iTunes Gripes

Some of you may be getting the opinion that I’m a bit of a moaner. I have gripes about things only when I know the company could do better, and I think, in many cases these companies know they could do better. Unfortunately a combination of the complexities of the software, backwards compatibility, future-proofing and market forces all mean that just occasionally these companies don’t reach the dizzy heights that we would like to see them all reach.

iTunes is a good case in point from Apple. We’re currently on version 4.7.1, and while many new features have been added, such as the ability to interface to the iPods in different ways, the ‘Party Shuffle’ and the iTunes Music Store, the basic functionality has changed little since it’s very first version.

Unfortunately, I think that the power of iTunes as a music management platform has been diluted somewhat. Let’s take a typical example, that of play lists.

I use these a lot, not only to help me quickly access the tunes I want, but also to help make sure I listen to the vast range of music that I have (currently running at over 30,000 tracks, including over 400 books from Audible). With so much music, it’s often easy to forget what I’ve just bought and haven’t listened to, and what of my favourite stuff I haven’t listened to yet. Play lists are also incredibly useful when transferring music over to my iPods. My music collection simply doesn’t fit onto an iPod, so the play lists become a useful way to copy it over.

I use, almost exclusively, automatic playlists. But there are limitations to the automatic play list design that make it less useful than it could be. For example, I have playlists that list only those tracks that, according to iTunes, I’ve never listened to. Unfortunately, you can really only have one other criteria with that because we can only choose whether to include all the criteria, or any of them. There isn’t the option to use any of these, and that one. For example, I can’t create a list that includes the genres Hip-Hop or R&B and that I haven’t listened to.

The organization of play lists is also severely limited because play lists can only be given a name, they can’t be stored in a convenient file/folder structure. That means I have lists like ‘Adbl-Languages’ and ‘Adbl-Books-SciFi’ along with ‘Comp-Beat Faves’. What would be nice is to have an ‘Audible’ folder, then a ‘Books’ folder and then ‘Sci-Fi’, rather than than having to use such a cryptic long name. It can’t be a limitation of the iPod interface; afterall, the iPod already uses the folder-like hierarchy for you to move through the available music. Actually, with such a small screen, the folder structure would make it easier, not harder, to select the play list you want.

The management of the iTunes library is also somewhat limited, and this can have an affect on your auto play lists. We can change all sorts of attributes (or tags, in MP3-speak) for the songs in your library, except your play count. We can reset it to zero, but what about setting it to one? I have countless CDs I’ve been listening to for years, but I can’t simply highlight them and say ‘I’ve listened to these’. I have to use one of the many scripts that goes through the slow process of moving the song to the end just so iTunes can increment the count by hand.

As always, none of these annoyances are really a problem, but they do place an annoying little chink into the armour of what is an otherwise excellent piece of software.

Of course, these are just my bugbears. I’m sure you’ve got your own ;)

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