Ask LH: Why Does Everyone Hate iTunes?

Ask LH: Why Does Everyone Hate iTunes?

Dear Lifehacker, I feel like every time I browse a music forum online, people are hating on iTunes. Is it just because it’s fashionable to hate Apple, or is there actually something wrong with iTunes that I’m missing? It seems to work fine for me.
Sincerely, Mob Mentality

Dear Mob,

We aren’t huge fans of iTunes here, even though many of us use it. I’m certain that part of iTunes’ reputation has to do with Apple haters just being Apple haters, with some of that mob mentality mixed in. However, if you want the actual reasons some people dislike iTunes, we’ll break it down for you.

iTunes is very slow…

Ask LH: Why Does Everyone Hate iTunes?

There’s no real getting around this. Everyone has different experiences, but an awful lot of people have found that iTunes is so slow that it’s frustrating to use. The app takes a while to start up (although this has improved in the latest version), editing metadata causes it to slow to a crawl, and syncing files to third-party iOS apps causes the entire app to stop for about 10 seconds. Overall, a lot of people have truly awful experiences trying to use the app. I’ve even seen people blame their computer for being slow when it was really just that they were using iTunes.

This effect is much more noticeable on Windows than OS X. If you’re a Mac user, iTunes really isn’t that slow. In fact, its performance is more or less acceptable. So a lot of people that “hate” iTunes are Windows users that have to use a horrible version of the app, while those that don’t hate iTunes probably run it on Macs. If you’ve ever run Microsoft Office on a Mac, you know exactly what this feels like.

…and doesn’t have a lot of advanced features…

Ask LH: Why Does Everyone Hate iTunes?

Furthermore, while iTunes caters to the iOS crowd very nicely, it doesn’t have a lot of advanced features that power users have come to love from other apps. For example, iTunes doesn’t:

  • Support a large number of file formats, like the popular FLAC
  • Sync with anything except iOS devices
  • Allow for advanced syncing options such as removing album art or converting to specific bitrates (only the ones Apple provides)
  • Let you customise keyboard shortcuts
  • Monitor multiple folders for changes to your library (just the “Add to iTunes” folder)
  • Let you manage multiple separate media collections
  • Automatically organise files according to custom rules
  • Allow for very much customisation of the interface (it only has a few predetermined “views”)

These are just some examples (and there are many others). Now you may say “I don’t want any of those!”, and that’s fine. Not everyone does (that’s why they’re called advanced features). But for those that do want them — and there are many of us — iTunes just doesn’t cut it.

…but it could be worse

iTunes isn’t the worst piece of software in the world (Flash still exists, right?). If you’re content with iTunes, then don’t listen to the haters and do whatever you damn well please. Obviously, iTunes has some good stuff going for it too — it’s pretty, it has a good music store and AirPlay is just the bee’s knees.

But for those of us who constantly curse iTunes under our breath for failing to live up to our expectations, there are a lot of other great music players out there, including MusicBee, foobar2000 or MediaMonkey (which actually syncs iOS devices — something no other player can do, thanks to Apple’s walled garden). And, while those other programs are great, they will take a little more work to set up. It’s up to you whether that’s something that matters.

Unless you’re unhappy, keep using what you’re using. But if you have some extra time, we highly recommend checking out what’s out there. Even if you don’t like other players, it will help you affirm that iTunes really is the best choice for you.


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