You want wheat toast, but you have to order a chicken-salad sandwich to get it. So it is with iTunes and the iPod: there many things you can’t do, as they break some rules. But here are five easy pieces for the Mac, five easy pieces for Windows, and a few for the road, that won’t leave you holding your iPod between your knees.
Awaken (version 3.1.5, $12.95) brings some of that wonderful iPod functionality to your Mac (for Mac OS X 10.3.9 or newer, and iTunes v6.0 or newer) — an alarm clock that wakes you up to your iTunes music, or any of the built-in alarm sounds. You can also fall asleep listening to your music with the built in sleep timer.
VoodooPad from flyingmeat, for OS X only, offers hypertext notepadding that can export to your iPod’s Notes section. Built like a wiki, VoodooPad lets you save linked pages as Word documents, Rich Text Format files, or HTML to view wiki in a web browser. Once inside iPod Notes, VoodooPad linked words show up for you to click on, and you can go from page to page just like you were using VoodooPad, only with an iPod scroll wheel instead of a mouse.
iPodDisk for OS X is described as “just another tool that enables you to copy your own music from your iPod” but what it actually does is make your iPod act like an iDisk drive, so that other applications to access it to copy files and music. You can browse, drag from, or even play music directly on the drive, with a convenient hierarchy structure well organized by artists and albums. Rather than burden the program with features such as search, the developer integrated it with Finder so that Spotlight works fine for searching. You can even use command-line tools.
Audiobook Builder v1.0.7 for Mac OS X from Splasm Software is a $9.95 alternative for importing audio book CDs (or any audio files) and converting them to be recognizable in iTunes as audiobooks so that they are stored in the proper Audiobook section and are easy to find. It lets you join audio files, set chapter stops, and save book construction projects.
TiVoDecode Manager (version 2.1, free) for Mac OS X rivals the commercial Toast 8 Titanium in offering one-click transfer and conversion of TiVo videos into iPod- and iTunes-ready files. It can find your TiVo on a home network, and can create 640×480 videos in MPEG-4 format that transfer properly to the iPod. However, it does not do H.264 encoding.
Soundcrank is a free program for Windows (Mac OS X coming soon) that helps you find album artwork and lyrics for your iTunes library and see what other Soundcrank friends are listening to in iTunes.
The winamp ipod plugin (aka ml_ipod) is a plugin for Winamp (for Windows) that lets you manage your iPod from within the winamp media library. It supports all models of iPods, from the classic first generation to the iPod mini, photo, nano and shuffle. Since iPod support is built into Winamp version 5.2 and newer, ml_ipod is an alternative for this built-in iPod support lacking.
EphPod (freeware) is a Windows application that can copy music to and from an iPod quickly — it takes under 30 minutes to transfer 1,000 songs to an iPod with a FireWire connection. EphPod supports standard WinAmp (.M3U) playlists, includes playlist creation features, and can synchronize an entire music collection with one click. It also imports Microsoft Outlook contacts and lets you create and edit your own contacts. EphPod can also be used to download the latest news, weather, e-books, and movie listings to an iPod.
XPlay 2 ($29,95m free trial version) unlike other applications for organizing music on your iPod, runs as a system service, integrating your iPod’s music database into Windows Explorer — plug in your iPod and it appears like any other hard drive or storage device. XPlay 2 allows you to use a Mac-formatted or Windows-formatted iPod on your Windows ME, 98SE, 2000, or XP system. Inside the XPlay music folder your songs are arranged just as they are on the screen of the iPod, and you can browse by playlist, albums, artists, genres, composers and songs. You can drag-and-drop songs from your PC to the XPlay Music folder to copy them to your iPod, and copy music files from your iPod to your PC.
TVHarmony AutoPilot (freeware) can keep track of what’s on your TiVo and automatically download shows you are interested in. You can also download and convert videos from YouTube and automatically convert videos into formats for iPods, PSPs, Palm and PocketPC devices, video capable mobile phones, XBox 360s, and Linux devices like the Neuros and GP2X. It requires a networked Tivo with TivoToGo capability, at least 10GB of hard drive space, a P4 or equivalent CPU, and Windows 2000 or Windows XP.
One More for the Road
YamiPod (Yet Another Manager for iPod, version 1.7b3, freeware) lets you copy music files freely from your iPod to your computer and vice-versa. It can copy playlists, RSS news feeds, and podcasts, and synchronize your iPod with computers running Mac OS X, Windows, or Linux. You can run it directly from your iPod.
Lots of free stuff is available in the iTunes Store but Apple only highlights the most recent offerings. Most of the older stuff is still there — a treasure trove of free music and other stuff. Check out Get Free iTunes Store Downloads for links into the store.