11 things we hate about iTunes

iPod and iPhone owners know that Apple's iTunes is the dominant software for managing digital media. But some aspects of iTunes drive us nuts.

6. 'Neglected' Podcasts Stop Downloading

iTunes is like a strict schoolmarm: If you don't listen to your subscribed podcasts on a frequent and regular basis, the program stops downloading new episodes. Say, shouldn't that be our decision? Does Apple think we're low on hard-drive space or something? We've got gigs to spare, so keep the podcasts coming. That's why we subscribed to them, after all. Unfortunately, iTunes has no setting that can override this dictatorial action. Guess we better keep our regular appointments with "The Onion Radio News" and the "Car Talk" guys.

7. The Mystery Check Box

iTunes lists a check box next to every library entry, but it's not easy to find out what it's used for.

Next to every single item in your library--songs, TV shows, podcasts, and so on--there's a little check box. It's been there as long as we can remember, but if the iTunes help function explains its purpose, that entry is really hard to find. Do you uncheck items to stop them from syncing? Check items that you want in a playlist? What's up with the box?!

Actually, it's pretty simple: Unchecked items don't get played when you're listening to your library or a playlist. Likewise, unchecked items don't get synced to your iPod if you enable the "Sync only checked songs and videos" option in the device's Summary menu. Handy options, right? So why all the secrecy?

8. NBC Shows — Bring Them Back!

Come on, Apple, make nice with NBC already. New seasons of "Chuck," "Heroes", and "30 Rock " are right around the corner, and we're just itching to watch them on our iPods and iPhones. Bet you can't even remember what the fight was about. Oh, right, money. Seems like both sides were making quite a lot of it, and now both of you are getting nothing. Wouldn't something be better? Swallow your pride and get NBC back on board in time for September. We've got money for "Office" burning a hole in our pockets.

9. Weak Dockable Player Controls

You can shrink iTunes down to size with this mini player, but you can't dock it. It just floats on your desktop.

Here we are, seven versions into iTunes, and the player still doesn't have decent dockable controls. The iTunes toolbar (accessible by right-clicking the Windows taskbar, the choosing Toolbars, iTunes) offers only the most basic player functions, and doesn't even show you which track is currently playing. As for the Mini Player, it can't actually dock anywhere: At best you can configure it to stay on top of other applications if you venture deep enough into the program's settings menu (look near the bottom of the Advanced tab). What we really want is a dockable iTunes toolbar with volume, seek, play/pause, and other controls, and an optional song-info ticker. Firefox and Internet Explorer users can get that kind of goodness from the FoxyTunes extension, which adds customisable iTunes controls to the browsers.

10. Rotten at Exporting Playlists

Want to use your carefully crafted, years-in-the-making playlists with another program or a non-iPod player? Sorry: They're locked up like gold bars at Fort Knox. While most music managers employ the industry-standard M3U format for playlists, iTunes marches to the beat of its own proprietary-format drummer. Yes, you can export an iTunes playlist, but only for importing it back into iTunes again.

Thankfully, developers have come to the rescue. Eric Daugherty's iTunes Export turns any iTunes playlist into an M3U file, and iTunes Sync makes it possible to sync your song library and playlists with a variety of non-iPod players. Best of all, both utilities are free (thank you, developers!).

11. No E-Books

On the subject of e-books on iTunes, Steve Jobs famously declared that "people don't read books anymore." (Guess they listen to them, though, as audiobooks have been a staple on iTunes for years.) Admittedly, smallish iPod screens don't lend themselves well to reading on the go, but the iPhone and iPod Touch are perfect for the job. Heck, they could easily challenge the Amazon Kindle for e-book supremacy, as their sharp, roomy touch screens let you turn pages by swiping a finger — just like in a real book.

For now, book lovers can get their fix from eReader, a free iPhone/Touch app connected to eReader and Fictionwise bookstores. But iTunes and e-books seem like such a natural fit. Maybe together, they could encourage people to read more .

But the iTunes news isn't all bad...

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Rick Broida

PC World (US online)

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