Fed up with the fat size of iTunes (more than 160 Mb with QuickTime) and its flashy store, I woke up this morning with the goal of comparing all free iPod managers I could find that would allow me to add songs to my iPod without screwing up my iPod menus and, if possible, with an interface that would be closer to the one of the iPod itself, as I'm frequently disappointed by the organization of my iPod songs, which is not what I expected when I managed them from iTunes.
These are the results of this test (sorted by ascending size):
vPod (220 kb)
This is a pretty cool little piece of software!
The interface is very different from all the other "classic" iPod managers I tried during this test.
Very close to what I was originally looking for. The only pain is that, with the tab based interface, you can't drag songs into playlists.
It successfully added songs to my iPod.
Apparently not able to create new playlists, except if I missed something?
Bad point: messed up my iPod menus in a way that all my songs appeared in the Movies menu too.
Creates a backup of the iPod database before starting, which seems to be necessary...
Not maintained for a pretty long while (latest update 06/15/2005).
General appreciation: really cool and original but very limited: 8/10.
PoddoX (408 kb)
Fantastic piece of software!
One of my goals was to find a kind of "virtual iPod" in order to manage my iPod in a WYSIWYG way (what you see is what you get), this is definitely the closest solution to this ideal.
No installation required, which means you can run it from the iPod and hence take control of your iPod with several computers.
The interface seems to be based on the picture of a Mac tower, pretty unusual, but good-looking.
Extremely easy to understand.
Super fast, super light.
Browse songs through a tree view (Windows Explorer-like), like vPod.
Allows to add songs, photos and videos.
Not as limited as it may look: it is able to repair the iPod database, edit songs tags or copy iPod songs back to the PC.
Possibility to integrate a "Copy to iPod" function to Windows Explorer context menus.
Unfortunately no built-in player.
Several forums mention that it damages iPod databases.
Seems to have been released recently and promise improvements: "Poddox’s development is at an early stage [...] The support of images, videos, artwork and other features is not completed yet [...] new versions with further tools will be released regularly."
SharePod (1.4 Mb)
Its interface is very obvious, intuitive and has been recently updated with aqua-like, transparent icons.
It allows to add songs to an iPod, create new iPod playlists, organize iPod songs into playlists.
Note that it can also copy iPod songs to the computer and generate an xml file to import those songs into iTunes keeping the ratings but unfortunately won't preserve iPod playlists (it creates a new playlist called "SharePod" in iTunes), play count or last played.
Its major drawback is that it does not allow to display only the songs of an album or artist.
General appreciation: its simple and limited functions are what make this tool pleasant, it's an iPod songs and playlists manager and that's it (even though it can also copy iPod songs to the computer and in a limited way to iTunes). We'll regret the navigation that does not allow to display just the songs of an album or artist and its slow speed that is surprising for such a small program, 7/10.
CopyTrans Manager (1.5 Mb)
This is an extremely promissing candidate.
The interface is very similar to the one of iTunes but without the Genre list that most alternative iPod managers have gotten rid of too.
Library and playlists are in the left pane, songs can be dragged to the playlists.
The iTunes-like skin is very pleasant.
Most of all, it's damn fast and, at such an early stage of development, that's its main asset, as the rest of the features is still very minimal.
Like Poddox and a growing number of programs, this is a standalone application that does not require any installation. It can therefore be installed directly on the iPod, which is very convenient when you don't have the administrator right on a computer but still want to access your iPod or if you want to manage your iPod from several computers.
CopyTrans Manager allows to create playlists and organize songs into them.
As far as I tested it, it seems to do it properly, which means without messing up the iPod menus.
This was one of my major criterions when I started this comparison test, as the risk of damaging iPod databases is one of the most common drawbacks of alternative iPod managers.
Like vPod, it creates a backup of that iPod database the first time it is started, which, for a beta version, is pretty wise.
Pretty original feature: as it's released as a beta version, a text box allows users to submit their feedback to the developers while they try out the program.
General appreciation: still young but new features are added every few days at the moment, extremely promissing according to its speed and look and feel, 7/10 for the moment but will definitely get 10 when more richly featured.
Winamp (3.7 Mb on disk)
Winamp supports portable music players, including iPods, since version 5.2 (now 5.5). Rightclick on your iPod to create a new playlist. Add songs to your iPod or to a playlist by selecting them and then rightclick "Send to playlist". Unfortunately no drag & drop. Also features iTunes-like auto sync of the iPod with the computer's library.
Note: the default skin (Bento) behaviour when doubleclicking on titlebar is to roll the window up (Windowshade mode), which, according to me, sucks. If you want to change it to classic Maximize window, go to Options->Preferences->Skins->Modern Skins->Current Skin->Skin Options Menu->Window Sizing->Maximize Window on Titlebar Doubleclick
General appreciation: perfect for Winamp fans. Two thumbs up for me, but you would probably give 7-8/10.
reTune (3.8 Mb on disk)
This is my favorite candidate!
Once you have copied it to your iPod, the functioning is amazing: you just drag your songs from any folder of your computer to any of your iPod and doubleclick on the program so it scans your iPod for music files and builds the library.
No interface at all, you just doubleclick its icon and the command line builds your iPod menus.
No installation required, only needs to be extracted to the iPod's root folder.
Crossplatform, works on Mac, Linux and Windows PCs.
General appreciation: best choice for minimalists and it's so pleasant to add songs to your iPod through the Windows Explorer, 10/10 (let's say 12/10).
Ephpod (7 Mb on disk)
Pretty cool interface, many features but crashed repeatedly when trying to sync my changes to my iPod. Very buggy. Apparently not maintained for a while anymore.
Most of all, this is one more fat ass with much too many features I will never use.
General appreciation: sucks, 4/10.
Like CopyTrans Manager, this is a tool is at a very early stage of development but very promissing.
The interface is so similar to Yamipod that I wonder if it is not based on the code of Yamipod.
Originally developed for Linux.
Podcast, smart playlists and last.fr support.
Cross-platform (Windows, Mac, Linux)
No installation required, which means you can access your iPod from multiple computers without taking the risk of unwanted synchronizations.
Manages both iPods and Motorola mobiles phones.
Extremely cool way to add songs to the iPod (see video).
General appreciation: excellent interface, really user-friendly, very pleasant way to add songs to the iPod. Unfortunately, much too unstable at this stage of development. To be watched carefully, as it would get 10/10 if working.
Yamipod (15 Mb)
No installation required, so you can add it to your iPod and manage it from there.
The interface is really cool. Very neutral, no heavy aqua or transparency effects.
This is a complete iPod music manager, looking pretty much like iTunes but without left pane and with a different choice of lists at the top (iTunes: Genre/Artist/Album, Yamipod: Artist/Album/Playlists).
The minimal built-in player does what it's meant to.
Excellent feature: song tags can be browsed and edited from one to another without having to exit from the edit window for every song.
Easy to add songs and create playlists onto the iPod with drag & drop.
Did not screw up the Videos/Movies menu of my iPod (which shows it is able to manage the iPod database properly).
Playlists created in Yamipod are displayed in iTunes with the correct songs in them.
Plenty of other features (that I will not need).
Available in 28 languages.
Cross-platform (Windows, Mac, Linux)
General appreciation: impressive for a free tool, simple, light, smart, portable. Too many features for me but will rock for most users, 9/10.
iPod Copy Manager (63 Mb on disk)
The idea is to have your computer on the left and your iPod on the right and to copy songs in both directions by just clicking arrows.
It seems obvious at first glance, but it gets harder to understand when you get into using it: you don't immediately know what is where (iPod and computer) and I've still not understood what the "Invert" buttons are for.
Most of all, it displays all iPod songs in just one list, without any filtering option, which makes it impossible to navigate through a large number of iPod songs comfortably.
It successfully copied songs from my iPod to my computer (no renaming options at all) but encountered errors when trying to add songs to my iPod.
You really wonder what they put in the code of such a basic tool to take 63 Mb on disk!!!
General appreciation: the two panes interface is an excellent idea but this tool is so buggy at this point that it cannot be used to manage an iPod on a regular basis yet. 1/10 for the moment, would easily get 10/10 if more stable, (much) smaller and, most of all, when it will feature a decent iPod navigation.
Songbird (67 Mb on disk with iPod support extensions)
Superb black interface for this yet to be officially released "Firefox of medias players" (late 2007).
Like Firefox, Songbird is based on pretty basic features and numerous available extensions (add-ons).
For those who want to smoothly switch from iTunes to Songbird, an extension is available to import your iTunes library into Songbird and another extension allows to display and manage the iPod content (both are automatically installed if your iPod is connected during the Songbird installation).
Available in 45 languages.
One MAJOR drawback: takes ages to list the iPod songs every time it is connected (approx. 1 minute/1,000 songs).
Smart playlists support.
General appreciation: except if you have a very small amount of songs (less than 100), the listing of iPod songs is so slow that this application cannot reasonably be called an iPod manager at this point. Let's hope the Songbird team will improve this as soon as possible. In the meantime, 1/10.
As one of my needs is to be able to quicky perform minor changes to my iPod, I made three speed tests on these managers:
- time to open
- time to list songs
- time to close
The sum of these represents the incompressible time you have to spend on a manager however minor is the change you want to make on your iPod (Minimum managing time).
This test was performed in the following conditions:
- 60 Gb 5G Video iPod with 6,470 songs (28.16 Gb)
- Intel Duocore 2 GHz laptop, 1 Gb RAM, Windows XP
- No parasite CPU activity
- iPod connected and detected before program start
- First program start since boot
Results sorted by ascending minimum managing time:
Open: less than 1 second
List songs: 1.2 seconds
MINIMUM MANAGING TIME: 2.2 seconds
Open: 3.2 seconds
List songs: 1.8 seconds
Close: 1 second
MINIMUM MANAGING TIME: 6 seconds
Open: 6.5 seconds
List songs: 1 second
MINIMUM MANAGING TIME: 7.5 seconds
Open: 1.5 seconds
List songs: 10.3 seconds
Close: 3.5 seconds
MINIMUM MANAGING TIME: 15.3 seconds
Open: 4 seconds
List songs: 6.9 seconds
Close: 5 seconds
MINIMUM MANAGING TIME: 15.9 seconds
Open: 6 seconds
List songs: 10.5 seconds
MINIMUM MANAGING TIME: 16.5 seconds
Open: 9.2 seconds
List songs: 10.2 seconds
MINIMUM MANAGING TIME: 19.4 seconds
Open: 7.5 seconds
List songs: 19 seconds
Close: 2.3 seconds
MINIMUM MANAGING TIME: 28.8 seconds
Open: less than 1 second
List songs: 1 minute, 40 seconds !!!
MINIMUM MANAGING TIME: depends of the amount of your songs
Open: 4.4 seconds
List songs: 6 minutes 10 seconds !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (not just once but every time you start it).
Plus, if you have playlists, Songbird rebrowses the songs contained in those playlists at the same pace as for the library, which can easily double or triple the listing time!
MINIMUM MANAGING TIME: still counting...
Open: less than one second
List songs: still trying...
MINIMUM MANAGING TIME: ???
Yamipod has been the most popular alternative iPod manager for a long time and it's not by chance. Though, when CopyTrans Manager will be more richly featured, it will doubtlessly become the best bet in the catagory of specifically iPod oriented managers (= without a music library on the computer).
The ones looking for an alternative interface, particularly for an interface that approaches the one of the iPod, would go for Poddox.
Winamp fans would stick to their favorite player, as it now supports iPods without any additional plug-in. Plus, its new skin and layout since version 5.5 really kick ass.
I would personally go for reTune, as I'm a minimalist interfaces addict.
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