iTunes love and hate

Ever since I bought iPod Shuffle, I had love and hate relationship with iTunes. One thing that bothers me most is the way it controls the file structure in the music folder. If I let iTunes manage my files, it will create this structure:

Artist \ Album \ xx - Track

While this may seem optimal, it only works for albums made by one artist/band. If I have soundtrack or tribute albums, I want those files to stay together (like in the following example of structure) not spread around 20 or so folders.

[Various ] Album \ xx - Artist - Track

It can have or not have Various at front, I don’t really care. Unfortunatelly, the only way to achieve this is to maintain the stuff manually, which is a pain. I like the fact that, when iTunes have control and I fix the ID tags on some song, iTunes automatically moves the file where it now should be - much better then hand copying.

Over time, I realized that the way to keep such tunes together is to mark them as compilations and iTunes will keep them in structure:

Compilations \ Album \ xx - Track

Always mark the compilations to keep the files together

Not really ideal, but close.

There is another, way more important benefit of letting iTunes handle the music - it allows you to sync the ratings from iPod to Library. I really like the concept of ratings and the only place when I actually have time to tag them is when commuting. Of course, only with Nano or higher this feature becomes useful. The fact that there is no way to transfer the ratings if you choose to manually arrange the songs is lousy. It could be done by dragging the songs from iPod to Library and do a binary match. That’s one for the feature list.

There is another thing that Apple should do to make the ratings even easier to set/use. When I’m listening to songs over months, I can’t possibly remember did I rate it or not. When the song is playing, there is no way to see what the rating is or whether is rated at all. The only way is to click two or three times until you get to the ratings screen. They could easily achieve this, by showing stars in the middle bottom on the Now playing screen. It doesn’t have to be stars, even dots would do - basically anything that tells the song’s rating. Second for the feature list.

Version 7

Recently, version 7 came to the scene, with wonderful two new views: album view and cover flow.

Album view, great for figuring out what tags are not properly marked

This is the prime example of the software change that urges you do something good. I never cared about getting the MP3 tags in order until this came along. It’s only now that I’m actively searching for the covers as well as fixing lots of other information. For instance, I’m marking soundtracks properly as compilations, so that they appear under one cover art even though both title and artist are varying. iTunes is very helpful here, as it will immediatelly apply the cover to the new song, as soon as album name is set to existing one and “part of compilation” is checked.

Coverflow, great visual addition

Unfortunately, iTunes have not been optimized, at least the Windows version is not. Or it does not appear it is. The coverflow is often sluggish, even when running on Core Duo processor and 2GB of RAM. Scrolling through either of the two new views is painfully slow at times.