Last week Apple released iTunes 9, and while the update brings a few nice feature improvements here and there, iTunes still has a lot of room for improvement. Here are five things we're dying to see from iTunes.
The Big Stuff
We could spend all day nitpicking about every single tiny thing we'd like changed or improved in iTunes, but the five following must-haves represent the kind of features that would really put iTunes over the top as a desktop media player.
1. Library Sharing
iTunes has never made it easy to share a library on a home network. Like most people, I've got one computer at home that holds the vast majority of my digital music (tens of gigabytes worth, in fact). Naturally, I don't want to worry about copying all that music to every single computer I own, be it my laptop, my wife's computer or my digital media centre.
What I want is to be able to share one single library on my home network. I want to be able to add songs to that library from any computer, edit a song's metadata from any computer, create playlists from any computer, and I want all of that activity to be reflected on every computer. There's no reason this kind of feature should be that hard to give users, but Apple's never gotten close. Yes, you can share your library over your home network and allow other users to listen to said library, and the new Home Sharing features lets any authorised user on your home network grab songs à la carte, but no one really cares; what we want is full-on library sharing.
2. Integration with the Cloud
Remember Spotify, the best desktop music player we've ever used? We didn't love it so much because it's breaking any serious ground in terms of look and feel. We love it because it syncs seamlessly to any computer (and the iPhone), allows you to share songs or playlists with anyone in the world, and all it requires to access your library on a new computer is logging in to the service. I'm not sure that iTunes could ever bring itself to try the freemium model that Spotify uses, but it could learn some serious lessons about how to add amazing new functionality with a little love for the cloud. In fact, if Apple worked similarly to Spotify in library management, it could also address wish #1 this way. (Sadly, Spotify is only available in certain countries, Australia not included.)
3. Support for non-iPods
We understand that Apple has a vested interest in this crazy contraption called an iPod, but if they really want people to use their music store and software, it wouldn't kill them to sync to non-iPod players. Let's face facts: No one buys an iPod because they're in love with iTunes. In fact, a lot of folks tolerate iTunes because they love their iPod so much. So why make it so hard for anyone who doesn't already own an iPod to use your software? If you're on Windows, you can download an application called iTunes Agent that adds support for non-iPods that works like a charm, and there's no reason Apple couldn't easily incorporate this kind of functionality. (Oh right, they could also stop breaking everyone's attempts to support iTunes despite their walled garden.)
4. Better Metadata Tools
iTunes can automatically download missing artwork for your music provided your tunes' metadata perfectly meshes with Apple's data (seriously, I've never found the "Automatically download missing artwork" feature to work well at all), but that's pretty slim pickings for automating your library cleanup. We've seen countless third party add-ons that aim to help fill this gap in iTunes functionality—my favourite of which is TuneUp. TuneUp can analyse any song in your iTunes library, clean up and flesh out missing or incorrect metadata, and yes, add album art. (It doesn't do lyrics, incidentally, but others do. TuneUp is free for limited cleans every month, unfortunately costs $US30 for a yearly licence.) Even a better MP3 metadata editor like the popular Mp3Tag or improved duplicate finder and eliminator would be welcome.
5. iTunes Lite
Bloat is probably the number one complaint about iTunes from folks who just can't bring themselves to use the application. Sure you can install iTunes without the bloat if you're a savvy user, but you shouldn't have to fight to use iTunes without all of the crap Apple wants you to install along side it (e.g., Bonjour, QuickTime, iTunes Helper). Apple might consider a slimmed down version of iTunes that focuses less on Genius features and more on a lightweight memory footprint and lightning fast playback. iTunes Lite seems like a nice compromise rather than asking Apple to take away all those features that make it such a behemoth.
Bonus Grips and Wishes
In addition to the five biggies I covered above, here's a quick look at some of the other annoyances we'd like to see addressed (as suggested by my helpful Twitter followers in reply to my call for suggestions):
Dg01844 says, "wish for iTunes to use genius to suggest audio incl(ude) podcasts for iPhone commuting — using est(imated) time of trips using maps and gps" audioper says, "how bout faster, or quick emergency type syncing? sync just the stuff you need now" colbpa says, "I've always wanted a "play next" opt in iTunes..like to the ol' WinAmp "play next in queue" feature. Of course, iTunes DJ exists." ryanneumann says, "OGG Vorbis support!!!!" andyedison says, "make it run as smoothly in windows as it does in OS X would be a good start." kevfrost says, "Linux compatibility. Currently my only reason to keep a vista partition" jacekkr says, "Typing SMS messages from iTunes with the iPhone connected via USB would be great. ;)" lyqyd says, "The ability to truly manage an iPhone/iPod manually (as if it were just a USB mass storage device)." bigether says, "bring back the shopping cart! the wishlist is to hidden."
There you have it: Our iTunes wishlist. iTunes has always been a source of some controversy among Lifehacker readers, so whether you love it or hate it, let's hear your take on what would make it a better piece of software (short of trollbait, which will result in banning) in the comments.