ITunes sucks. There, we said it. Apple’s once very handy jukebox and music library manager has morphed into an unusable piece of crap that’s not even an app anymore, it’s just a kiosk for the iTunes Store.
We’ve got nothing against most Apple products. We like OS X, so much in fact that we hacked it onto an EeePC, where it works smashingly well or at least well enough until Apple joins the netbook market.
But when it comes to music players, Apple’s is one of the worst. Here are the top ten things that suck about iTunes:
- It’s a store, stupid Almost all the other items on this list are a result of this single fact: iTunes is not an application in the traditional sense, it’s a storefront for Apple to sell music, movies and more. That’s all well and good. We’ve nothing against the store exactly, except when it gets in the way of other features. Unfortunately, it increasingly seems to be doing just that feature updates have taken a back seat to iTunes Store feature updates. Take the arrows next to songs; by default they lead to the iTunes Store. Sure you can set them to point to your library, but how much cooler would it be if they led to a Wikipedia page or a band’s homepage?
- The library manager is prehistoric Why do we need to tell iTunes about every single MP3 we add to our music folders? Worse, why does iTunes try to reorganize the folder without asking? Just mirror the file system. And for the love of Fortran, stop rearranging things. IPhoto handles this quite well, allowing us the option to reflect the folders on the hard drive. So what’s wrong with iTunes? And how is it that after seven and a half releases, iTunes still isn’t smart enough to automatically detect when we’ve dropped new music in our library folder?
- No plug-in architecture Just about everything Apple makes these days has a plug-in architecture of some kind. Aperture has nice way for outsiders to write plug-ins, as do Garage Band and other music apps thanks to Core Audio. The iPhone alone should demonstrate that third parties could be adding tons of useful stuff to iTunes. This is the best part of Songbird, where the sky’s the limit. (Yes, there are a few iTunes plug-ins, but they’re basically just very clever hacks using unofficial hooks to thrust themselves into iTunes. The exception is the visualizer SDK. Wow.)
- Massive memory footprint Considering that iTunes is ostensibly, anyway just a jukebox app, it puts a remarkable strain on your system resources. It isn’t too bad if you have a few gigs of RAM and newish processor, but it still seems excessive for just playing music.
- No support for other music formats Ogg/FLAC/etc. This a dead horse, it’s never going to happen. But we still like to beat it. A LAME encoder would be nice as well (there is a third-party LAME encoder available).
- Drag and Drop sucks If you’ve got a lot of playlists, adding music to them is awkward. We’re not sure what the answer would be here, but this is one of those rare cases where drag-and-drop feels primitive.
- Bloatware downloads Windows users have to pay vigilant attention to any iTunes update, lest it also install Safari or QuickTime. Yes, a lot of companies do this, but Apple generally isn’t one of them. It usually has too much class for sneaky moves like this. As far as we know, neither Safari nor QuickTime try to install iTunes. If anecdotal evidence from Webmonkey readers is any guide, Apple is probably losing as many fans as it’s gaining with this move. To make matters worse, iTunes updates have a nasty history of triggering system crashes.
- Can’t use iPod as a music transport with iTunes Despite the dozens of third-party apps that can easily move music off your iPod and back into iTunes, iTunes itself can’t do it. Yes, there are some political reasons why Apple doesn’t enable this. For one, record companies would freak out. But Apple is quite possibly more powerful than the labels at this point, and it would be great to see it give the proverbial finger to the industry.
- iTunes is slow For most, this isn’t too much of an issue. But we’re a bit OCD when it comes to music, so we have large libraries above the 200 gigabyte mark and iTunes still really can’t handle them. Apple has the average user well under control when it comes to speed, but those of us who are edge cases still suffer through lags, jerky scrolling and everyone’s favorite, the spinning beach ball.
So, if iTunes is so flawed, why do we use it? The answer is simple the iPhone. There are plenty of apps out there that can handle syncing music to your iPod, but if you want your iPhone/iPod updates, you’re stuck with iTunes.
If you aren’t locked in by the iPhone, check out some of the many alternatives out there. Songbird is currently our top pick for playback and discovering new music. If you’re on Linux, Amarok is a very nice app. Feel free to plug your top picks in the comments and be sure to add your iTunes gripes to the widget below.
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[image from DefectivebyDesign]