Whether you have an iThing or not, you might use iTunes to manage music, listen to internet radio and podcasts, and buy music and video. If you do, here's how to get it working—your way.
There was a time in the distant past when iTunes was a nice basic music manager for devices made by Creative and others, when DRM-laced music and video was just a dream in some lawyer's eye. Now, after the explosion of iPhones and iPods and the proliferation of legal media downloading, iTunes has become a necessary choice for music and video organizing. But as much as the player has improved since 2001, it's still annoyingly limited, throwing up barriers for enthusiasts and casual users alike. Lucky for us (and despite Apple's lack of cooperation), plenty of hacks, tweaks and add-ons can help fill the gaps—for both Mac OS and Windows. Here are some of the best:
Sync With Whatever the Hell You Want
iTunes nowadays will only directly sync with Apple products, but we're a gadget site, so we sought out a few apps to make syncing your iTunes library with other devices as painless as possible:
• iTunes Sync (Win): This tidy little app will sync your library with just about anything that Windows recognizes as a removable disk. The super-long supported device list only scratches the surface, but includes a lot of BlackBerry and Symbian phones—again, anything that your PC assigns a drive letter should work just fine.
• iTunes Agent: Almost the same as iTunes Sync. If that app fails you, you might have better luck with this.
• BlackBerry Media Sync (Mac/Win): Exactly what it sounds like, though Mac users will have to use a beta build.
• Pocket Tunes Sync (Win): If you can't connect your WinMo or Palm handset to your PC as a mass storage device for some iTunes Sync or iTunes Agent love, this'll do. Counter to the Dealzmodo Hack philosophy, though, it's a paid app, so try the other stuff first.
Take Full Control
iTunes doesn't provide many control options. Aside from the main window, you can manage iTunes from its compact mode, or in Windows, shunt the buttons to your Start Bar. That's it! Unless you install these:
• You Control: Tunes (Mac): Places extremely comprehensive controls in your Menu Bar. It also recognizes keyboard shortcuts, which some people go inexplicably apeshit over, and can display pretty little toaster notifications.
• iTunes Remote Control (Mac): A simple app that controls iTunes over your network. Perfect if you use iTunes as a media server.
• FoxyTunes (Mac/Win/Lin): A Firefox extension that places buttons in your browser window, where your mouse probably spends most of its time anyway.
• Remote for iPhone/iPod Touch/Android: Your iPod, iPhone or G1 is now a fantastic iTunes remote. Congratulations.
Really, Truly Share Your Music
iTunes' sharing abilities, which have been eroding since the day they were first introduced, are now officially lame. Third parties, that's your cue:
• Simplify Media (Mac/Win/Lin): It's hard to overstate how useful this is. Simplify Media shares your library so that you can access your music remotely, via iTunes or their fantastic iPhone client. You can also access friends' libraries directly through iTunes, as if they were connected to your LAN. Downloading isn't enabled, but Simplify more than makes up for that with dead-easy setup and reliable streaming.
• Mojo (Mac/Win): Simplify Media's sketchy, somewhat unreliable cousin, Mojo lets you download as well as listen to other users' music. My experience with the app has been a mixed, but when it works, it works well.
• LogMeIn Hamachi (Win, with Mac/Lin console options available for advanced users): Not the most obvious way to share iTunes libraries, but a surprisingly elegant one. Hamachi is a zero-config VPN service that can connect you to another computer over the internet as if it were on your home network. That means file sharing, LAN gaming and—of course—iTunes streaming, all working seamlessly.
Install Scripts, You Nerd
You can get a lot out of iTunes with a little AppleScript, and there might be something in this for you Windows nerds, too.
• Doug, of DougScripts.com, is the preeminent master of AppleScript arts, and he's compiled 400+ scripts to manage your music and album art, download artist info or lyrics, or control pretty much anything else the iTunes touches—perfect for Foobar-loving, OCD-having power users. And don't be off put by the word "script," as Doug packages them with a neat little installer. Lifehacker compiled some of their favorites a while back, but it's worth exploring the site on your own.
• AppleScript won't do much good for Windows users. For you, the best options are Teridon's iTunes Scripts. These are Perl scripts or small .exe files (recommended) that mimic some of Doug's best: Dupe deletion, advanced artwork management and sophisticated playlisting to name a few.
There are plenty of useful hacks and add-ons that don't fit into the above categories. I can't stress enough how useful it would be to look at Lifehacker's fantastic list from a while back, but here are a few of my favorites, too:
• iTunes Folder Watch (Win): Monitors your music folders, automatically adding new files to iTunes.
• Last.fm/AudioScrobbler (Mac/Win/Lin): Integrates iTunes with the fantastic Last.fm social network, with a plugin to upload your listening stats. The standalone app plays nicely with iTunes as well, letting you rate and tag songs as they play.
• Dupin (Mac): A simple app for deleting library duplicates.
• CD Art Display (Win): Presents Now Playing info and cover art however your please. Lots of skins are available, it that's your kind of thing.
• DockArt (Mac): Simple, but perfect, DockArt replaces the iTunes icon with album art.
If you're feeling adventurous, test DVD Jon's odd new media manager, doubleTwist. It's not ready to replace iTunes yet, but it is, as Adrian put it, "extremely promising."
Dealzmodo Hacks are intended to help you sustain your crippling gadget addiction through tighter times. If you come across any on your own that are particularly useful, send it to our tips line (Subject: Dealzmodo Hack). Check back every other Thursday for free DIY tricks to breathe new life into hardware that you already own.