Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Simple features missing from iTunes

Posted by shannonclark on July 6, 2007

I use itunes – abuse it is perhaps the more accurate description.

But there are some really simple features MISSING from iTunes. Features which have been missing in every version of iTunes and which I have utterly no clue as to why they have not been added and why these bugs (for I think these really are bugs) have not been corrects.

Feature One: Those helpful “!” symbols showing tracks which have problems, usually meaning iTunes can’t find the file, but iTunes DOES NOT LET YOU SORT BY THAT COLUMN. Absolutely unforgivably obnoxious and beyond annoying. Every other column allows for some type of sorting (though in many cases very poorly) but this first and vital column does not.

Feature Two: There is no way to display in the main screen WHERE YOUR FILES ARE. This means, no way to SORT BY WHERE THE FILES ACTUALLY ARE. i.e. “sort and then find all the tracks which are on your external drive”. Perhaps this is a mac vs. pc thing, but I REALLY want a way to find all the tracks which are on my f: drive (and not my main internal c: drive).

Feature Three: if iTunes loses track of your files (say that f: drive is not connected), iTunes then cannot recover if you plug in the missing drive, you have to correct the files, by hand, selecting “get info” on each track with a missing file (which is then usually found without a problem).

Note: sometimes closing iTunes and restarting it will fix this problem, but that is beyond clunky

Feature Four: There is no, at least that I have found, way to export all of your play history, playlists, and ratings so you can, for example, import that data into another installation of iTunes on, for example, your new laptop. You can, of course, move those files (see above use of external hard drive), but will have to recreate your playlists – and more vitally – your play histories, skip history, ratings, history of which podcasts you have already downloaded etc.

I really need a solution to this last missing feature. Currently I have THREE installations of iTunes. One on my mac (mostly totally unused, though I do subscribe to a few video podcasts there which I don’t much care about). One on my new, Windows Vista laptop (truly unused at the moment for the most part). And my “real” installation on a Parallels  installation of my old Windows XP laptop (the hardware for which is now dead). This real installation links to an external 120GB HD which holds most of my actual media collection, this is also where my real podcast subscriptions live (both iTunes and via an external podcatcher), and this is what I use currently to sync my iPods.

I use a variety of really complex smartplaylists to accomplish my syncing with iPods. Since my collection of media is some 15500+ tracks and nearly 130GBs in size (and actually more like 200+ GB’s, I have a lot of media that instance of iTunes doesn’t yet know about), I could never sync it fully to one iPod. Instead I have various smart playlists which I sync – almost all of which are done in a two step process. First I have a playlist which takes some cut of the whole collection (a large collection I added all on one day for example). Then I have a second playlist which selects from that first playlist all the unplayed tracks, up to some fixed size (say 3 GB’s).

My actual system is more complex – I have playlists for everything which is unplayed, for new & unplayed (limited to a manageable size), playlists for songs which have been played but not yet rated, playlists for songs over a certainly file size (for management purposes), playlists of all the tracks with a given rating, a playlist which combines all the various types of media iTunes manages (so I can, in fact, see at a glance my true “full library”).

Actually that is a my Feature Five: Why oh why did the more recent versions of iTunes remove a working view that shows you ALL of your content in one view. By working view I mean a non-playlist view, where if you delete a track it is removed from your library, not just that playlist. For that matter, I do not understand why when you delete a podcast you are prompted if you want to also delete that file, but you do not (at least I don’t) get this prompt on deleting other tracks from iTunes.

I really want to be able to have a single view where I can find all of my tracks which I have rated 1 star, select them all, and delete them – and have it REALLY HAPPEN. Not just have them deleted from some playlist.

Feature Six: while I like seeing the long descriptions of podcasts on my iPod, WHY CAN’T I RATE PODCASTS ON MY iPOD!!! It seems the assumption is that you would have no reason to want to rate podcasts. But that is emphatically not the case. I have many podcast subscriptions which I routinely want to save select tracks from, the best solution for this is to make it possible for me to rank them when I am listening, so when I resync I can easily find the tracks I really liked.

Feature Seven: Why can’t I get a full list of all of the episodes of a podcast (even I have previously downloaded them and deleted them so I can re-request them if I decide at a later date that I want them. And related to this, I have often had iTunes fail to fully download a podcast – when this happens there is NO simple solution. I have to go by hand to that website (side note – impossible to cut & paste from iTunes to make this task feasible) and find the track which failed and download it by hand – and then if I’m really lucky figure out a way to get iTunes to put it where it should be.

Feature Eight: Perhaps other people use their iPods and iTunes differently than I, but the fact that ALL PODCAST SUBSCRIPTIONS have the “DO NOT SHUFFLE” option selected for them – and that there is NO way to change this default setting is really, really really annoying. I WANT TO SHUFFLE my podcasts. But more to the point, I have in the past wanted to put podcasts on my iPod shuffle something which has not been possible with tracks with this “feature” selected.

And I could go on. I use iTunes and do like my iPod (though I really wish the battery life was better – mine sucks the battery dry far far too quickly). But I am also constantly annoyed by iTunes.


5 Responses to “Simple features missing from iTunes”

  1. s said

    “Feature Two: There is no way to display in the main screen WHERE YOUR FILES ARE. This means, no way to SORT BY WHERE THE FILES ACTUALLY ARE. i.e. “sort and then find all the tracks which are on your external drive”. Perhaps this is a mac vs. pc thing, but I REALLY want a way to find all the tracks which are on my f: drive (and not my main internal c: drive).”

    oh yeah. when i went from winamp to itunes, i totally grumbled for the longest time about this…

  2. Ben said

    YES TIMES 8! For a long time now it has been clear to me that Apple have no interest in adding new features to iTunes unless they support some new revenue stream such as video sales. In fact, if iTunes is an ambassador to the PC world for Apple software, then I’m glad I use a PC, because I can think of any number of free Windows apps I use for various things that are simply bursting with useful features; the kind of programs that you think of something you need to do while using them, go looking for a way to do it, and it’s already there, and you realise how much thought has gone into making it a really cool app. It’s not as if iTunes isn’t mature enough, and it’s not as if the things we’re asking for would lead to software bloat or over-complexity, the usual excuses given for missing featurs. It makes me wonder if the iTunes developers actually use it themselves, certainly to manage anything more than small music libraries.

    1. Related to your #1 – why is there no facility to sort by/search for “dead” files? Well I’d like to know why there is no intelligent way of reconnecting them. For example, when you relocate a track why does iTunes not look in that location for all other missing files that were in the same folder (usually all the other tracks in an album)? It could even just search for them itself; often they’ve only moved to a new folder within the library root, or been slightly renamed. Instead we have to either manually locate each and every file one by one, or delete and re-add them and lose all their iTunes metadata. This is Windows ’95-era stuff.

    2. File naming options for importing are extremely limited. Not using the artist name is unforgiveable. Apple generally display ZERO regard for anyone who isn’t happy to let iTunes be their sole interface with their music files, both in the present and forever more. So I have to import the files, delete them from the library, batch-rename them, and then re-add them to iTunes again.

    3. NO HOTKEYS!!! It would be wondeful to be able to control playback from the keyboard even when iTunes doesn’t have focus, like Winamp lets you, and surely many other apps.

  3. ted said

    Re: Feature Four…
    To move your playlists from one machine to another select a playlist in iTunes. Select File…Export. This will export the selected playlist as a text file. In the new installation of iTunes, select File…Import, then navigate to the exported playlist text file(s). IF the tracks are in the new iTunes library, the playlist should appear just as it did in the old iTunes library.

  4. Greg said

    This might be a little late… but you can rate podcasts(#4 four). All you have to do is click podcasts -> view options -> and put a check in the rating box. Perhaps this has changed in a recent iTunes update. Works for me!

  5. A few responses:

    Ted – export of the playlist does not preserve some key bits of data, such as play counts, actual dates you originally ripped the CD (or in the case of podcasts downloaded the content), skip counts etc. The most critical playlists I have are NOT static playlists, they are smart playlists which allow me do things like always load my iPhone with 2gbs of tracks I haven’t listened to via iTunes before (i.e. play count is zero, from a selected group of my playlists to exclude certain types of content, and limited to a particular file size so the sync with my iPhone is easy). And to build that smartplaylist I actually use a number of other smart playlists – all of which I need to be able to migrate from one system to another (preserving key data from which the lists are built, which varies by list btw)

    Greg – you are talking about rating via iTunes. I am talking about ON your iPod (or iPhone). Podcasts, unlike other media content on the iPod don’t allow you to rate them on the iPod, instead Apple shows you the often long description of the podcast. Which is useful, but I actually want to rate things at the point in time when I am listening to them – i.e. when I say to myself “self, this is really good, I will want to listen to this again so I rate it 3 or higher, or similarly and as importantly – self, this sucks, rate it 1 star so I never subject myself to this again and remember to delete it from iTunes entirely next time I clean things up). I use a rating of 2 stars to note “give this another chance” – so I have lists of songs and podcasts which I may have listened to once but for whatever reason am not sure about (for example I listened to it on my iPod but was on a train so will give the song another chance in bettern listening conditions etc)

    I can do that with songs or podcasts I have but weren’t loaded into the podcast tab (i.e. I used another podcatcher than iTunes to get them originally or I downloaded them by hand from the podcast’s site) but I can’t rate podcasts directly from my iPod.


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