Creating a LibreOffice Music Database

Tune Finder

Article from Issue 258/2022

LibreOffice Calc and Base are all you need to create a simple database for organizing the songs in your music collection.

MySQL is the most commonly used open source database management system. Developers often use MySQL and its cousin MariaDB to build database applications for organizing office records, managing inventories, and other common tasks. However, MySQL is often too complex and too much trouble for personal, home-office uses. LibreOffice offers a simpler alternative for users who just want to create a small, simple database to address a specific need. This article describes how to create a quick and easy database solution using LibreOffice tools. In this case, I'll show you how to set up a music database from an iTunes library.

The Plan

I'll use two tools from the LibreOffice integrated suite to create my music database: LibreOffice Calc (spreadsheet) and LibreOffice Base (database management). With these two applications plus iTunes, the general process is as follows:

  1. Export library from iTunes as a tab-separated text file.
  2. Import library into LibreOffice Calc for minor edits.
  3. Copy modified library data into LibreOffice Base.
  4. Create SQL queries.
  5. Run queries and filters to display results.

Of course, you can adapt this process for other types of data. For instance, you could organize a stamp collection or track incoming invoices for this year's taxes.

Export from iTunes

The first step is to export music information from iTunes to a text file in a format that can be imported into LibreOffice. Playlists can be exported from iTunes as a table in a tab-delimited plain text file format. The comma-separated values (CSV) format is unacceptable because some data fields (such as album titles, song titles, or artist names) may contain commas or other special characters. The exported playlist may consist of some or all of the songs in the library. I use the following steps to export my playlist:

  1. Select all songs in the library
  2. Go to File | Library | Export Playlist
  3. In the File name field, enter Music.txt
  4. Select Text file (*.txt)

These steps save the playlist as a tab-separated text file, Music.txt (but you choose any name you want), that can be directly imported as a plain text spreadsheet.

Import Text File into LibreOffice Calc

Next, I import the tab-separated file Music.txt into LibreOffice Calc for minor editing. When I open the text file, LibreOffice Calc pops up a Text Import dialog box with the option to select or change the delimiter. To import the file into Calc:

  1. Go to File | Open
  2. Select Text documents from the file type drop-down menu (Figure 1)

  3. Select Music.txt
  4. Click Open
  5. In the Text Import dialog box that opens, check the Tab option under Separator Options and uncheck the other options here (Figure 2)

  6. Examine the preview in the Fields section
  7. Click OK

iTunes exports many data fields as table columns, and some of them are not useful or wanted. Because I am only interested in Name (song title), Artist, Album, Genre, Track Number, and Year, I delete all columns except for these. I also insert an ID field to be used as a primary key (which I will discuss in the database section of this article.)

To insert the ID field (shown in Figure 3), follow these steps:

Figure 3: Inserting the ID column to be used as a primary key.
  1. Insert a column in the first position, left of the Name column: Sheet | Insert Columns | Columns Left
  2. Label the new column ID
  3. Leave cells in the ID column blank (they will be automatically filled in LibreOffice Base)
  4. Click Save
  5. Optionally, leave LibreOffice Calc open to cut and paste data later.

At this point, I have the data that I need to populate the database. I need to get that spreadsheet data into a database. To create my music database, I will now use LibreOffice Base, which can create, manage, and edit flat and relational databases.

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