Hands-on: Apple's iTunes can be confusing, but TuneInstructor just makes it worse

Posted:
in Mac Software edited October 2017
TuneInstructor is ostensibly designed to organize iTunes and play your music -- but a lack of coherent English tutorials and bizarre user interface choices make it bewildering.




Apple has bloated iTunes up into enough of a confusing mass of options that you're sure you could do better. The developer of TuneInstructor 3.7 certainly does and has worked to fix the issues. Yet, the result is an app that probably only works for that very same developer.

It's not a tool for the rest of us, and not even for the rest of us who are both technical and very patient.

Developer Tibor Andre has done more than we ever have to make iTunes work the way we want it so all credit to him. TuneInstructor sets out to do a lot.

It just feels like it isn't finished. Or tested, really.

We have not one single doubt that he uses his own software all the time and that it makes iTunes easier -- for him. Just only for him.




TuneInstructor is a menubar app for macOS that's replete with functions: the official site includes 25 video tutorials, if only you could watch them.

They use a QuickTime video plugin that Apple started removing back in 2013's OS X Mavericks. No current Mac can play these without you taking steps to re-enable what's called a legacy QuickTime 7 web plug-in. (Apple Support does tell you how.)

Then if you do that, the tutorials turn out to all be in German. Now, Andre is based in Germany and we don't expect anyone to learn a language just to help us out, but the text on his official site is in both English and German. It's only the videos that aren't.

Still, iTunes is iTunes and these are videos so you can watch even if you don't speak the language - except the version of iTunes shown in them is both German and ancient. We can no more carbon date it than we can understand the German for Quit, but it's still got traces of the old brushed metal design from some years ago.

Design is an issue here. Where Apple's iTunes packs in a lot, TuneInstructor packs in a great deal yet in overlapping and ugly ways. It's sometimes hard to see what you're clicking.




Fitting this idea of it all making sense to the developer, the software also assumes that you're a user of the music streaming site LastFM. There is a tick box in the settings to say whether you are or not and it does default to off. Yet the app's main offering is a deliberately very small control strip where, on or off, LastFM occupies over half the space.

Next to it are two controls: a button to bring up a full window with many settings options and another button to bring up some other settings. Then there's a button for bringing up a window with lyrics for the currently-playing song, if available.

They're never available, and never will be, unless you happen to know a source for lyrics and plug it into the right settings.

You might well know one and you might add that information to settings -- but even if you're the most informed and techie iTunes user around, don't ever expand the lyrics window.

Maybe it's different when you get actual lyrics in there, but when blank, the expand button solely expands: it doesn't shrink the window back again. Unless you fully quit TuneInstructor, that lyric window will stay full screen for the rest of time.

That's the kind of thing that makes us think this hasn't been tested. It's not uncommon to find software works only for its developer and there's no reason why it shouldn't: they've made it, of course it's going to suit them.

Yet the overall aims of TuneInstructor are to give you more control over iTunes and to make it so you need not open Apple's player again.




The album-cover-shaped item on the left is Apple's own iTunes mini-player. Hover over it and you get controls. On the right is TuneInstructor.

The menu bar contains forward, back and play/pause controls and it shows you album artwork as each track begins. You can't get that artwork back or find out what the track is unless you click pause or a heart icon to rate it. When you do get it, that artwork is neat and small plus it has those controls for rating the track.

Actually, two controls. Taking up space in this intentionally small player window is one set of star icons under the track title and another under the artwork. Both are for grading, both do the same thing.

Still, that aside, the smaller artwork and the font design is neater than Apple's own iTunes mini-player.

Except the controls you get when you hover over Apple's one include something essential that's missing from TuneInstructor: a search box. You can't search for a track to play next within TuneInstructor, you can only skip forward or backwards.




Or rather, that's the case with playing back music. If you stop to create playlists then you could do searching to build those. The app is full of options to do with searching and replacing on ID3 tags, for instance.

Only, if you know what an ID3 tag is and you're techie enough to understand all of TuneInstructor's options, then Apple's iTunes is already a breeze to you. If you struggle with iTunes, as many do, you haven't got a prayer with comprehending TuneInstructor.

It made us appreciate iTunes more and it got us playing music while we worked. There just wasn't any other pleasure in using this or, indeed, in trashing it.

Again, we should be clever enough to build our own music app. It's only that we are smart enough to know we're not going to use TuneInstructor.

TuneInstructor is a macOS app available directly from the developer. It's free but donations are encouraged.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 18
    For the love of everything good Apple, please, oh please, it’s time to dismantle iTunes on the Mac. We want an Apple Music app, Podcast app, and TV app.
    toysandmedewmejony0
  • Reply 2 of 18
    For the love of everything good Apple, please, oh please, it’s time to dismantle iTunes on the Mac. We want an Apple Music app, Podcast app, and TV app.
    Yes, lets have an app for everything. Not! I've always liked iTunes warts and all. At least I can find everything in one place. I'm actually thinking of downgrading back to iTunes 12.6. 
    djkfisher
  • Reply 3 of 18
    Can someone recommend a good tutorial for iTunes, both for Mac and for IOS?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 18
    Can someone recommend a good tutorial for iTunes, both for Mac and for IOS?
    Hope this helps. https://appletoolbox.com/2017/09/apple-releases-new-itunes-12-7-what-you-should-know/
    watto_cobraChuckBraman
  • Reply 5 of 18
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,527member
    this app is designed by and for someone who gets their content from files sharing websites, The reason you need to organize the library is due to the fact shared MP3 files are crap do not have correct or complete meta data, if you rip your own CD or download from iTunes store there is no reason to have to modify this information like this app is doing.
    edited October 2017 stompy
  • Reply 6 of 18
    evilutionevilution Posts: 1,353member
    iTunes does need to be rewritten from scratch. It's not intuitive however, Apple have never been that great when it comes to in house software.
  • Reply 7 of 18
    Last release is cool garbage. Now AirDroid and Kies for Android seems to be much cleaner and organized offer.
    edited October 2017
  • Reply 8 of 18
    maestro64 said:
    this app is designed by and for someone who gets their content from files sharing websites, The reason you need to organize the library is due to the fact that shares MP3 files are crap do not have correct or complete media data, if you rip your own CD or download from iTunes store there is no reason to have to modify this information like this app is doing.
    Seriously? You know how many thousands of dollars I have invested in with iTunes? The Movies, TV Shows, Music, Apps, etc. that I've bought or rented over the years?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 18
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,527member
    maestro64 said:
    this app is designed by and for someone who gets their content from files sharing websites, The reason you need to organize the library is due to the fact that shares MP3 files are crap do not have correct or complete media data, if you rip your own CD or download from iTunes store there is no reason to have to modify this information like this app is doing.
    Seriously? You know how many thousands of dollars I have invested in with iTunes? The Movies, TV Shows, Music, Apps, etc. that I've bought or rented over the years?
    and all the media data is correct so that sort and organize properly and you have the correct artwork. the fact this app has a feature like search and replace in the meta data, is designed fix issues created by file sharing and those who rip content and do not spend the time to fill in the meta data which their cheap app does not support.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 18
    maestro64 said:
    maestro64 said:
    this app is designed by and for someone who gets their content from files sharing websites,
    That was the part I was commenting on. I was too quick to respond thinking you were referring to iTunes being created for that purpose. Sorry about that.
  • Reply 11 of 18
    iTunes has been nothing but a PITA since day one and got worse ever since. 

  • Reply 12 of 18
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,442administrator
    Show of hands -- who read the article?
    gatorguywatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 18
    RacerhomieXRacerhomieX Posts: 95unconfirmed, member
    iTunes is still good, on macOS. I haven't installed it on my Win 7 partition, but from using it on friends Win 10, I don't plan to do so. mac app just doesn't look ok on Windows.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 18
    dewmedewme Posts: 2,025member
    I know this article is not really about iTunes. But with the recent and shockingly abrupt removal of almost all device management capability from iTunes, days prior to the release of macOS High Sierra, its kind of difficult to compare a 3rd party app to iTunes without being reminded about how nearly useless iTunes has become, even on macOS. I'd like to see Apple replace it with purposeful apps in a similar fashion as the iOS apps for music, podcasts, video, etc. This is effectively what TuneInstructor is attempting to do but mostly failing. Just opening up iTunes these days is kind of depressing, like walking into a dying shopping mall with 80% of the stores already boarded up and out of business. It's days are obviously numbered but I'll wait for Apple to provide a replacement rather than trying to use a 3rd party app that will be obsoleted as soon as Apple finally gets its act together.
  • Reply 15 of 18
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,527member
    dewme said:
    I know this article is not really about iTunes. But with the recent and shockingly abrupt removal of almost all device management capability from iTunes, days prior to the release of macOS High Sierra, its kind of difficult to compare a 3rd party app to iTunes without being reminded about how nearly useless iTunes has become, even on macOS. I'd like to see Apple replace it with purposeful apps in a similar fashion as the iOS apps for music, podcasts, video, etc. This is effectively what TuneInstructor is attempting to do but mostly failing. Just opening up iTunes these days is kind of depressing, like walking into a dying shopping mall with 80% of the stores already boarded up and out of business. It's days are obviously numbered but I'll wait for Apple to provide a replacement rather than trying to use a 3rd party app that will be obsoleted as soon as Apple finally gets its act together.


    Yes I agree, iTunes has evolved so much over time it not longer what it was and it appears Apple does not want us managing our IOS devices from an OSX environment anymore. Because of this we many need to go with a third party solution which may be far worse than just staying with iTunes. So which version of iTune do you compare to. hell I still have ITunes 4 which still allow content sharing across devices which Apple did away with. I keep using that as long as I could.

    One of the things I wish Apple would allow if they moving away from the computer being the media hub, to a cloud is your hub, I have NAS with all my music and movies and pictures, it is 8TB is of Storage. ITunes on the mac can see the music library so i can plan music which on the mac or the NAS, however, ATV does not see the NAS as valid iTune library, since ATV only allow stream of content form devices which log into iCloud. Because of this I have to use Plex when I rather use Apple home share.

  • Reply 16 of 18
    Dear Mike Wuerthele,

    today I discovered your "hands-on" about my software Tune•Instructor.
    At first, my English isn't very well and hopefully you will understand my writing.

    What was your intension to download and using my software? As I can read you don't have any goal to use it.
    I don't like the way you are talking about me and my peace of software.

    You are complaining about the lyrics window.
    Did you check out the tooltips? You don't and that's the reason why you don't know how to handle it.
    This window is very special because it can be used in different scenarios.
    Someone likes to have it always on top, other people wanna see it on all spaces and it has an option to auto scroll text depending to the progress of a playing track.
    Simply touch any border side, or use the drag indicator on the right bottom corner to resize the window.

    I never promised something like you don't need opening iTunes again.
    Very strange to me reading something like that.

    The behavior of my track info window you are described is wrong, too.
    Simply hover about the menu bar controller and the track info window will fade in automatically - without any clicks.
    That's the intension, without losing the focus of the current app you are inside.

    You mean that the rating stars in the track info window does the same thing.
    You are completely wrong. The star indicator under the title name rates the track. The stars under the album artwork are rating the album.
    Completly different things. Also my track info window has much more value.
    Click the album artwork to reveal the current playing track in iTunes. Drag the progress bar to jump inside the track.
    See if the track or album was rated from your self or was calculated by iTunes.

    Why you are claiming a searchbox playing the next track inside Tune•Instructor?
    Tune•Instructor doesn't play your music. iTunes is doing that. The intension of my track info window is completely different.

    In my opinion I cannot see a hands-on here.
    You simply downloaded my software and used it a few moments without become acquainted with it.
    Did you discovered the other features? Linking favorite and rating, rating notification, keyboard shortcuts, the notification center widget, which offers much more than iTunes itself.
    No? You didn't get in touch with my software.

    Let's see my emails. No, you never asked me something and never wrote any lines to me.
    The way you are writing here is the bad culture of the internet.

    In the past my software was listed multiple times on rank #1 of apples 3rd-party software.
    My software is available more than twelve years. I am very happy about to receive every few days an email from people who like it.
    You don't have to like it, nobody have to, but the kind of writing isn't fair.

    Regards
  • Reply 17 of 18
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,442administrator
    Dear Mike Wuerthele,

    today I discovered your "hands-on" about my software Tune•Instructor.
    At first, my English isn't very well and hopefully you will understand my writing.

    What was your intension to download and using my software? As I can read you don't have any goal to use it.
    I don't like the way you are talking about me and my peace of software.

    You are complaining about the lyrics window.
    Did you check out the tooltips? You don't and that's the reason why you don't know how to handle it.
    This window is very special because it can be used in different scenarios.
    Someone likes to have it always on top, other people wanna see it on all spaces and it has an option to auto scroll text depending to the progress of a playing track.
    Simply touch any border side, or use the drag indicator on the right bottom corner to resize the window.

    I never promised something like you don't need opening iTunes again.
    Very strange to me reading something like that.

    The behavior of my track info window you are described is wrong, too.
    Simply hover about the menu bar controller and the track info window will fade in automatically - without any clicks.
    That's the intension, without losing the focus of the current app you are inside.

    You mean that the rating stars in the track info window does the same thing.
    You are completely wrong. The star indicator under the title name rates the track. The stars under the album artwork are rating the album.
    Completly different things. Also my track info window has much more value.
    Click the album artwork to reveal the current playing track in iTunes. Drag the progress bar to jump inside the track.
    See if the track or album was rated from your self or was calculated by iTunes.

    Why you are claiming a searchbox playing the next track inside Tune•Instructor?
    Tune•Instructor doesn't play your music. iTunes is doing that. The intension of my track info window is completely different.

    In my opinion I cannot see a hands-on here.
    You simply downloaded my software and used it a few moments without become acquainted with it.
    Did you discovered the other features? Linking favorite and rating, rating notification, keyboard shortcuts, the notification center widget, which offers much more than iTunes itself.
    No? You didn't get in touch with my software.

    Let's see my emails. No, you never asked me something and never wrote any lines to me.
    The way you are writing here is the bad culture of the internet.

    In the past my software was listed multiple times on rank #1 of apples 3rd-party software.
    My software is available more than twelve years. I am very happy about to receive every few days an email from people who like it.
    You don't have to like it, nobody have to, but the kind of writing isn't fair.

    Regards
    Thanks for writing.

    We found your software because we were looking for something that would supplement iTunes in the way you described. We then used it for two weeks, with increasing disappointment in design choices and execution, so we decided to write about it. We did find the tool tips, as we had to, to try and figure out some of the ways you decided to do things! We also found them poorly executed.

    The time your software has been available, and the rankings of third party software was one of the reasons we tried it. I'm glad you get emails a few times a day from people who like it. But, given our Mac-using history of 30 years, we can't recommend it because of what we discussed above.

    We are under no obligation to ask permission to write a software review. Nor are we under any requirement to make a developer happy.
    edited December 2017
  • Reply 18 of 18
    Thanks for writing.

    We found your software because we were looking for something that would supplement iTunes in the way you described. We then used it for two weeks, with increasing disappointment in design choices and execution, so we decided to write about it. We did find the tool tips, as we had to, to try and figure out some of the ways you decided to do things! We also found them poorly executed.

    The time your software has been available, and the rankings of third party software was one of the reasons we tried it. I'm glad you get emails a few times a day from people who like it. But, given our Mac-using history of 30 years, we can't recommend it because of what we discussed above.

    We are under no obligation to ask permission to write a software review. Nor are we under any requirement to make a developer happy.
    Hello Mike,

    thanks for your answer. In my opinion that isn't a review/hands-on. It is misleading people and doesn't shows what the software is for.
    I don't believe you, that you used it for two weeks. Otherwise you would mention one of the 50 features and not simply count negative points that aren't true.
    You would describe some goal you expected with Tune•Instructor. 

    I never heard that the design of my application is poor.
    I takes so much time to design all that and you are talking about it is not finished and not tested.
    You convey other peoples something like an alpha or beta.

    That's my point of view. You don't have to make me happy.
    But using something two weeks, alleged so bad, and never dropped a message to me, I cannot believe.
    For me that's a poor way of doing things. I always help everyone whose writing me an email.

    Finally I don't wanna trade about a good review, that is not my intention. But the writing above doesn't reflect my software in any way.
    Hopefully you can do things better, developing better software, than other people can do.

    Regards
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