3 Tips for iTunes, iPods, Other Digital Music Players

By Zack Stern, PC World |  Personal Tech, iPod, iTunes

You own an iPod but you hate iTunes. You love iTunes but you wish you could run it on your non-Apple player. You'd love to have the lyrics to your songs handy in iTunes (we'll help you do that if you promise to give fair warning to your coworkers that you could burst into song at any time).

We've got the answers for you.

For more, see the other stories in our "57 Amazing Things You Didn't Know Your Tech Could Do!" package, including our full list of tips and tricks.

Make a Generic MP3 Player Work With iTunes!

Love iTunes but hate the iPod? The free iTunes Sync app connects many non-Apple media players (other than the Microsoft Zune) to iTunes through their mass-storage modes. It'll work even with music phones that mount as a disk.

Download and install the tool, and then open iTunes. Attach your media player. Right-click the iTunes Sync taskbar icon, and pick Configure MP3 Players. Click Add. Type a name for your own reference, and navigate to the music folder in the second field. Select an option in the iTunes Playlist menu; this is the playlist that the software will sync. (Create a new one in iTunes first if necessary.) Click OK.

Right-click the iTunes Sync taskbar icon again, and choose Synchronize MP3 Player. Select the device in the drop-down menu if needed. Otherwise, click Sync MP3 Player, and the music will update.

Program an iPod to Ditch iTunes!

Many programs besides iTunes can manage an iPod. If you like the iPod but your taste for Apple ends there, consider a switch. Maybe you prefer Windows organization or you're seeking missing features, such as automatic video conversion or the ability to pull music from a foreign iPod to a PC. iTunes alternatives can be the answer.

I like the US$30 Mediafour XPlay because the software doesn't require you to reformat a Mac iPod for a PC, it shows iPod files in Windows Explorer, and it reads files from the iPhone and iPod Touch. (Other, similar software tends to be incompatible with those devices.) Just install XPlay and attach an iPod; the device mounts like a hard disk.

As for free choices, consider Floola and Winamp. Floola can convert videos for iPod playback, while the long-established Winamp offers a complete music application alternative, even importing CDs.

Put Song Lyrics in iTunes and on iPods!

iTunes can display song lyrics for music files, but it doesn't automatically slurp in that data as it can album art. To do that, grab the free iTunes Lyrics Importer. Close iTunes first, and then install and launch Lyrics Importer. iTunes will also open.

You can obtain lyrics for specific tunes by selecting one or many songs, and then clicking the Get Lyrics button. Preview the details if you want, and then click Update.

You can also update your full library in one swipe, without verifying each track. Select the iTunes window, and select all music by pressing Ctrl-A. In the iTunes Lyrics Importer window, click the Update Automatically check box, and then click Get Lyrics. The utility will churn through your library, taking several seconds per track (which can add up for big libraries). Click OK when it finishes.

The program stores the lyrics within the song file. To see them and sing along, right-click a track, select Get Info, and choose the Lyrics tab. On an iPod, press the center button several times to cycle to the lyrics screen. On an iPhone or iPod Touch, just tap the screen while playing the song.

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