Alternatives to Apple’s bloated iTunes

“At the start of the millennium, Apple famously set out to upend the music business by dragging it into the digital realm. The iTunes store provided an easy way of finding and buying music, and iTunes provided an elegant way of managing it,” Jesse Jarnow reports for Wired. “By 2008, Apple was the biggest music vendor in the US. But with its recent shift toward streaming media, Apple risks losing its most music-obsessed users: the collectors.”

“Most of iTunes’ latest enhancements exist solely to promote the recommendation-driven Apple Music, app downloads, and iCloud,” Jarnow reports. “Users interested only in iTunes’ media management features — people with terabytes of MP3s who want a solid app to catalog and organize their libraries — feel abandoned as Apple moves away from local file storage in favor of cloud-based services.”

“There are some open-source alternatives, but for a Mac user seeking a fully operational iTunes-like app that will manage files with the same ease, Swinsian (US$19.95) leads the pack,” Jarnow reports. “It aims to replicate iTunes’ most elegant functions, strip away the bloat, and add some extra tools.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: iTunes has become a ridiculous app. Ridiculously bad. Bolt on too much stuff and make the UI enough of a disaster and people will start looking elsewhere, Apple.

As we wrote back in July:

This has been building for years. With each new version of “iTunes” (even the app’s name hasn’t been right for many years), we’ve had such high hopes, but all we ever get are more and more appendages bolted on to the bloated mass, when it’s exactly the opposite that’s called for!

iTunes is the Yoplait yogurt cup of UIs.
iTunes is the Yoplait yogurt cup of UIs.
iTunes is the Yoplait yogurt cup of UIs. Upside-down, inefficient, messy, unusable in spots and woefully inefficient. The foil top always tears in half; it never comes off in one piece. Trying to spoon it all out of an ever-widening cup maddeningly gets yogurt all over the spoon’s handle and your fingers. And inconvenient bumps molded into the horrid thing to go along with a wide yogurt-catching lip around the top thwart even the most determined of spoon scrapers. The amount of Yoplait yogurt thrown away due to poor packaging design could feed several impoverished nations. The amount of media hidden away, seemingly inaccessible, and lost inside in iTunes is like leftover yogurt forlornly and forever stuck in that awfully-designed Yoplait cup. What a stupid waste!

Apple, take a step back and look at the iTunes app anew. Look at it as if, say, it was a piece of Microsoft software (it certainly looks and acts like one) and approach it as if you’re about to enter the market. What would Apple do? Laugh at what a POS it is and then get to work creating a coherent, easy-to-use solution.

Just like you did with personal computers, MP3 players, smartphones, and tablets make this experience for end users again. Look at what Apple did with non-linear editing via iMovie. You made something very complex into something simple, understandable, and usable for everyone. Reinvent. Simplify. Delight us. Surprise us. That’s why you get the big money.

Give “iTunes” to another Apple team, or teams, or even bring in some outside talent, and see what their fresh eyes might imagine.

Should iTunes be split into 16 different apps? – October 20, 2015
The tragedy of iTunes: Nothing ‘just works’ – July 28, 2015
Dear Apple, please go thermonuclear on iTunes – July 28, 2015
Marco Arment: iTunes is a toxic hellstew – July 27, 2015
Jim Dalrymple: I got (most of) my music back; Apple working to fix Apple Music issues shortly – July 26, 2015
Jim Dalrymple: Apple Music is a nightmare, and I’m done with it – July 23, 2015
Apple’s iTunes: Whatever happened to ‘It Just Works? – July 17, 2015
The iTunes Report: Still a mess – July 14, 2015
Apple releases iTunes 12.2.1, fixes iTunes Match issues – July 13, 2015
Apple Music, both on iOS and OS X, is an embarrassing and confusing mess – July 10, 2015
iTunes 12.2 is mangling network-shared libraries – July 6, 2015
Serious iTunes Match issues for some users ahead of Apple Music launch – June 26, 2015
Open letter to Tim Cook: Apple needs to do better – January 5, 2015


  1. Apple needs to move the Home Sharing functions to a separate application. Call it iTunes Server. Then, it wouldn’t be necessary to launch the bloated just to provide content to Apple TV.

    1. Not to mention that the Yoplait container is lethal to small animals that get stuck in it and slowly suffocate. This is well known. People who think this is funny also have their head stuck up in the dark place.

    2. It would be nice to be able to share more than one library at the same time. I have one that I use for Classical and another for everything else. I can only share one unless I have my machine logged into multiple user accounts which is a right pain.

  2. Here’s are my problems with iTunes. iTunes can’t alphabetize properly. iTunes doesn’t know what to do with podcasts purchased outside of the iTunes ecosystem like Artie Quitter or Anthony Cumia. Nor has Apple made easy add premium podcasts. And iTunes no longer adds playlists to my iPhone with songs in the order that they exist in on my Mac. And iTunes still has no Boolean search, so that if I search for The Jam I don’t also get hits for James Brown and The Kinks.

    iTunes 9 was the pinnacle for each of use (that was also the last time it would put my podcasts on a playlist in my music app).

    1. not only can’t it alphabetize properly, it does it different ways depending on the context. the sidebar and the playlist put things starting with numbers at opposite ends of the list. also i recently discovered that playlists starting with special characters such as option 8 can’t be shared or shown on my ipad. and songs sorted by album may or may not be in the right order depending on the order in which the cds are ripped.

  3. Tim redirected the iTunes team to working on a political plan to attack conservatives because they believe marriage is between two opposite gendered individuals. That is the main focus of Apple now – reeducation strategies for Christians and fixing global warming.

    1. Photo is worse because instead of collecting photos on a central server like iPhoto did, Photos copies the entire collection to all of my devices eating valuable drive space on machines I use for actual work.

  4. iTunes alphabetizes just fine, you have to know how to use “sort” on the sort tab… that said, Tunes is a mess, to many ways to try and display the different libraries, playlists, accessing the sidebar,

    As its been discussed, its probably time to separate various media into different apps, Music, Video, Store.. They can perhaps use the same iTunes database, but eliminate the UI clutter and complexity.

    1. “iTunes alphabetizes just fine, you have to know how to use “sort” on the sort tab… ”

      Not quite. You can sort the contents of a Playlist, but how do you sort the actual Playlists ? I don’t think that you can.

  5. Yeah, I’m about ready to leave the iTunes ecosystem and curate my media library elsewhere. I don’t know who’s minding the fort there in Cupertino, but the iTunes management team is increasingly looking like the Republican pool of candidates.

    The problem with Apple is they’ve completely lost track of what the core functionality is in iTunes, they’re going for the lowest–and broadest–common denominator of functionality, and the whole thing now looks like Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

    I’m going to give that Swinsian a try.

    1. “looking like the Republican pool of candidates”

      You mean of varied age, sex, heritage and class?
      (better than the three old white guys from the left ANY day)

      Also, Palin’s Alaska looks much better than Granholm’s Michigan.
      But you tried…so here’s a trophy 🖕

  6. I don’t know if i share all the opinions expressed. i know what i like and what i don’t like about iTunes. I don’t like the iPhone app stuff in it, in fact syncing through the app seems to be a little disjointed. iPhoto is separated from it, but almost everything else isn’t…its just not coherent. But, as for home sharing, and having music, movies and tv shows and podcasts all in one app doesn’t bother me so much. I use all of them except maybe tv shows. But they need to fix how you enter in metadata for a movie and tv shows…because its basically metadata fields for music added to a movie. They did just add director…but that was it. Home sharing works great. If the new siri remote could filter to see that it would be awesome. The new apple music stuff is a little annoying. Im toying with it at the same time, but i am not sure about how i feel about it yet. its been nice to have, but also a pain. It also screwed up my album artwork i had worked so painfully to achieve.

  7. Roon is an incredibly good program but it is not for the feint of heart. It requires an annual subscription or lifetime membership.

    It is also not for the casual listener but for serious music files and equipment to get your money’s worth.

    It’s Tidal integration is second to none for building playlist with your bought files and streaming files together all in CD to DSD quality.

    I have put off buying it because Audirvana does most of what I want, just not near as pretty or informative and so far no Tidal integration (it DOES do Qobuz for you Europeans).

    I still use iTunes for my iPhone but absolutely cannot stand the iOS Music app. It might be great on a larger screened iPad but is abysmal to use on a phone for a half-blind fat-fingered old man….

    1. No, Roon is pretty useless, it’s only intended to be used within a home music setup with a single computer. There are no Roon apps for smartphones or tablets. It’s very inflexible in terms of how your music is used or delivered, so it’s pretty much dead on arrival.

      1. Now I see how you come by your politics.
        Only your needs are important.
        It may be useless to YOU but it is a fantastic music player.

        It can be loaded on several computers but only one library, with other computers able to stream from it and control it.

        It has an iPad app for use as a remote and streamer.

        It is actually more flexible for home music than iTunes, depending on what you use iTunes for. Not everyone, especially audiophiles, give a crap about loading music on an iPhone.

  8. I hate this F ing moaning about nothing. This is just the sort of mob mentality that got us flat UI. Same crowd, different moan. They just have to moan about something or their life is not complete!

  9. Thank goodness for this article and you posters above. I was beginning to think my VEHEMENT objections to the current iTunes was just me getting old, or some such thing. NOTE: One of my big 27″ iMacs is still rooted in Snow Leopard because it uses the last iteration of iTunes I could use and understand. This app today is nothing but a homily to the “power user,” the kid/techie who wants ALL THINGS IN ALL PLACES . . . none of which make any GUI sense to this average person. Indeed, that which brought me originally to Steve Jobs, the Apple II, the Mac, the iPod, and early iPad is no longer valued at Apple. IMHO, the company is now catering to the cross-over Windows user (or something abysmally like him/her): the more complicated the app, the better! Patch it up, tack it on, someone get the bailing wire. So sad.

  10. In related news on MDN, Apple is poised to rake in nearly 100% of smartphone profits. And yes it is related news, because that’s where Apple’s priorities are. Not in fixing iTunes, not in correcting UI horrors on the Mac, not in making cloud services to work as expected, not in having product launches go right, not in bringing lost features back into Apple software, and not in making the Apple store experience better. Follow the money.

    Currently clinging to iTunes 10.6.3 on a Snow Leopard partition, looking into Swinsian, and after 20 years, thinking about Windows for my next machine. I never thought I’d ever say that…depressing.

    1. You’re right about priorities. At some point they MOVED all their best engineers to iPhone, which as you noted is the fount of money, and kept them there.

      New hires, wet behind the ears, took their places. You can see it in their work. They’re learning on the job.

      And as long as the P&L sparkles, priorities will not change.

      Apple U is being relocated in the subbasement of the spaceship campus. Stone walls, leg irons encrusted with verdigris, skulls for bookends.

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