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Zune 2.5: Seven things to know

Zune Version 2.5 is a significant update to Zune software, firmware, and Marketplace.

The update introduces some oft-requested features from Zune owners, including gapless playback and autoplaylists. It addresses issues with metadata handling, and provides full metadata editing for both audio and video. It expands Zune's social networking features in some intriguing ways. And, Zune takes a solid step forward in video content, with 800 television shows available for download from Marketplace, in addition to 4,800 music videos.

These additions are part of a "spring update" scheduled for May 6. The update will be applied automatically to Zune software, and to Zune players as they are synced.

Zunerama was able to view this update prior to its release. Here are seven things you need to know about Zune 2.5:

Click on any of the screen grabs below, to see a full-size version.

1. Video downloads from Zune Marketplace

Marketplace now offers video downloads of network television shows, including NBC, Adult Swim, Anime, Comedy Central, MTV, MTV2, VH1, BET, Nickelodeon, and Ultimate Fighting.

Videos are download-to-own, and go for 160 Microsoft Points, or about $2 per video. They're licensed for up to five PCs, and can of course be synced to your Zune.

Up until now, the video content on Marketplace was limited to music videos. This update gets the online store one step closer to parity with Apple's iTunes store.

It seems a surety that we'll see this selection expand into more networks and movies - offering yet more reasons for Zune owners to show off those big, bright screens.

Zune 2.5 software

2. Autoplaylists

Some Zune owners were dismayed when Zune software Version 2 did not include autoplaylist functionality. It certainly made our short list of desired features.

Well, autoplaylists are back. For the uninitiated, these are playlists that are generated dynamically, based on rules or parameters that you set. The screenshot below shows the fields that can be set. We're hoping this becomes more sophisticated in future releases... but for now, we're happy to have a basic autoplaylist function back.

Zune 2.5 software

3. Gapless Playback

Some people cannot live without it. Well, wait no longer, gapless playback is here with Version 2.5.

You can go gapless now in Zune software on your PC, and on your device.

4. Metadata editing: fun again

Metadata editing is much improved in Version 2.5. By right-clicking on any given song, you can quickly edit the artist, album, song title, genre and more.

You can select multiple tracks for editing, and any metadata changes you make get applied to all tracks. Similarly, you can select multiple albums and edit them all at the same time.

Drag-and-drop editing makes management of your collection much more intuitive. To change the artist name on a song, you can drag-and-drop the track to the artist. To change an album's genre, you can drag-and-drop the album into the new genre – and Zune software will update the metadata accordingly.

A "Find album info" option is available from right-clicking any album. It'll find song names, release year, genre, etc.

You can now copy and paste album art images onto any album.

And, you can now edit metadata tags for your video content, as well as audio content. Cue a collective sigh of relief from Zuners with mega-video collections.

5. Social - more ways to connect

Zune Social has attraced nearly 2 million members since its launch last November. With this release, the social features of Zune are enhanced, and much more integrated into Zune software. There are numerous updates; here are some of the notable ones:

Zune Card, friends, and sharing. As before, your card automatically reflects your (and your friends') current listening, and favorite tracks and artists. Now from Zune software you can see and listen to music from your friends' Zune Cards.

You can sync a friend's Zune card to your Zune - and they will appear on a "Friends" screen under the Social menu.

And - get this - if you're a Zune Pass subscriber, you automatically receive full tracks of your friends’ recent plays, their favorites and popular songs from their most played artists.

If you don’t have a Zune Pass, you’ll still be able to see all the information on your Zune player, such as your friends’ recently played, favorites, and top artists playlists along with the associated album art and track information.

Flagging for purchase - from the player. When you’re listening to music on your Zune, and you find a track you like, you can flag it for purchase. Next time you connect to your computer, you’ll be asked to confirm the purchase before the music is downloaded and points are deducted from your account. Or if you have a Zune Pass, you’ll have the option to add it to your collection with one click.

Online social communities. You can drop your Zune Card on your MySpace or Facebook page, and it will automatically be added to the page.

More social integration with Marketplace and your own collection. You can see which friends are also listening to an artist you like from within your Zune software, either from your own local collection or any artist’s page on Zune Marketplace.

You can also see who the top listeners are for any artist and find new friends who share your musical tastes.

You can now invite new friends, send or receive messages and song recommendations, from the Zune software - rather than opening up a browser and navigating to zune.net.

Zune 2.5 software

Build a reputation within the Zune Social. With this release, you can earn achievement badges in Zune Social that are displayed on your Zune Card. Similar to Xbox LIVE, these are graphical icons on your Zune Card that represent milestones like being the top listener of an artist, passing a specific number of total plays, helping other users in the Zune forums and more.

Updated “My Social” view. A new page designed to give a comprehensive overview of the music your entire circle of friends is playing. This “My Social” page acts as your new home page, displaying an animated mosaic of artists and album pictures automatically refreshed by the selections your friends are playing. This dynamic view includes great artist images along with the ability to sample tracks on your friend’s cards. Just mouse over images to see who’s been listening to what.

Zune 2.5 software

Album reviews and fan comments. You can write an album or artist review directly on the artist’s page.

Built-in friends. New members joining Zune Social now get out-of-the-box Friends to help them get started. These are music editors from the Zune team will now automatically be part of your initial friends list when you join the Social.

Finding friends. It’s become easier to find people in the Social Zune Social members have new options to add information like name, location and biography, to their profile page. This makes it easier for others to find someone and add them as a friend in the Social or to identify someone asking to be added to your list.

Windows Live Messenger integration. You can add a “now playing” feature in Windows Live Messenger, that lets your IM contacts see what you’re listening to on your Zune software.

6. Multi-Device syncing

Now that many of us have multiple Zune players in the household, this version lets you sync more than once Zune at a time.

Also new in this release, you can drag-and-drop content to a Zune player that is not yet connected - and that content will sync the next time the player is connected to the PC.

7. Other notes

There's a lot more to like in this update, and I'll make #7 a grab-bag for you to discover in the morning when the update gets rolled out.

Here are a few teasers:

You can now view your collection by genre, and sort within that genre. This is in addition to the artist and album views.

Bookmarking on podcasts is preserved between your player and your PC software - so your podcast will resume from where you last left it on either device.

Better memory management - when your Zune is close to full, you’ll be able to manage the content to sync or remove with an easy to understand display, which highlights items taking up the most memory.

I have by no means seen each enhancement in this software. Let me know what I've missed!