Ecoute, Everplay, and is iTunes really bloated?

Do you think iTunes on OSX is bloated? Some developers do, so they’ve created lightweight alternatives.

Ecoute is a standalone application that reads your iTunes library file and displays the library in a smaller window. It’s kind of like having an iPod for your Mac.

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Everplay does the same thing, but in a different way.

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Both Ecoute and Everplay massively cut down on features available in iTunes, but go beyond what iTunes does in some areas. Both provide universal keyboard shortcuts. Both have decent social networking integration, including Last.fm. For power users these are welcome additions.

Yet, I’m skeptical. I don’t really understand what they’re trying to fix. What’s wrong with iTunes?

If you have a decent iTunes controller (like Coversutra, or even Launchbar or Quicksilver) you’ve already got the keyboard shortcuts , and most of these controllers have Last.fm support already. And if you’re an iTunes power user you’ve probably already got a setup like this.

When people say iTunes is bloated are they really talking about CPU cycles? I don’t think so. When running in the background iTunes uses about 11% of my Macbook’s CPU. To put this into perspective, Activity Monitor jumps up to about 20% when I resize its window. iTunes seems to launch about as fast as these iTunes replacements and neither of them appear to use significantly less resources.

It seems that if iTunes is bloated it’s not because it’s eating up CPU cycles and RAM. I think choosing what to listen to is at the center of these frustrations. I think “bloat” is the only word we can think of to describe wading through gigs upon gigs of music and not being able to pick something to listen to.

Somewhere in the past few years iTunes has transitioned from being a place to put your stuff to assisting you in finding your stuff. Smart Playlists are great. Ratings are great. I use both of them all the time, but I don’t believe that most iTunes users actually use them. Coverflow and Grid View help when browsing your library, but there’s only so much scrolling one can do.

Search is fast, but how do you know what to search for if you don’t know the name of a song or the artist who performed it? Perhaps one day Apple will let you hum a few bars into your Mac to search for the song stuck in your head, but until that day you have to find music by browsing through text and album art – just like you always have.

So Apple came up with Genius and Genius Mixes. It’s as if since version 8 the iTunes roadmap has been telling us “Don’t worry so much about browsing your collection. Genius will take care of it.” (Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Apple would use Genius as a way to sell more music.)

Would that be necessary if our collections weren’t so big? Probably not, but we’ve all never had this much music readily available with a few keystrokes. We haven’t owned so much, even if it can’t be legally accounted for. Collections have grown exponentially in the past decade.

If one were to rethink iTunes from the ground up what would it look like? I think that’s what Ecoute and Everplay try to do. On the surface they’re really controllers, but taken a step further. Why make a new controller application for iTunes when the controller application can replace iTunes?

But while their progress is promising, they aren’t really great replacements (which is a tall order). You still need iTunes to update your iPod and iPhone. You still need iTunes to browse through the iTunes Store. You still need iTunes it to add music. Nor do I believe that either Everplay nor Ecoute do a better job than iTunes at helping me pick something to listen to.

Should you still need iTunes to use software that’s meant to keep you from using iTunes?

1 thought on “Ecoute, Everplay, and is iTunes really bloated?”

  1. Would that be necessary if our collections weren’t so big? Probably not, but we’ve all never had this much music readily available with a few keystrokes.

    Agreed!

    My collectionistic behavior is slowly shifting to more decisive subtraction from my library.

    For the couple of years I had a 30 gig iPod, that was a ceiling that kept my iTunes library capped to the the 30 gigs of music that I REALLY wanted.

    I’ve had a 120 gig Classic for the past year. I can’t be bothered with video shrinking. I think my library is about 70 gigs. And yet, I just find there’s lots of artists to scroll through to find what I really want to listen to.

    And does vast exposure to diverse music actually help a composer compose? Anything I’ve read on the topic, prolific composers don’t listen to a lot of music.

    Sure, this flies in the face of abstracting King’s advice to read a lot. Maybe it doesn’t need to be abstracted. Read a lot about music and composition..

    I digress. And should get on with my goals for the day.

    Cheers, Dan. Happy New Year.

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