iTunes For Windows is Horrible

May I interrupt my usual posts to complain about something? Something minor?

It is that iTunes for Windows — from Apple, the maker of what are said to be brilliantly-designed products — is horribly designed. I have two examples.

1. Suppose I want to see what’s in the iTunes Store. I open a new window. I can’t close that window without closing iTunes! And if, after closing the whole program, I open it again, it still gives me the Stores window! Maybe the Stores window went away after a few weeks…I don’t want to even think about it.

2. I pressed the wrong button and started 181 downloads. There is no way to cancel them! If I stop the whole program, they will resume the next time I start it. This is software design from the 1960s.

And this is iTunes version 10.something, not version 0.3.


13 Replies to “iTunes For Windows is Horrible”

  1. I’m with you on this one. I have iTunes, and I’m underwhelmed with it. It’s caused me many instances of puzzled head-scratching. It’s true, though, that I never sat down and made anything like a serious effort to understand its intricacies and how it works — but I thought that the whole point of well-designed software is that you don’t have to do that.

    In fact, I’m sort of puzzled by the whole “cult of Apple”. The Macintosh was truly revolutionary when it came out. Everything else has been fairly unremarkable.

  2. There’s much to dislike about iTunes. I feel I have to pamper it. There are several scenarios that it doesn’t disallow, but it doesn’t reliably support either.

  3. not just what you say, which i agree with, but itunes and the ipod in general are not up to the task of dealing with large music libraries. mine is 40GB and it’s a complete organizational mess.

  4. Seth, I experienced a similar problem some time ago. On a tip from a computer literate friend I was finally able to cure it by simply downloading the newest, updated version of iTunes from Apple’s website. Hopefully that will work for you as well.

    Agreed that the system is aggravating and, I think, too geared to selling product that we may not really want. On the other hand, I really like the iPod Touch which I use solely for its WiFi capability when I want to go online and check email and other stuff (such as your blog) without having to fire up the desktop. 🙂

    1. Yeah, I did solve the downloading problem by simply updating the whole thing….of course that is ridiculous but it did work. I am in the extraordinary position of needing to postpone updates so that they are there when I need them to solve problems caused by something as common as hitting the wrong button. Which every other piece of major software in the entire universe solves with a Cancel or Are You Sure? button.

  5. iTunes is a great example of how some needed features simply cannot be reduced below the elegance threshold set by Apple.

    I have 400gb of classical music. MP3 metadata is a non-option for organization (e.g. Rachmaninoff vs Rachmoninov vs Sergei Rachmaninoff). The only option is folder organization. Good media players, such as foobar2000, allow you to sort by directory structure.

    Apple, in their stubborn pursuit of simplicity, refuses to add an option to sort music in this way. It’s a shame because: 1) I need iTunes for my iPad (a device that I use often and quite like), and 2) on mac os x, there are very few music player alternatives. So you’re kinda stuck with the program.

    1. some needed features simply cannot be reduced below the elegance threshold set by Apple.

      You mean some needed features cannot be implemented in a way that makes them elegant enough for Apple?

  6. iTunes is pretty bad on Windows, and although it performs a lot better on MacOS is still not exactly ‘magical’.

    It’s actually a very hard problem for Apple at this point and I’m pretty sure they’re working hard on it. iTunes is a 12 year old program that started off life on MaxOS 9. It has an enormous number of features, and has to support a huge range of iPods, etc. It still runs on PowerPC based Macs and OSX Lion as well as Windows.

    All of this means that it is actually really really hard for Apple to improve it. Apple has been one of the most aggressive companies in the world at replacing old technologies with new ones, but in the case of iTunes, they have half a billion users relying on it to keep fitting in with their usage patterns. In many ways, iTunes is to Apple as Windows is to Microsoft. I don’t know of an example in software history of anyone painlessly solving thins problem.

    There is evidence in the newer versions of iTunes for Mac that Apple is retrofitting newer technologies behind the scenes, which will ultimately allow them to make major changes to it, but this is a pretty monumental task.

    My guess is that they’ll start to split the functionality into separate and more elegant apps, like they have on iOS. But don’t hold your breath for this, particularly on windows.

  7. Jay: Have you explored using iTunes “smart folders” to consolidate whatever groups are meaningful to you? Or for that matter, iTunes plain old dumb folders? iTunes does, under the hood, store files by directory structure, but you’re free to make up your own categories and put stuff in those categories to your heart’s content. You could either fix the metadata or make a (Rachmaninoff OR Rachmoninov OR Sergei Rachmaninoff) smart folder or just type “Rachm” in the search bar to collect them on the fly.

    I don’t listen to much classical music, but I also just noticed that the default smart folder called “classical” in the current (Mac) version of iTunes already includes the ability to (a) select by composer (b) grab groups of composers into a “grouping”. So they might have already done some of the work for you.

    Seth: I’m going by how the Mac version works and I know the Windows version is less intuitive, but: with the Mac version if you *single-click* on “iTunes Store” it changes the main window to view the store, but if you then click something else on the left pane (like, say, “music”, the store view is replaced with a view of your music. If you double-click it does open a new window, but when you relaunched that might be what happened – it remembered the last thing you looked at was the store, so you saw store content in the main pane and thought that was “the store window” when it was just the store *view* from the main window. Updating the software got you back to the default view, but clicking on “Music” in the left-side tab would have done the same.

  8. I agree iTunes is not a great program, but you actually can cancel downloads. Just select the item(s) in the Downloads page and press the Delete key. Alternately, you can right click and select Delete. It’s not the most intuitive interface in the world, but it does work.


  9. Seth…I use iTunes for PC and don’t have the problem opening the Store. I single click on iTunes Store in the left-hand column and it shows the store, which usually takes 5-10 seconds to load. To get out of the store, I simply single click on Music or another option in the left-hand column. Not sure if yours is set up just like mine, but I’ve never had to deal with a separate window opening as you describe above.

  10. I love my iPod touch and use it constantly I do believe that Apple got things right there.. so why oh why have they got it so wrong with iTunes for windows. I think the thing that bugs me most about it (and I do have a lot of things in my list) is just how slow iTunes is. I own a computer that is so blazingly fast it scares the pants off of me and a broadband connection that is in the top 5% of the country and yet when I open up iTunes it takes an age to sort itself out. I’m sat there twiddling my thumbs whilst it looks for and then slowly, oh so slowly connects to my iPod Touch.

    I am very much with Jay regarding the cataloguing of music. I too have a vast classical music collection and trying to organize it with iTunes is just pathetic.

    How I wish it iTunes was like ‘MusicMatch’ used to be in the days before Yahoo got a hold of it, ruined it and then killed it off.

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