It’s hard to deny how handy it is to plug an iPod into a Mac, fire up iTunes, and watch your device sync with your computer automagically. Take the Mac or iTunes out of the equation, though, and syncing gets a little trickier.
If you don’t like iTunes, or you use Linux as your primary operating system, it’s still possible — easy, even — to sync your iPod’s media files. Just grab one of these three free, open-source music managers, and you’ll be up and running in no time. Like most open-source software, these projects have a strong community of users who are eager to jump in and help if you run into any glitches while installing or using these apps, so don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.
Banshee — One of the most robust media players around, Banshee syncs podcasts, music, video and audio files with your iPod. It also snags album artwork from MusicBrainz, lets you create smart playlists, and filters your entire library by album or artist. Banshee was designed for Linux operating systems, but also works on a Mac, so it’s perfect as an iTunes replacement.
Rhythmbox — This music management app does just about everything but sing along with your tunes. Rip CDs and organize them into playlists, manage automatically downloaded podcasts, grab lyrics and album art from the Internet, and easily transfer music to your iPod. Designed to work with the GNOME desktop, many Linux distributions come already bundled with this app, so check to see if you have it before downloading.
Amarok — This app has a load of integrated Web services that help you locate, buy and manage music from Web sites like Magnatune, a terrific place to buy tracks and support indie artists. Amarok imports your existing iTunes database, creates dynamic playlists, and supports more than 45 languages. If you need to sync a jailbroken iPhone or iPod touch, then this is the app for you. Amarok was created for use with the KDE desktop, but it’s also possible to get it up and running on a Mac. There’s no official support for it yet, though.