3 entertaining tips for iTunes, iPods, and other digital music players

Love the iPod but hate iTunes? Want iTunes on an non-Apple player? Want lyrics to show up in iTunes? We can help.

Program an iPod to Ditch iTunes!

Many programs besides iTunes can manage an iPod. If you like the iPod but your taste for Apple ends there, consider a switch. Maybe you prefer Windows organization or you're seeking missing features, such as automatic video conversion or the ability to pull music from a foreign iPod to a PC. iTunes alternatives can be the answer.

I like the US$30 Mediafour XPlay because the software doesn't require you to reformat a Mac iPod for a PC, it shows iPod files in Windows Explorer, and it reads files from the iPhone and iPod Touch. (Other, similar software tends to be incompatible with those devices.) Just install XPlay and attach an iPod; the device mounts like a hard disk.

As for free choices, consider Floola and Winamp. Floola can convert videos for iPod playback, while the long-established Winamp offers a complete music application alternative, even importing CDs.

Put Song Lyrics in iTunes and on iPods!

iTunes can display song lyrics for music files, but it doesn't automatically slurp in that data as it can album art. To do that, grab the free iTunes Lyrics Importer. Close iTunes first, and then install and launch Lyrics Importer. iTunes will also open.

You can obtain lyrics for specific tunes by selecting one or many songs, and then clicking the Get Lyrics button. Preview the details if you want, and then click Update.

You can also update your full library in one swipe, without verifying each track. Select the iTunes window, and select all music by pressing Ctrl-A. In the iTunes Lyrics Importer window, click the Update Automatically check box, and then click Get Lyrics. The utility will churn through your library, taking several seconds per track (which can add up for big libraries). Click OK when it finishes.

The program stores the lyrics within the song file. To see them and sing along, right-click a track, select Get Info, and choose the Lyrics tab. On an iPod, press the center button several times to cycle to the lyrics screen. On an iPhone or iPod Touch, just tap the screen while playing the song.

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