Why is iTunes such a POS?

If you’re an ardent Apple fan, don’t take this personally. I have nothing against Apple products in general. I own an iPod and love it, I’m impressed with my friends’ iPod Touch, and I’d love to own a Macbook. But I can’t help but wonder why iTunes is such a dreadful piece of … software.

For many of us Windows users, iTunes is the first Apple product we’ve ever used, and as an ambassador to things Applely, it’s not very successful.

I still recall my first view of the interface and thinking, what the hell is this? A spreadsheet? Looking at data as a table may tickle the fancy of accountants but it’s always been my least favourite view of a data set. Surely this wasn’t the main interface? Wrong.

Aside from an Album view, which is okay if you have a very large music library,  it’s cold and clumsy. Scroll, scroll, scroll to select a song.

Yes, I know about playlists and I make bunches of them. It’s the only way to make iTunes usable for music. But it’s time consuming to build them and as I discovered when changing computers, the playlists don’t travel well. Mine didn’t travel at all — I had to recreate them from scratch.

I’ve got nothing against the iTunes Store either. I love it for finding and subscribing to podcasts. Automatically syncing my iPod with new casts is a pleasure. Almost.

One of the problems with iTunes synchronization is that the settings are global — applying to all podcasts. For me podcasts aren’t equal. Some I like to have on my iPod for later re-listening, and others are a quick listen and out.

I compromised by setting sync at the 3 most recent, which gives me more of some than I want and less of others. Why doesn’t iTunes allow me to customize the profile of each podcast? It doesn’t take a Genius to figure out how useful that is.

Speaking of Genius — well, some people say they like it. I don’t. Fortunately this is one option I’m able to turn off. But instead of bloating iTunes with this kind of semi-benign spyware, why not work on the interface?

So, because of the global settings on podcasts, I decided to go Manual on the sync and just do it myself. But every time I tried to drag and drop a podcast into the iPod section of iTunes, I got a circle with a No-No bar across it. Huh? I went to the documentation which said, “drag the podcast to the iPod icon.” Swell. I went back to auto mode.

I don’t know much about how Apple develops software or how they made iTunes work in Windows, but I have no other single program that boots as slowly as iTunes — not even Photoshop. Is it running in emulation mode? It’s a pig.

A friend of mine who was recently given an iPod Touch as a gift confessed to me that as much he finds the device really neat, he can’t stand the iTunes built into the product. I had a look. Crikey, because of cramped screen space, it’s even worse than the Windows version. Yuck.

I really do like my iPod Nano and I’ve been thinking about getting an iPod Touch, but now I’m not so certain. I’m starting to think in terms of getting a different brand of music/video player that allows me to work with it directly.

Apple, get with it. Fix that damned program so it looks nice, is friendlier to use, is customizable for individual podcasts, and doesn’t take forever to load. This iTunes POS has been out there for years now, with a virtually unchanged interface. Not a nice intro to Apple products, nor does it inspire confidence that Apple can do things any better than Microsoft.

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About Gene Wilburn

Gene Wilburn is a writer ~ photographer ~ humanist
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15 Responses to Why is iTunes such a POS?

  1. DaveB says:

    Great, Gene. Good old fashioned rant. I love it. -Dave

  2. DaveB says:

    On second thought, perhaps you could be a bit more direct about your acronym, POS. At acronymfinder.com they have almost 80 translations of POS. Could you have meant Prime Orbital System, or Part of Speech? Power of Suggestion, perhaps, or maybe Position of Strength?

    Give us a hint. Could the first word possibly be ‘Pile?’

    -Dave

  3. Gene says:

    Thanks Dave. I always heard the first word as “Piece” but “Pile” works too :-)

  4. Jarrett says:

    I take a more simple approach to my music organization. I prefer to create folders on a separate partition like Classical > Composer > [folder by work]. Then I can just drag an entire folder to the winamp playlist if I want to listen to something that way.

    I refuse to ever use software like that. I don’t understand playlists and all this over organization: genre, artist, album…this only gives us MORE ways to complicate things and be dependent on one application to play, organize, etc.
    Nothing works better than naming generic folders yourself like this: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3389/3324480254_d849863132_m.jpg

    I’m a bit of an audionut myself and am absolutely convinced Sony make the best MP3 player. They work like a device (think USB key), have excellent battery life, FM tuner, and are the best sounding portables out there IMO.

  5. Gene says:

    Thanks for the comments, Jarrett! I organize my music that way on my hard drive. I’ll check out the Sony next time I buy a player.

  6. adam says:

    I’ve given up with iTunes. Life is too short, I don’t understand it and can’t work it. Crap!

  7. Jamie says:

    It must be me, because every thing I’ve ever owned that came from Apple didn’t work right. I’ve got an iPod touch that at this point would make a good gardening shovel. And I’ve owned 3 Macs, each of which had problems that I’ve never experienced with a PC. (like iPhoto crashing, the entire computer crashing, locking up when trying to network, etc etc) Even my son’s Macbook arrived defective from Amazon and had to be exchanged, while my other son’s Sony PC worked flawlessly. So when I read your title today I said… ‘Amen’… no more Apple stuff for me.

  8. Gene says:

    @Adam, It’s a weird piece of software.

    @Jamie, I like my iPod Nano just fine, but I really don’t like iTunes. Next time round, though, I’ll consider a different player.

  9. JohnB says:

    I suspect that the first piece of Apple software for most is QuickTime.

  10. Gene says:

    John, that’s undoubtedly true.

  11. jannx says:

    Gene, buy an MP3 player and load it up. Plug it into your computer. Then be the closet “luddite” I know you are. Fondle your Nikon SLR, caress your fountain pen and then write in your moleskin.. now I bet you are feeling better already.

    I know I would.

    From a luddite and “hold out” til the very last moment

    jan

  12. Gene says:

    Jan, should I write a memoir? Life of a Closet Luddite? Or am I simply unable to keep up? Whichever, I’ll jot a few handwritten lines in my Moleskine and feel better :-)

  13. Billigflug says:

    It seems I’m the first person here to defend iTunes. I agree with you on some parts. QuickTime, Genius, Bonjour and others are not great and I hate it, that Apple doesn’t take “no” for an answer with this. Took me ages to delete it again.
    Back to the defending. You don’t like the Layout from iTunes? I love it. Nothing there, that is unnecessary. Only simple my list of music. I was shocked the first time, when I saw the Album search you love so much. I wanted my list back and had to look for it.
    The best thing of this? The search. The last time I used Windows Media Player, it created a playlist for each search I did. And it took ages. In iTunes I only have to type in what I want and I get it while typing. No wait, no extra playlist.
    The load time you complain about is ok with me. It’s not longer than what other programms do. My music library is big in my eyes, but it might be small for some other people. I let iTunes organize my music, so that I can delete music I don’t like through iTunes, without searching for the mp3.
    Have you considered deleting your podcasts by hand? That’s what I do, because I have a few, I never want to be deleted (audio books) and others I listen only once to.

  14. Gene says:

    I’m glad there’s someone out there who genuinely likes this program. Do read the text carefully though. I said the album view was “okay” if you have a large music collection. That’s a far cry from love. There is nothing about this program that I love and I would never-even-if-you-paid-me allow it to manage my music collection. I do a much better job of that myself.

    I’m still working on the manual handling of podcasts. For a company that prides itself on its intuitive software, this program is an embarrassment. Again, in the text, it shows I followed the instructions in the Help file and that didn’t even work. I’m quite probably doing something wrong. That’s why I turned to Help. What is wrong with this picture?

    I admit that iTunes is useful for subscribing to podcasts and keeping them up to date, but I see little other other merit in this program.

  15. francois_hoser@yahoo.com says:

    iTunes is still a POS … it uses up to 3 of my CPU cores at 100% each and really seems to be doing sweet F-All!

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