I hope that music players like Songbird or musikCube become more appealing to the public and usable for music lovers. In my limited experience with the two, they definitely exceed iTunes in one way or another. Songbird is great for surfing around for mp3s or for searching online. It lacks somewhat in speed with my large local music collection though in its developers release, but I’m keeping an ear out for it. MusikCube is a new find for me, and I’m learning to like it. It’s open source like Songbird, but the GUI isn’t as pretty. It pays off though with good speedy response. It’s a bit tricky to get acquainted with some of the features though. Unfortunately, I am still not 100% satisfied with either of them, and it will be a daunting task to convert from iTunes.

iTunes stinks and iTunes rocks. It’s very popular, but it is lacking some beneficial features and has many tiny problems all over the place. I don’t like to complain about free software, but I should be able to criticize a large company that has the money and resources to do so. For clarification, I’m referring to iTunes for Windows.

Itunes Gripes
– mp3 encoding is poorer quality than other encoders.
– It uses more than enough resources.
– Occasionally slow
– The DRM for the Music Store stops me from making purchases there (Update: Some non-drm downloads are now available).

– ability to navigate by artist inside a playlist (firmware only). I’m a playlist junkie with large playlists and sometimes I just need songs by a certain artist within the playlist.
– support for playlist folders on iPod (firmware just like iTunes)
– ability to tag two albums to a single file (to save space on hard drive and ipod); an example would be a greatest hits album and another album that has a song on the greatest hits. Instead of having 2 copies of the mp3, why not have a way to split the album tag info on one mp3 file so that it is viewable from both albums. The best option right now is to delete one and lose info from one of the albums.
– a more universal solution to the previous wish: multi-field values. The MediaMonkey forum discusses how WMP parses multiple artists by semicolons, and other methods.
– sort by whether album artwork is present or not. Fix: Otto’s iTunes javascript.
– sort by whether lyric tag is present (contains lyrics) or not. Fix: Playlist script
– integrated lame encoding
– native ogg vorbis support
– delete / sort by dead tracks (!) with the exclamation point. Fix: iTLU or JavaScript.
– sort by check mark box (selected or unselected). Fix: Playlist solution
– the option to append to tags (add to a tag without wiping out previous data). There’s an applescript for Apple users, but there’s no scripts for PC users (Update: until now).
– ability to tag keywords for styles or mood, like allmusicguide.com instead of or in addition to genres. Even to delimit genre by a comma, that way multiple genres could be used, and browsed directly from tags instead of a database.
– the new multiple libraries option in iTunes 7 should have an option for global change, say if I import or rename a file from one library, it will also change the other library. I actually haven’t tested multiple libraries though, afraid that I may screw up my settings.
– on-the-fly transcoding (will convert flac, ogg, and all other non-iPod readable formats in order to be put on iPod). wmv is automatically converted in iTunes, but nothing else.
– Make iTunes smaller and faster. (i.e., during installation of iTunes, have options to not install potential bloated features like visualizations, cover flow, party shuffle, or even video support since they do make quicktime)
– Make an easy plugin system with a community like Firefox. Better yet, put it under an open source license (except the Store of course)
– smarter manual management, or ability to use auto syncing with multiple computers.

iTunes could be much better. I am sticking with iTunes mainly because it does what it needs to and has the most features of any music player, despite its lack of perfection.

The few perks
– Smart Playlists with easy to set rules
– playlist folders
– interface is pleasant and not too cluttered (elegant but not busy)
– it works with the iPod (obviously)
– plays the main filetypes- MP3, AAC (.m4a) as well as other audio codecs
– easy filetype conversion (right click, convert)
– Grouping tag which I use for smart-playlist management.
– they finally made it possible to check “remember playback position” and “skip shuffling” for multiple files.
– Good sorting parameters of fields (Artist, Rating, Year, Play Count, Last Played, etc.)
– straightforward navigation and options

You can give Apple feedback about these missing features or your own enhancement request, by commenting on their site. Please include my requests or any others you can find.

Stay tuned, because I’m going to write another post that will make iTunes better with a little help from some free tools.