Floola, iPod Without iTunes

very good
key review info
application features
  • PODCAST SUPPORT
  • (15 more, see all...)

The iPod and iTunes go together like a horse and carriage and are referred to as an ecosystem for good reasons. Made for each other, the software complements the hardware while the hardware simply does not work normally without the software. This is all peachy as long as you like iTunes and have your library imported and set up properly in it. If you don't, you will probably find the entire system annoying. While iTunes is a great piece of software, there are people out there that simply don't like it, whatever the reasons. Should these people like the iPod, they quickly start having a small issue with the entire ecosystem thing. Fortunately, there are third party solutions out there that let you make the most of your iPod without actually having to use iTunes, like Floola.

What it does
Floola is an iPod management program that lets you use all the functionality of the iPod without having to actually use iTunes. While moot for the majority of users, programs such as this are invaluable for those that, for whatever reasons, don't wish to use iTunes as their main music management program.

Working with it
Ironically enough, before you can start using Floola in order to bypass using iTunes, you first have to make a little detour and use iTunes to set up your iPod. Fortunately, this is simply a matter of enabling disk usage on the device and making sure that there is at least one song on the iPod. Once this is set up, you won't have to go back to iTunes ever again.
Once the initial setup is done, you can start using Floola. Should the program not recognize your iPod automatically, you can manually select it from the list and you are ready to go.

Not surprisingly, Floola uses a decidedly iTunes-like interface with the main difference being that the Sources/Playlists column is on the right side of the window and it only covers the top half of it. Apart from this small difference the two programs are remarkably similar and easy to use.
Adding songs to the iPod is simply a matter of dropping them on the small 'Add' window that Floola shows. Tags and other information about the song can either be edited during the import procedure, with the program interpreting the file and path names in order to determine artist album and track names, or it can be done afterwards.
The entire process is quite simple and quick, and once you have enough songs you can start making playlists.

Much confusion?
While Floola is pretty good for what it does, there are things about it that are just so plain wrong, that they boggle the mind.

One of the first bad design choices is the way genres are implemented. The genre list is placed after the artist and album list, before the playlists one. This placement is simply counterintuitive since the logical selection is that of genre > artist > album. To make things even worse, selecting genres does not filter artists as one might expect, it simply dumps all the songs that belong to that genre in one big list. In fact, the genres come last and are filtered by both the artists list and the album list.

Another issue is that of compilations. While Floola can interpret tags properly and can recognize the compilation tag properly, it makes no effort whatsoever to actually order these songs as such. The result is one whooping long list of artists most of them with only one track.

Even with perfectly set up tags, the contents of my Shuffle look awfully muddled up and alien, even to me. I shudder to think what things might look like with messed up tags and about 40GB worth of musicÂ… ouch.

More than music
While iPod is primarily about music, Floola does not stop there and also lets you manage video and podcasts as well as notes lyrics and album art.
These things are managed through a system of pop-up windows and menus that let you add manage and delete items. If your iPod model does not support a certain item, such as notes or videos, you will not be able to even see the options for working with them.

Some other interesting options are Amazon.com and Last.fm integration. You can choose any artist and select the Amazon menu item and a window will pop up looking up all those artist's albums on Amazon. Interesting but not nearly as useful as the iTunes Store integration.
The Last.fm integration is nice if you are part of that community since it lets you upload your listening history to the site in order to better update your profile, something that you can't do with iTunes currently.

The Good
A viable alternative to iTunes, for those who want the iPod without the ecosystem.

The Bad
Some very strange design choices that hinder the usability of the program as a whole.

The Truth
If you really hate iTunes, but want iPod, Floola can help you out. While it is by no means fantastic it does a decent job and once you get used to its quirks you should have no problems with it.

Here are some screenshots, click to enlarge:

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user interface 3
features 4
ease of use 4
pricing / value 5


final rating 4
Editor's review
very good
 
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