We all use iTunes. It's our gateway to millions of song downloads, thousands of TV shows and movies, that killer new App Store, and a terrific selection of podcasts. Without it, our iPods and iPhones would be empty, lonely, and sad.
Techworld: How to get free iTunes music
But, oh, does iTunes drive us crazy sometimes. It lacks obvious features, hobbles others, and does things that are just plain dumb. In some cases, Apple's decision-making is to blame, not iTunes itself, but the latter is the conduit through which those bad decisions trickle.
We've rounded up 11 of these annoyances, all of which Apple could fix in about 5 minutes. In the meantime, we've listed workarounds for many of them--because, let's face it, much as we hate iTunes sometimes, we're stuck with it.
1. Wildly Inefficient Updates
Even point-release updates require you to download the full version of iTunes, complete with QuickTime.
Kudos to Apple for releasing frequent updates to iTunes, fixing bugs, and adding features along the way. But big-time demerits for forcing us to download and reinstall the entire program for every little update. And bundling QuickTime, too, whether it's new or not. Yo, Apple, ever heard of a patch? Some folks are still using dial-up, you know.
2. DRM (Boo!)
iTunes gave us the 99-cent song download, thus paving the way for honest people to buy music at a fair price. So why does the iTunes Store still employ digital rights management (DRM) for the majority of songs in its library? Blaming the record labels no longer holds water: AmazonMP3 and Rhapsody are among a growing number of services selling DRM-free MP3s from all the major labels, not just EMI. At least iTunes no longer charges extra for the latter's "iTunes Plus" selections, but why hasn't Apple given DRM the heave-ho once and for all? At least customers have alternatives now.
3. No Monitoring of Music Folders
iTunes still can't monitor folders for new additions, but the free iTunes Folder Watch utility gets the job done.
Apple seems unwilling to acknowledge that people get music from sources other than iTunes. How else to explain the software's inability to monitor folders and automatically add new music to the library? Sure, any songs ripped from CDs or purchased from the iTunes Store get added, but that's it. If you rip discs with a different program or buy music from other stores, you'll have to import them manually. Geez, even the Microsoft Zune software monitors folders.
Fortunately, solutions are available. iTunes Folder Watch, a free utility for Windows (sorry, Mac faithful), monitors designated folders, then automatically adds any newly discovered music to your iTunes library. And if you buy music from AmazonMP3 or the Rhapsody MP3 Store, those stores' download utilities will automatically add new purchases to your iTunes collection — no intervention required.
4. 'Pushing' of Other Programs by iTunes Installer
Apple now tries very hard to push its Safari browser onto Windows users' PCs.
Earlier this year, Apple hopped aboard the crapware train by adding its new-for-Windows Safari browser to its Software Update tool — which tends to appear whenever there's a new version of iTunes. Anyone accustomed to clicking OK without looking too closely would end up installing Safari, which was selected for download by default. At least now the browser is relegated to a "New Software" category — but it's still automatically queued up for download unless you clear the check box.
Meanwhile, any Windows user who installed iTunes 7.7 (the version that introduced the App Store) will find a surprise in Windows' Control Panel: a MobileMe service Preferences icon. It lands there whether you're a MobileMe subscriber or not, and whether you want it or not.
5. No Subscription Service — Still
If you're going to keep clinging to DRM, Apple, how about giving us a music-subscription service to go with it? You know, the kind offered by Napster, Rhapsody, and Zune Marketplace. For 15 bucks a month, a Zune Pass lets us buy unlimited (but not unrestricted) downloads that we can pack into our high-capacity iPods. It's an unbeatable way to discover new music — and the more music we discover, the more music we're likely to purchase.