An Introduction to avTag

Yesterday afternoon I recorded episode 63 of the iDeveloper Live podcast with Steve ‘Scotty’ Scott and John Fox (and if you’ve not listened to the podcast before and you are an OS X or iOS developer then give it a go). Towards the end of the show I revealed what avTag, an upcoming application that I am writing, is but I think it is worth expanding on what I said on the show and maybe clarifying a few details.

avTag allows you to create tags, essentially bookmarks, for audio and video files. As you are listening to or watching something you can creates tags which allow you to return to those points quickly and easily. You can give tags titles and add descriptions and these are searchable. All of your tags are kept in a central database so you can search all of your tags at once. Tapping on a tag from the search results will, if possible, load the audio or video file into avTag’s media player and go straight to that point.

Above I say that you can jump to points in audio and video files if possible. This is because tags are not written back into the source files but exist in their own database. The advantage with this is that your avTag database can contain tags for audio and video files regardless of whether or not they are visible to avTag itself. You can import and export avTag data so, for example, rather than storing a huge library of podcasts that you know you won’t listen to you can simply download the avTag data for each episode and still be able to search and find relevant matches. You can then go and download just that relevant episode.

The initial release of avTag will be as an iPad app and it will be compatible with the upcoming iOS 6 only. Unfortunately this means that if you have an original iPad you won’t be able to use avTag. After the first version ships for the iPad I will be working on the iPhone version and also a version for Mac OS X. I have a fairly detailed road-map for the application and its features but I want to get an initial version out as soon as I can so that I can get feedback and comments about it as early as possible.

So with all of that said, why would you want to use avTag? Let me give you some examples.

  1. You subscribe to an iTunes U course. As you watch the videos there are specific parts that interest you or that you think you might need to refer back to. You can tag them with avTag and either search for keywords you entered when you were tagging the videos or simply browse through your tags to see what points interested you.
  2. You listen to a book review podcast. You can use avTag to mark the point in time where a discussion about a book begins and enter the book’s title as the tag’s title. You immediately have a browsable and searchable index of the books talked about.
  3. You are a Mac or iOS developer and have just downloaded over 100 free WWDC videos. As you watch them you can add tags to remind you about important comments or slides.
  4. You have a lot of video in your Photos application and avTag allows you to not only create a title for the videos but also tag the contents. Rather than edit a 30 minute video clip you can add a few tags and be able to jump straight to the interesting points.

avTag can play media from various sources. On iOS devices it will play DRM-free videos you have in the Videos app, DRM-free music, podcasts and audiobooks in the Music app, iTunes U videos and videos you have in the Photos app. I am hoping that Apple will change things so that DRM-protected files will be playable but that is entirely in their hands and out of my control.

I will be releasing more information about avTag over the coming days and weeks but if you are interested in being a pre-release tester please get in touch and, if possible, give me an idea about how you might use avTag.

Finally, if you want to keep track of avTag you can always follow the @avTagApp Twitter account.