Zune Desktop Software vs. iTunes

Here are some screen shots of the Zune desktop software showing its various modes for managing music, pictures, videos and podcasts on the device, the PC and in the Zune marketplace/store. (Click each thumbnail to see a larger image.)

00-Zune-Software-Device-Music 01-Zune-Software-Device-Playlists 02-Zune-Software-Device-Videos 03-Zune-Software-Collection-Pictures
04-Zune-Software-Collection-Podcasts 05-Zune-Software-Device-Status 06-Zune-Software-Marketplace-Music 07-Zune-Software-Marketplace-Podcasts

While this version is still significantly less functional than iTunes, the Zune software has a much better user interface with its cleaner, less-cluttered methods of transporting various media on and off the device. iTunes, by comparison, looks and behaves more like a sluggish spreadsheet on my machine. You be the judge:

00-iTunes-Library-Music 01-iTunes-Library-Podcasts 02-iTunes-Store

My biggest gripe with iTunes is it doesn’t recognize album art stored in folder.jpg files. Despite all its capabilities, this reason alone places iTunes in the “sucks” category—I’d rather use Media Monkey.

My biggest gripe with the Zune software is the removal of auto-playlists and removal of folder.jpg album art in this version—both worked before. The auto-playlist support is painful but I’m using a utility a co-worker created for exporting auto-playlists created in Windows Media Player to the Zune software in its .zpl format. It’s a great workaround in a clunky, non-automated kinda way. The folder.jpg issue is bizarre since the software does recognize album art stored in ZuneAlbumArt.jpg.

A quick command-line utility is all it took to create corresponding ZuneAlbumArt.jpg files for the 1010 albums currently in my collection by copying the existing folder.jpg files. Keeping multiple copies of the same file is wasteful but a necessary evil since Sonos, Windows Media Player, Media Monkey and Windows Vista all recognize folder.jpg.

This only matters to people like me who still buy entire albums and adhere to a well-defined Artists/Albums/Tracks organizational structure where the folder.jpg convention makes sense. If you buy individual tracks from iTunes or the Zune marketplace you probably prefer having the album art embedded in the same file as the song. What’s baffling is there is no technical reason iTunes and the Zune software cannot support both methods. Bummer.