rate a song you can drag across the rating field and you will see the stars appear. Dragging between two stars will enter a ½ in the rating field. If you ever decide you do not want half-star ratings you can enter Terminal again and type the same command replacing TRUE with FALSE and it will disable the half-star rating.
For Windows users the implementation of half-stars is simply a matter of adding a few lines to a hidden preference file. After closing iTunes on your Windows computer navigate to the iTunesPrefs.xml file. This file is normally located in C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\Apple Computer\iTunes for Windows XP users or C:\Users\Username\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\iTunes for Windows Vista. The Application Data folder is generally hidden so you will need to make sure you have “Show Hidden Files” selected in Folder Options.
Open the iTunesPrefs.xml file with a text editor such as Notepad or Wordpad and search for “User Preferences” Find the place in the iTunesPrefs.xml file that says:
Below that line type the following:
Save the iTunesPrefs.xml file and launch iTunes. You will be able to click between the stars in the ratings field to rate content by half-star. If you ever want to disable this ability just edit the iTunesPrefs.xml file and remove the lines you entered.
These patches work with both iTunes 8 and the new iTunes 9 versions. I didn’t have any earlier versions so I am not sure how far back this hidden feature actually existed.
One thing I have noted is that even without these patches loaded iTunes will display half-star ratings, it just cannot set them until the patches are entered. The iPhone and iPod will accept the half-star ratings but will not display them on the screen. It will round the rating down to the next whole star.
With this simple patch you have just doubled the number of rating criteria than you had below. Hopefully this will be enough to keep users satisfied until Apple can implement a better rating system.