Tangerine Dream App

October 19th, 2006

The boys at Potion Factory are at once inspiring and depressing. It seems that in the space of time it takes me to think about an app and decide to maybe, sorta get started on it, they’re able to design and implement a totally functional, fun, and beautiful app that completely exceeds my expectations. Either I should take heart in seeing that determination and hard work can produce gorgeous results, or I should give up and choose a new career.

Tangerine has a very clear primary goal: analyzing your music’s beats per minute (rhythmic speed) and intensity. And it achieves this goal with splendor. I love how, upon launching the application for the first time, it doesn’t waste any time asking me whether I want to analyze my music, it just gets to work.

The application has just made my life better. If nothing else, I now I have a BPM value assigned to all of my iTunes tracks. How cool is that? The last time I looked into this problem, the only solutions available involved listening to your music while tapping the mouse to the beat. Ugh! Tangerine fixes this quickly and begs the question: why doesn’t iTunes do this for me? In my brief tests, the BPM and beat intensity values are very accurate. If it happens to pick up on the wrong emphasis, it might predict a BPM value that is either twice or half as fast as you really feel it. In that case, a contextual menu item offers to adjust the value either direction.

It will be great fun to put together mixes of same-speed music for running and walking. But it’s also fun just to look at the values and appreciate the unexpectedly shared attributes between songs from different artists and genres.

As far as I’m concerned the features I’ve described so far are plenty for any 1.0 release, but Tangerine also sports a fairly comprehensive “iTunes-like” interface for browsing and playing music, as well as an innovative interface for putting together mixes visually.

Would definitely look nicer if more of my tracks had associated artwork. I suppose I should get on that. But the idea of representing the mix visually like this is brilliant, and it’s a tasteful dose of unconventional UI.

But the timeline view in spite of its pluses is the source of my very few gripes. The emphasis on making a pretty graphical image seems to override the functional value of having the actual name of the song visible at all times. Take the example above: the third song in my mix is a mystery to me unless I hover over it. I’d like to see the name no matter what, even if it has to be squeezed to microscopic size, or hyphenated and split across two lines. The app is altogether too beautiful to stop short of blowing me away in this area. I’m also slightly annoyed that the overall size of Tangerine’s window will go no smaller than 920×574, when I am confident that each of the subsidiary views would survive further shrinking.

One gaping hole in this otherwise polished pre-1.0 is the utter lack of AppleScript support. I suppose the good news is they still have time to rectify this problem before shipping. It could certainly be argued that once Tangerine has done its thing and the values are transferred to iTunes, we can use iTunes’s scripting to access values like BPM, etc. But Tangerine is more than that. We need access to values like beat intensity, and the ability to programatically create and manipulate mixes. At least give us the hope of scriptability. Right now we’re greeted with the ugliest of all Script Editor dialogs.

Tangerine is stunningly beautiful and functional. The degree to which they’ve mimed iTunes’s interface might be overkill for what the app does, but it actually gives me a funny tinge of hope that it could one day evolve into a full-featured alternative to iTunes. There’s an awful lot of app there for “just a BPM analysis tool.” Maybe they’ve got some surprises in store for the future.

3 Responses to “Tangerine Dream App”

  1. Spyro Says:

    They should not have added “If you blog about our little baby we will also give you a license as a little thank you”, this definitely puts a bias on any blog about them. (Well I’m not saying that for you ;) ).

  2. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    Spyro: I think you’re right. And for the record, I didn’t blog it to get a free copy :) I could have just reported a bug to get that!

  3. Stefan Tilkov Says:

    Have you tried out beaTunes? http://www.beatunes.com/

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