Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

iTunes 4.5 for Windows

So, after a little over an hour waiting for it to download, I got a chance to try out iTunes 4.5 for Windows. I last used it on my older computer back in October when it was at version 4.1, and I had a few gripes with it. I’ll go over those gripes again for this version.

CPU and Memory Usage

Peak usage was less than before but it still needs around 10MB, and takes up a few more CPU cycles than it possibly could. I can’t be too objective here because this a faster machine with a different type of processor (mark 4 Celeron Mobile as opposed to a mark 2 Celeron), but I’d say there has been a slight improvement. More could be done though. It’s still not the quickest program to start up, either, despite all its helper applications.

Ogg Vorbis

Still no native support but the newer version of the open source Ogg Vorbis component works much better. There’s no loss of performance when playing songs and it is able to recognise and import .ogg files with no problem. The graphical equaliser doesn’t work when playing .ogg files though, nor does crossfading (which still has a fade time which is much too short). It’s definitely a big improvement but there’s room to go yet.

Download size

Still unnecessarily huge. See this recent rant on the subject. It needs unbundling, in my opinion, or at least have an installer that downloads a small stub and then lets you select which features you want. QuickTime has had this for years.

Background Services

These are still here, unfortunately.

Help

Still a worrying lack of it. Popup tooltip hints would be very useful for some less obvious buttons, like the button on the left side of the track display which looks like a small ‘play’ button but actually shows the equaliser.

Window resizing

Much improved – the window can be clicked and dragged from all sides and corners, and the maximise button does what its supposed to. Makes it feel much more like a Windows application and less like a quick and dirty port of a Mac app. One niggle is the cursor that appears when you hover over the divider between the tree on the left and the file list on the right – it seems to use its own icon (a small hand that turns into a clenched fist when dragging) rather than a more standard Windows double-arrowed icon. To confuse matters more, a similar hand icon is used for dragging a page in Adobe Reader.

It does still retain the brushed-steel Mac look, which is good because it looks very nice and is arguably one of the most attractive applications I have right now. It’s not to everyone’s taste but I like it.

Taking over your system

I didn’t mention this much last time but iTunes will now not try to take over your system when you install it. Although it does add QuickTime Player and its icon to the Quick Launch bar without asking, it does ask you whether you want to associate your music with iTunes, or whether you want a desktop icon (they are ticked by default though). It’s a step in the right direction but I’d prefer not to have any extra quick launch icons. The QuickTime system tray applet still rudely allows itself to load on system bootup without asking, even if you have previously disabled it in QuickTime preferences prior to installing.

New gripes

These aren’t necessarily new to this version, they’re just things that I’ve found slightly annoying while using iTunes today.

  • I don’t like how iTunes always has a taskbar button. I prefer to minimise my music player to the system tray, since I essentially use it as a background app. It does have a tray icon but doesn’t give you the option of hiding the taskbar entry. The only way to achieve this is through Powermenu, an indispensable Windows shell extension.
  • If you close my current media player dBpowerAMP while it is playing a song, it’ll pick up where it left off the next time you launch it. iTunes doesn’t do this, which is a pity because I think it’s a nice feature.
  • The mini player doesn’t ‘dock’ to the sides of the screen, like Winamp and various other media players do.
  • Unless you’re playing in Party Shuffle mode (which I’ll probably end up using full time), you can’t enqueue a song to play next.
  • It may just be me, but Winamp combined with the MAD MP3 decoder gave slightly better sound quality.

Ken from Breaking Windows, did a very good breakdown of iTunes 4.1 for Windows about the same time as me; I’d like to see an update to see what Ken makes of the changes made since. As a whole, I think Apple has made some worthwhile improvements with this release, but they still need to go further before I’ll make it my default media player.

4 Comments

  1. there is a plug-in called Time-Restore and Autoplay for Winamp, which is very nice. it has options like resuming the song where it left off, starting the player up paused at the spot where you left off, selecting a random song to play on startup, and other items. it was developed by the same person who programmed winamp 5’s current advanced implementation of Jump to File (enqueue).
    as you might have noticed, winamp 5 has none of the gripes or problems that you found with itunes 4.5 and mentioned above.

  2. Hi, I want to be able to start WinXP with live radio, but I don’t know which program to use. I tried with Real Player (to put it in the Startup folder), but I can’t find how to play song or live radio automatically.
    Any help?
    Alex

  3. Have you tried wxMusik?
    http://musik.berlios.de/
    It is an opensource player available for
    Windows (9x and XP) and Linux

  4. Just installed 4.5 for windows and on our base image, it will play the trailer but then the taskbar disappears. Cant’ get it back till computer is logged off. Any comments?