Back at devLink in August, I went to a few sessions by Jeff Blankenburg and he was a good speaker and seemed knowledgeable. He’s a Microsoft Evangelist, so you expect him to push MS products (that’s what he gets paid to do).

Anyway, the other day on Twitter, he kept talking about the new Zune software and how you could use it without having a Zune. I had never thought about this. I’d been using iTunes for so long – but I don’t have an iPod. Ever since version 5 or so of iTunes, it’s become more and more bloated.

Apple keeps adding features and using iTunes as the default program to manage them all. Meaning, if I just want it to manage my MP3s, I’ve got to install the iPhone management software and other stuff. It also has a few background services that always seem to run (iPodservice, AppleITunesService, etc) and they also seem to interfere with DVD/CD burning unless it’s through iTunes.

So, I downloaded and installed the new Zune software. I recently had to start over on a new computer and had to re-import my library anyway.

WOW! That’s all I can say. The Zune software found and recognized almost all of my 629 CDs and iTunes only found about 120 – the rest I have to manually add. The Zune software also has better artwork and metadata support. It seems to find artwork more often than iTunes and will easily correct your metadata or let you keep it the same.

So, if you’re looking for a nice music / media player and manager, I’d suggest trying Zune Software version 3. I think it’s time to uninstall iTunes.

Drop a new folder in your music folder and the Zune software will automatically add it. It runs faster just seems to be better overall – if you don’t need iTunes specific functionality.

One drawback, Podcast management is no good. You can subscribe, but it will show all episodes of a podcast. You can mark them as played, but they still show in your library, only grayed out. If you delete the file, the title is still in your library and it shows a “download” button. I want to be able to permanently remove it if I’ve already listened to it. Hopefully podcast management will improve in future versions.

Adding artwork to iTunes has always been a pain. Even when Apple released a “Get Album Artwork” feature in the latest version of iTunes, it didn’t work that well (and required you to have an iTunes login).

Well, I’m here to point you to the perfect program to solve those iTunes artwork problems. It’s a Windows only program called TuneSleeve and it works perfectly. It searches the Internet for artwork and will let you select when it finds multiple covers. Better yet, if it doesn’t find the art for your album, simply click the search icon and it will pop-up a Google Image search with the album title pre-filled. Just drag and drop the image into TuneSleeve to have it apply it to iTunes.

It works the way iTunes and all the other plug-in/programs should have all along. When your done, it applies all the art to all the songs in your iTunes library. This process can take a bit depending on the amount of art you need to find. It took about 10 minutes for it to apply art to every song on about 40 CDs I had imported that iTunes coulnd find. The only ones left without art are some custom compilations and songs I’ve got imported.