Wednesday, 3 January 2007

Microsoft Zune

(This is a follow-up on the previous post on Windows Media Player.)
Zune is Microsoft's new portable music player and software of the same name. It's analogous to iPod and iTunes. Since Windows Media Player 11 was promising but ultimately flawed, I decided to give Zune a try.
Zune is basically identical to WMP (see previous post), just with a different skin. However, it does two things WMP doesn't:
  1. Supports AAC natively
  2. Imports playlists and ratings from iTunes
These are very very good things. That leaves only two downsides to Zune compared to iTunes:
  1. As with WMP, it stubbornly resets my viewing preferences every time I switch panes
  2. As with WMP, it lacks a way to duplicate Party Shuffle's automatic song selection
Nevertheless, given that it's so much faster than iTunes and has nifty playlist management - and imported all my playlists from iTunes - I'm going to give it a try for a while.

In iTunes, you set a checkbox called "Compilation" to indicate that an album is a compilation. In WMP/Zune, you set a separate field for each track called "Album Artist" to something like "Various Artists" to indicate a compilation. Unfortunately Zune didn't import the "Compilation" meta-data from iTunes, and this was messing up my browsing experience (in both WMP and Zune).
After setting the "Album Artist" to "Various Artists" for all compilation CDs, the browsing experience became far, far, far better, so much so that the default view for each pane works quite well, and it's no longer so annoying that it resets the view each time you change pane.

In summary, the WMP/Zune browsing interface just got a lot better in my opinion; on par or superior to iTunes' 3-pane browser. *thumbs up*


Brett said...

I've never really understood what the 'Album Artist' field in iTunes was for, considering that it also has the 'compilation' check box.

Personally, I don't use iTunes on my PC for the simple reason that I'm forever moving albums around on my PC (due to backing up) which iTunes doesn't like at all.

Nick said...

You could consider Zune for your PC then, it's much more flexible when moving files around on the HDD - it keeps track of all the meta-data and even updates playlists correctly!
I have no idea how it does it, maybe Zune puts hooks in the Windows API to monitor what you do to files in your music folder. Maybe it's just magic.