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5 downloads to fix iTunes' biggest flaws

Low-cost or free solutions for the big issues

Apple's iTunes has its share of problems. There's a cottage industry devoted to fixing some of its flaws with free or low-cost add-ons. Here are five of the best.

Songbird

Songbird is a cross between a browser and a music player that's fun to use and adds value to iTunes.

During installation it'll ask if you want to load your iTunes music directory or another media directory, or perform the task later. It loaded my library quickly and accurately. Playlists take an extra step. Create a new playlist in Songbird, highlight the songs in your iTunes playlist and drag them over. The Songbird interface cleaner than iTunes and quite easy to manage.

You can import bookmarks from other browsers, and use Songbird as player of songs you come across on the web. It has lots of extensions and add-ons, though it appears that the built-in functions for Shoutcast and another streaming music site don't work. However, that's easy to work around by simply browsing to those sites with Songbird and bookmarking them.

Songbird also supports CD ripping; like other services it will notify you when artists in your library are performing in your city and it will track their new releases. Since Songbird is built on open source, it's easy for developers to come up with add-ons and extensions, and there are lots of them.

iTunes Sync

Want to give music to a friend whose MP3 player was not made by Apple? iTunes Sync will let you synchronise your playlists with almost any MP3 player that shows up as a drive letter in Windows when you attach it via a USB port. (Microsoft's Zune is an exception.) You can configure as many different MP3 players as you need and synchronise each one with a different iTunes playlist. Be sure to back up the target MP3 player before you use this program for the first time because things can go wrong any time you sync a device for the first time.

iTunes U

Strictly speaking this isn't an app or a fix, but since iTunes U is so useful, and for some reason, not widely known, I'll include it here. Apple and dozens of major universities have collaborated to make huge amounts of course-related audio content available for free via iTunes. Simply launch iTunes, go to the store, and search for 'iTunes U'. When it comes up, you'll find podcasts from many universities, and resources geared to lower grades as well. The university content is astonishingly rich. Go to Stanford on iTunes, for instance, and see offerings like Global Geopolitics, which includes ten lecturers, or a seven-lecture mini-course called The Future of Human Health.

See also: The 18 best audio apps

  1. Add-ons to help fix flaws in iTunes
  2. Songbird

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