Friday, May 4, 2007

Manage my iPod without iTunes

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.

organize iPod

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...

Requires installation.

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."

General appreciation: pretty limited and not 100 % reliable at this stage, but certainly the tool that best corresponds to what I was looking for when I started this comparison test, 10/10.

SharePod (1.4 Mb)

This is a very simple and pleasant standalone iPod manager (no installation required).

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.

Built-in player.

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.

alternative iPod manager

Requires installation.

Most of all, this is one more fat ass with much too many features I will never use.

General appreciation: sucks, 4/10.

Floola (15 Mb)

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 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).
Unfortunately, completely buggy at this stage, I tried it with both an iPod Video and an iPod Photo, it never managed to even list any of these iPods.

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)

That's definitely a cool piece of software too! Very popular for a long time among all the ones looking for an iTunes alternative.

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 interface of this iPod manager is probably the most imaginative and original of this test but the reliability and stability are the worst.

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!!!

Requires installation.

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).

Other extensions allow to play protected music formats such aac or MPEG4.

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).
Looks and works very much like iTunes: you create playlists in the left pane and drag songs into them from the library.

alternative iPod manager without iTunes

Smart playlists support.

Requires installation.

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
Close: instant

CopyTrans Manager
Open: 3.2 seconds
List songs: 1.8 seconds
Close: 1 second

Open: 6.5 seconds
List songs: 1 second
Close: instant

Open: 1.5 seconds
List songs: 10.3 seconds
Close: 3.5 seconds

Open: 4 seconds
List songs: 6.9 seconds
Close: 5 seconds

Open: 6 seconds
List songs: 10.5 seconds
Close: instant

Open: 9.2 seconds
List songs: 10.2 seconds
Close: instant

Open: 7.5 seconds
List songs: 19 seconds
Close: 2.3 seconds

Open: less than 1 second
List songs: 1 minute, 40 seconds !!!
Close: instant
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!
Close: instant
MINIMUM MANAGING TIME: still counting...

iPod Copy Manager
Open: less than one second
List songs: still trying...
Close: instant




CopyTrans Manager







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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Apple®, iPod®, iTunes® and QuickTime® are trademarks or registered trademarks of Apple Computer Incorporated in the United States and/or other countries. All other trademarks referenced herein are the property of their respective owners.


Ant said...

This comparison is really cool.
I agree with you on Winamp as I'm an aficionado of this program too but I would go for vPod because its structure is closer to the one of the iPod itself and this is what is missing to the other tools of the test.

David Cumps said...

Don't forget reTune!

Back to basics tool, command prompt ;)

Read more in the article I just wrote: Manage iPod through Windows Explorer

Matías said...


ian gotts said...

reTune will only manage MP3 and OGG - not the lossless formats of AAC

Chris said...

Excellent Post! Most informative and helpful in my quest to find something better than loony-tunes!


C said...

Your article is very informative & well written.

I'm giving 3 of these consideration (CopyTrans, reTune & Paddox) & hope to get 1 working fine on my iPod Mini 2nd Gen. w/in a few days (when I have time).

Thanks for such an article.

vinu shankar said...

Excellent article! very useful. I would love to dump the irritating itunes. I liked poddox most

peter said...

Nice rundown of alternative apps.
Here's one that is not on the list, but maybe you would consider adding it?:
This software does music, photos and videos and has great support for iPods. If you have a large library you will be happy with the performance boost you'll get.

A music only app called J. River MEDIA JUKEBOX ( has the same iPod support, and is free.

Tomáš Janů said...

Thanks for this great article - bookmarked.

I mostly prefer PoddoX (looking forward for the playlist support in the next version) and reTune.

Norman said...

YamiPod only uses ID3v1 tags, it seems. I have an album with really long song titles, and they all got truncated after using YamiPod. Messing up the tags? Huge minus right there.

mystic said...

Very cool man! I really dig the fact you took the time to research this!

Ian said...

You didn't mention much in the way of how these programs handle videos and pictures, which is most of what I'll have on my iPod when I get it. all I know is one of the programs will put my music into my videos menu by mistake

also: would be great to know which of these are compatible with the iPod Touch.

Daniel Satish said...

Excellent Man, Amazing and very informative. I have a problem with iTunes as it is not launching though many re-installations and repairs. By seeing this article I hope atleast one of the tools will serve my purpose. Thanks a lot buddy.

Phiala said...

Thanks for writing this.

gordon said...

Excellent comparison. A few points:
No program except Floola does photos and videos. But you need iTunes to set up the iPod first (so why...?).
Winamp does videos. I have been using it since I got my Nano for both songs and video.
I can verify that Poddox does damage the iPod Database. Winamp no longer sees my Nano since running Poddox. Copytrans sees it, but switches to read only mode.
reTune doesn't seem to be available anymore.

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a task you undertook - well done for creating such a useful list!

Here's my problem, though, and I'd be most grateful if you can help in any way...

* I have the new 4G iPod nano
* I run an iMac G3 with OS X 3.9 - it doesn't support iTunes 8, hence my need for an alternative. And my Mac is so old-school that the meanies at Apple haven't made OS X 4 for it, so no iTunes 8 for me :0(
* I've tried Floola and Yamipod, being (I think?) the only ones on the list that cater for Macs
* Both of them seem to rely on iTunes 8 in order to see the iPod in the first place
* Back to square one with hopes dashed!

Do you happen to know of a manager for Macs that doesn't need iTunes at all? I've Googled 'till my fingers bleed...

Thanks a lot for all your good work, and Happy Holidays to you xxx

Anonymous said...

Songbird has hit version 1 and if it was reviewed in 2007 it's alot quicker I use it every day well worth a look

Anonymous said...

Yes this is a very nice comparison, but you should update the first post in the blog to say that CopyTrans Manager doesn't work with the iPhone firmware version 2.

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Anonymous said...

thanks this was really helpfull all other managers didnt work but this one works fine :D

Anonymous said...

Hi, Yes I know its an old post, but i see it was updated from one in 2007, and here we are in 2010 and Im still looking for a good itunes replacement.

I was just reacting at your comment on "Just like with all other managers in this test except iTunes, you'll have to add songs to the iPod / iPhone first and, then only, drag them to the iPod playlists."

As it turns out, being multitasking and all, i just finished researching how i could remove duplicates from my itunes, where, when i import a playlist, it gets listed as a second entry, even if i manage my mp3s manually, and there is only one mp3 in my music folder. Bad part is that i cant just delete any random of the duplicate, because then i might delete the entry in my playlist, which happens to be a full 5 hour partymix. So i guess if you add the file to the software first, and then to the playlist, perhaps you avoid this most annoying feature of itunes. Anyways, thanks for your list, and hope for an update in 2012 :)

avi to ipod said...

I agree, this is an amazing and excellent post. It is very informative and helpful. I think everyone should read this article.

Natural Linkbuilding said...
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Julie Health Coach said...

Thanks for writing this! Very informative. I've posted the link on FB to share w/others.

salamounNZ said...

were can I get help, I have this problem: when I connect my ipod touch to my computer after firing copyTrans, I get the following message:"The iTunes file is locked, on a locked disk, or you do not have write permission for this file". What next? help pls

ant said...

Hi, this message normally appears when another application blocks the iTunes Library or if you try to run iTunes and a CopyTrans program simultaneously. I had the same issue and the support team told me that for security reasons (to avoid conflicts and data loss) it's not possible to run CopyTrans programs and iTunes simultaneously.