iTunes for Windows First Impressions & Problems

This ended up rather long. I broke it up into 3 parts for that reason. I had no problems installing iTunes on my Windows box. I had only one problem in viewing and listening to music from my Mac iTunes playlists. This has to do with audio books, both bought from iTMS and directly from Audible.com. Audible.com uses a file extension of .aa and iTMS uses a file extension of .m4b. I think that the Windows iTunes has problems with these file extensions. This does not effect me, I do not listen to audio books on my desktop or laptop. Therefor I am not really inclined to look into this issue. Being able to share all my playlists from my Mac is really nice, and did not take any effort at all. I do however have some gripes about the interface. Additionally Neil has some thoughts. I am not asked if I want a shortcut on my Desktop, in my Quick Launch Bar, or the QuickTime Player Tray Icon, All of which are installed, and all but the iTunes icon on my Quick Launch Bar were deleted or deactivated. Most well written Windows installers ask you about shortcuts on the Desktop and in the Quick Launch Bar. Despite Apple's claim that iTunes is the best application written for Windows, it is far from true, in even the most basic functionality. It would have been nice if they would have used the standard Windows UI standards. Apple harps so loud about using standard UI elements in the creation of OS X software, you would think they would do the same with their own Windows software. Some People do not like the brushed metal. In OS X this is an easy thing to change if you have Interface Builder (Developer Tools) installed. Windows users will just have to deal with it. I like the brushed metal of iTunes for Windows. I just wish the menu bar and the minimize / maximize / exit buttons would conform to the standard Windows UI. What in the world is up with the Maximize button? Any other Windows window would zoom to full screen. In iTunes it shrinks to the condensed player window. If you want to make the window larger you have to drag the lower right resize handle, something else that is not standard in Windows. You can only resize the iTunes Window by grabbing the lower right resize handle (which is a feature of the Mac OS I cannot stand after using Windows for so long). It is a standard Windows UI element that you can resize a window using any of the sides or corners of a window. Since these are standard Windows UI elements, wouldn't it be easier to implement then what Apple has done with Windows UI elements in iTunes? On the other hand, the Windows version of iTunes works just like the Mac version. Even the Maximize button, that is what it does in the Mac version.
I notice over at the Apple Discussion Boards that Windows 2000 users are having all sorts of problems with installing iTunes. Thats no fun, I read that Apple is looking into it. But that, IMO, does not mean you should troll the boards with "Apple Sucks" banter. It has already gotten rather congested. People go to those boards for technical help, they do not want to see your anti-Apple rhetoric. Another issue I see a lot of at the Apple Boards is the fact that iTunes renames and reorganizes mp3 files. Yes, this is in-fact a feature of the product. And if you ask me it is a very nice feature at that. iTunes relies strongly on ID3 tag information. If that information is not present then i strongly suggest you go to the Advanced tab of the Preferences and turn off "Keep iTunes Music folder organized." This is pretty much the main reason for the mixed reactions (C|Net). Because Windows users do not know how iTunes works they automatically think the software is bad. There is a saying in tech. support "99% of software problems happen between the chair and the keyboard." In other words, 99% User Error, 1% Software Error. If any Windows user had just asked a Mac user, who has been using iTunes for a long time, about iTunes, most Mac users (myself included) would tell you to be carefull of the fact that iTunes can/will reorganize and rename your tunes. Instead they just bash iTunes on the Discussions Boards. "Apple said if the default settings are used, iTunes is not supposed to rename or move any music files." (C|Net) This is, I think, false. In the Mac version of iTunes this option is on by default. I am pretty sure I had to turn them off when I installed iTunes for Windows as well. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to delete those preferences in Windows (I even tried System Restore) so I cannot say for sure, but I am pretty sure I had to uncheck those two check boxes. (I have my MP3 collection on a external HD and don't want my Windows install of iTunes messing with the file names or organization of the files, my Mac version of iTunes does that) My guess is that a lot of Windows users have a lot of MP3's that do not have proper ID3 tags. This could be because of illegal p2p file sharing, but is not necessarily the case. That or when you ripped your CDs you did not gather information from the CDDB. Whatever the case, not having ID3 tags is going to seriously hamper your iTunes user experience. The Browse function of iTunes relies on correct ID3 tag information. I do not know what others are used to, but wouldn't you like to automatically browse your collection by Genre, Artist, and Album, then have to manually manage all that information? For a long time I did not want iTunes to manage my MP3 collection, but this is because I had some incomplete ID3 information in my files. Since getting an iPod though I have iTunes manage my collection as your ID3 tag information needs to be immaculate to use on an iPod. Unfortunately there is no way to undo the damage done if you have iTunes manage mp3's with badly formatted ID3 tags. I did a test though. I checked both options to organize my music folder, and to import into my music Library (which to my knowledge are the default settings). Going to File > Add Folder to Library... and selecting one of my tunes folders, it copies the files to my My Music folder, and does not rename the original files. This is obviously not the scenario most if not all Windows users are taking. This is though, what I believe is the most logical way to import you tunes. So I really don't get the problems that people are having. In this experiment iTunes fixed a lot of file name problems because it used the ID3 tag information, it also put track numbers (and full song titles) in the file name. This saves a lot of time. It is a feature folks. But there will always be people that fight it for some reason. You can always turn it off. As I read on the Apple Discussion Forum, most users think this is a nifty feature once they understand it. Another misconception is how iTunes manages Soundtracks, or other collections like AM Gold's Best of the 70's, for example. Apple users of iTunes think the behavior is normal, because, well, because it is. If Compilation is checked iTunes will put all the files into a folder by album (They show up in a Compilations folder in your iTunes Music Folder. If that is not checked then yes, iTunes will make folders per artist.
I am biased, so my opinion does not really amount to much. The only other jukebox app I liked was SoundJam, and Apple bought them and incorporated some of its features to create iTunes. I think iTunes is a wonderful addition for Windows. It is a lot nicer to use then WinAmp, which I think has been the best choice for a jukebox on Windows. I can look past the non standard Windows UI elements, and I know how iTunes works, so I have no problems with importing and letting iTunes manage my collection. Like I said, I am biased. Mainly because I have used iTunes for years. What I am noticing is that once Windows users understand how iTunes works, they really start to like iTunes. This is the impression I get from posts at various discussion boards. The anti-Apple trolling needs to stop though, no one wants to read it. If you hate Apple then for crying out loud do not install iTunes and do not ask for help. Also posted at BlogCritics.

Comments (1)

Dave:

I used iTunes for a long time when I was working with a Mac at work. I had a few problems understanding how iTunes worked at first, but after the learning curve, I loved it. It's really the best way to browse your music collection. Same is true with the iPod. I have yet to see another MP3 player that gives you the ease of browsing like the iPod does.

My complaints with iTunes for Windows is exactly the same as yours! If this is supposed to be a Windows app, why does it work like the Mac product. How many Mac people actually have a PC as well so that iTunes working the same on both platforms is an issue.

I don't remember any options for it to manage my music, however, I added my music to it the "Add Folder to Library..." method, so I didn't see any of these problems. However, I also have made sure that all my MP3 tags are happy using Dr. Tag.

As to the iTunes Music Store... I think it's great! One little problem is the lack of a button to listen to the 30 second sample. One of my biggest pet peeve's with Apple is their UI. I had no idea that to listen to the 30 second preview, I needed to double click the track. I looked in the help, but "preview" and "sample" didn't return topic titles that sounded like what I was looking for. I later found that it's in the Tips and Tricks section. Why not simply put "Play sample" in the context menu? Because Apple doesn't work that way.

One of the reviews I read complained that iTMS doesn't support WMA format. Well, the same could be said for the other music stores not supporting AAC! From what I have heard, the iPod has the largest market share of all the MP3 players out there. Well, doesn't it seem smart to support the majority? Their complaint was that a customer would have to burn a CD with the tracks purchased from iTMS, then rip the CD to MP3. He claimed that this would degrade the sound of the music to unacceptable levels. I haven't noticed this myself, but I have only done this once. Since I have an iPod, I am very happy with the AAC format. My wife has an older MP3 player so I need to make MP3's for her.

I almost bought a few tracks from MusicMatches store (a close rip-off of Apples store) to see how it worked. I would have had to burn a CD and rip the CD in order to play it on my iPod. What stopped me was the fact that I had to play extra money to be able to burn the CD. I was also nervious because I read somewhere, either on their site or some review of the store, that you couldn't rip CD's burned with MusicMatch. I find that hard to believe, but not impossible...

That same review complained that editing the ID3 tags was difficult in iTunes. They claimed that there was a special trick in MusicMatch that made editing the ID3 tags really easy. I checked it out and yea, it was pretty cool. It got the album art and all, however, in order to save the data, I have to purchase the "Plus" upgrade! I find that editing the ID3 tags in iTunes to be really easy and adding album art is really easy. Just drag the image from a browser page to the spot in iTunes and wah-lah! It's updated!

Sorry for such a long comment, but I just had to put my 2 cents worth in and I wanted to say that it's nice to hear a Mac user complaining about the UI on Mac's. That window resize thing in OS9 and OSX just drove me crazy!

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