October 8, 2009 6:24 AM   Subscribe

Had to give up iTunes. Can you recommend a replacement?

Because a new and buggy add-in in the latest version of iTunes was causing serious problems with my Outlook, I decided to ditch it. I copied all the music files from iTunes proper and uninstalled the software, thinking I could just play them on Windows Media player. Alas, I was wrong.

So. I am seeking one, possibly two programs:

1. A music player that works similarly to iTunes, in that it can play audio files and will let me burn the occasional mix CD. Ideally free.

2. Ideally the first program would also let me play the mp4 files that iTunes created, or at least convert them (and/or the mp3 files I already had) into whatever format it needs -- but if it can't, then I need a second program that can convert the iTunes mp4 files I bought into another type of file so I can play them. I'd be okay with Windows Media player, in fact, if I could convert the iTunes files into a playable format.

I have Windows XP, about 4 GB of available disk space, and I do NOT have an iPod. Ideally I would NOT like this new program to crash anything else random, or shove weird plugins into other programs. Something simple that stands alone is best.

So! Any recommendations?
posted by EmpressCallipygos to Computers & Internet (38 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Outlook and iTunes coexist on, like, a hundred million Windows XP computers, so I have a hunch you killed a mosquito with a nuke, and your Outlook problem will return in months to come anyway (yes, I read the previous thread but don't buy the conclusion)... but that said...

10 iTunes Alternatives (including a half-dozen for Windows) should help you out.
posted by rokusan at 6:31 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Outlook and iTunes coexist on, like, a hundred million Windows XP computers [...] (yes, I read the previous thread but don't buy the conclusion)

Hey, it started working again as soon as I ditched iTunes, and it's been working perfectly ever since. And I mean "like-nothing-ever-happened" perfectly. And the problem developed instantaneously, the night I downloaded the latest iTunes update (not that I noticed at the time, but thinking back it was the same night). Sounds at least plausible to me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:42 AM on October 8, 2009

Best answer: I have Winamp and Foobar2000 on my Windows machine.

Foobar is bare-bones no-nonsense music player, but you may have to tweak it here and there. Winamp has more options and is probably more well known. Hope that helps!
posted by soroush at 6:43 AM on October 8, 2009

Response by poster: ...rokusan, the link looks like it's for people who have iPods. As I said, I do not have an iPod, and am looking for things to play on my computer proper.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:43 AM on October 8, 2009

I'm currently enjoying Songbird on a Mac OSX at work, and Foobar2000 at home. Caveat: neither burn. Burrrn is doing the cd-creation job for me at home, and is a lightweight single-serving app that takes up very little space or resources.

Foobar is great, but you have to accept that you need to spend at least two hours getting to know Foobar before Foobar will be what you want it to be. It's an amazingly adaptable program but the downside to that is that you have to do a lot of front-end customization work that programs like iTunes usually do for you. If you have no tolerance for things like plugins and extensions and command-line stuff, Foorbar might be a bad fit. If you're up for a "project" rather than a quick-solution piece of software, it's a great option.
posted by Shepherd at 6:45 AM on October 8, 2009

Response by poster: And after posting: soroush,, that Foobar looks ideal, but when you say you had to "tweak it here and there", what do you mean? Bare-bones and no-nonsense is exactly my preference, and I like that it can handle different files (so I wouldn't have to convert anything!).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:46 AM on October 8, 2009

Almost forgot: if you're looking for something ridiculously simple and light (which, with a 4GB drive, I suspect you might be), Billy kicks ass. Billy + Burrrn might be all you need, really -- super light, super low profile.
posted by Shepherd at 6:47 AM on October 8, 2009

Double twist is pretty slick looking, and may fit the bill (certainly worth a look).
posted by kenbennedy at 6:50 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

As Shephard is saying, Foobar plays your music without fuss, but it doesn't look very pretty (look at the screenshots on the website), so if that is important for you, you have to spend time tweaking it yourself, or looking online for such things.

However, for me, I haven't changed anything after installing it, as I like its simple interface. I just choose an album, make a playlist and listen!
posted by soroush at 6:53 AM on October 8, 2009

Many people swear by SongBird. I think it's a bit clunky, but it's a good option for another library-centric media player:

As for iTunes, there's a couple things:

1) If they were purchased recently, they're most likely iTunes Plus files, which means they don't have restrictive DRM embedded. These should be able to be played by another media player with the appropriate codec. You can get this songbird addon to play them. For WMP, try this one.

2) If they are DRM-enabled (or Rights-disabled), you've got the issue that they will only play in an authorized player (iTunes, Quicktime, iPods, etc). That link above MAY allow songbird to play them (through quicktime), but presumably requires itunes to be installed to authorize the computer and set up the account. If you can do that, then fix outlook, then never run iTunes again, you should be OK. Barring that, if your files were purchased long ago (w/ iTunes 6 or earlier), you can maybe remove the DRM with JHymn. Barring that, you can burn them to CD with iTunes, re-rip as MP3, or there may be converters that will do it for you. However, you will lose significant audio quality from the conversion process, so I'd suggest trying the above options first!
posted by CharlesV42 at 6:53 AM on October 8, 2009

Response by poster: Foobar plays your music without fuss, but it doesn't look very pretty

Oh, if that's all, I'm good. I don't care what things look like if they function properly.

Charles V42 -- when you say iTunes plus files were released "recently," can you define "recently"? Last year, or last week?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:14 AM on October 8, 2009

May 30, 2007, it looks like. But not all files are such. I believe if the file extension is m4a, you should be fine. If it's m4p, you may have issues.
posted by CharlesV42 at 7:17 AM on October 8, 2009

Foobar is totally barebones out of the box. It typically looks like this. It is also ABSURDLY customizable. Here, for example, is someone's Foobar install. Just google Foobar2000 skins and . . . well prepare to lose some time. "Tweaking" it is not trivial.
posted by The Bellman at 7:20 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Mine looks like this instead. If I remember, there was an option during the install that asked about the layout.
posted by soroush at 7:29 AM on October 8, 2009

I love Winamp 2.x. (I am sorry that you used itunes for so long without an ipod!)
posted by getawaysticks at 7:42 AM on October 8, 2009

Oh, if you have no need for iPods or iPhones or syncing, then yes, WinAmp is the classic player choice, and the safe one.

(Why did you reject Windows Media Player? It can play any file you have a codec for, and at least it's free/safe/included. The newer ones (like 9 and 10, I think) include decent playlist management and other 'music' features.)
posted by rokusan at 7:47 AM on October 8, 2009

Response by poster: For some reason when I first got my computer and had media player, I was having trouble burning CDs, I think, and my then-roommate suggested iTunes and I was seduced.

This time, the problem I have with Windows Media Player is that it can't play my m4a files.

I'll check Foobar out -- thanks, all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:52 AM on October 8, 2009

I would add a recommendation for Media Monkey, which works quite well. I don't believe the free version burns, though.
posted by JMOZ at 8:09 AM on October 8, 2009

I am a big fan of Songbird, interface wise it is pretty similar to iTunes out of the box, and with a few add-ons (it is a branch of firefox that has been turning into a media player) it can look and function exactly like itunes if you are inclined. It does not have cd ripping or burning yet, but those are in the pipeline and should be available over the coming months.

A lot of people like foobar and they have good reasons for doing so. I do not care for it as I prefer a library view and I personally feel that it makes listening to music a pain in the ass.
posted by BobbyDigital at 8:30 AM on October 8, 2009

Empress, FYI when I said WMP above, I meant windows media player. This should let windows media player play mp4/m4a files: http://www.softpointer.com/WMPTagSupport.htm
posted by CharlesV42 at 8:39 AM on October 8, 2009

DoubleTwist is an iTunes clone that works with any player, and uses the Amazon Mp3 store.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:52 AM on October 8, 2009

mediamonkey definately. It has full ipod/iphone support.
posted by nuke3ae at 9:13 AM on October 8, 2009

Response by poster: mediamonkey definately. It has full ipod/iphone support.

....Since I don't have either an iPod OR an iPhone, I'll be sure to avoid this, then. Thanks for the warning.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:15 AM on October 8, 2009

I really, really like MediaMonkey also. Has the capability for everything you're requesting.

Foobar would be my #2 suggestion.

I've used both in my quest to rid myself of iTunes and they are both great and fit your requirements.
posted by highfidelity at 9:29 AM on October 8, 2009

Empress, you can still use an application if it has iPod support! It will still do the things you want in a media player.
posted by CharlesV42 at 9:55 AM on October 8, 2009

Response by poster: Sorry, I should clarify my recoil at iPods and iPhones -- the widget that iTunes stuck into my Outlook program and made it go kerblooey was one that was supposed to let you sync your outlook to your iPhone, so I'm a bit leery of iAnything right now.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:07 AM on October 8, 2009

I use Floola. Get's the job done, but is clunky.
posted by AwkwardPause at 10:32 AM on October 8, 2009

MediaMonkey costs money and doesn't give you anything you can't get for free elsewhere.

Go with Foobar. It's pretty bare-bones out of the box, but there's a ton of great plug-ins and themes out there. Plus, the Hydrogen Audio forums are a great place to go with questions about how to get things working the way you want (but, naturally, search the archives first, as it's likely that your questions have been asked and answered before).
posted by sinfony at 10:44 AM on October 8, 2009

Empress: the widget was related to syncing your outlook with your iphone. A widget that syncs your music to your iphone would only interact with the music player. But, I understand the wariness. I think that it may be unwarranted to avoid all players with ipod/phone support, however (heck, even winamp supports them these days).
posted by CharlesV42 at 11:43 AM on October 8, 2009

If I was back on Windows again, Foobar would be it. Talk about extensible!
posted by Brian Puccio at 2:44 PM on October 8, 2009

actually, Foobar2000 does in fact have burning capabilities, through the Burninate plug-in. It does require Nero to be installed, however.
posted by grandsham at 5:03 PM on October 8, 2009

MediaMonkey costs money and doesn't give you anything you can't get for free elsewhere.

MediaMonkey is free, actually, although there is premium version. I've used it for years with several different players (no iPods) and been very happy with it.
posted by amestoy at 1:40 AM on October 9, 2009

actually, Foobar2000 does in fact have burning capabilities, through the Burninate plug-in. It does require Nero to be installed, however.

This was once true, but no longer. No more need for Nero with foo_burninate.
posted by sinfony at 8:06 AM on October 9, 2009

nth'ing foobar2000. Been using it since it came out. nthi'ing hydrogenaudio.org too.
posted by tra at 11:18 AM on October 9, 2009

Response by poster: One last bit before I mark "resolved:"

I went with FooBar, which I'm still coming to some grips with ("oh, is THAT how you mark out what the library is? Got it"). I also learned that a few of my files are indeed unreadable, but I have fortunately found other software that will convert those for free into Mp3 files -- I just need a free minute to do all of this.

But it looks like it'll be easy enough to grapple with, and I don't need all the iTunes bells and whistles anyway, so I think I'm good (except eventually I will need a new music download STORE). Thanks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:27 AM on November 11, 2009

Amazon MP3.
posted by sinfony at 1:33 PM on November 12, 2009

Before you make up your mind 100%, take a look at DoubleTwist. It's like iTunes but simpler, and you might not have the same buggy things with it.
posted by DeltaForce at 12:11 PM on December 7, 2009

Erm, wow. Did not realize the date of this question.
posted by DeltaForce at 12:19 PM on December 7, 2009

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