Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Music Management Software: Alternatives to iTunes

Photo: Tomahawk

by Callan Carow

Although it is perfectly acceptable to listen to your music through iTunes, there are times when we all might crave something a little different. If you're tired of iTunes' constant updates and occasional glitches, or if you need other features from your music-listening experience, here are ten alternatives (in no particular order) to check out:

1. Ecoute
Ecoute, free for both OS X and iOS, automatically syncs with your iTunes library and offers an iTunes-like interface (albeit a bit cleaner). Though it's not a big switch, Ecoute does offer more ways of sorting your music, and the interface can be resized to fit your taste. If you're just looking for a nice, simple, all-around alternative to iTunes, Ecoute is probably your best bet.

2. Tomahawk
Available for Windows, OS X, and Linux, Tomahawk is a free app that integrates all of your music libraries (including Soundcloud, Grooveshark, YouTube, Spotify Premium, and Last.fm) into one place. Although it doesn't have the most appealing interface, it does have some other interesting features, like the ability to connect and see friends' music libraries via Google, Twitter, and other social media sites.

3. Swinsian
Swinsian is an OS X app with a fast, easy-to-use, iTunes-like interface that is able to support many different audio formats. However, importing your music from iTunes can be tricky, and the app costs $19.99 after a free 30-day trial.

4. Fidelia
Fidelia, as the name suggests, is all about providing high quality sound (like using an HD TV for HD channels, it lets you take advantage of high-quality recordings). The app, which is available for iOS and OS X, also easily integrates with iTunes, accepts a variety of formats, and has a cool visual interface that mimics a stereo. But you'll pay $19.99 after the free 15-day trial, so it's only worth it if you really care about sound quality.

5. Vox
Vox, a free app for OS X, is clean, pretty, and on the minimalist side. It appears as a simple sidebar on your screen, so it's good if you don't want your music getting in the way as you work. However, it may not be ideal if you want a lot of control over organizing and managing a large music library, and it takes a bit of practice to get used to the interface.

6. Sonora
Sonora, free and available for OS X, is another clean, streamlined, minimal alternative to iTunes. Sonora also lets you connect to Facebook and Twitter for a social experience, but the app is still in its beta phase, so you'll likely encounter some bugs (and possibly some trouble with importing large libraries).

7. doubleTwist
Although available for OS X and Windows, free app doubleTwist is particularly good for Android users. It helps sync your music libraries between devices via a Wi-fi connection, and also allows you to play and manage music, videos, and photos. If you're just looking for a music app for your computer, however, doubleTwist doesn't offer as many useful features as other apps.

8. Vinyls
Looking for something a little...different? Try Vinyls for OS X, an app which turns each piece of album artwork into an image of a vinyl record. It's one way to switch up your browsing experience, plus it's easy to sync with your iTunes library. But this interface won't be for everyone, so be sure to try the free 20-day trial before you commit (the app is normally $14.99).

9. Enqueue
Enqueue for OS X looks much like older versions of iTunes, but with some added features. It's fast, it supports many different audio formats, and it has an easy-to-use queue so you can play exactly what you want to listen to. However, it can be tricky to import your music from iTunes, and the app comes with a price tag of $9.99.

10. Rdio
If you haven't already heard of Rdio, it works much like Spotify, with many of the same features. The app is free with no ads, though like Spotify, certain features require a monthly subscription (but they do have a nice student discount). There's also a nice iOS app, making it easy to sync between your devices. The drawbacks are that the free version has monthly listening limits, and there's not as much content as Spotify (yet).

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Top Ten Most Useful Keyboard Shortcuts

The wonderful world of keyboard shortcuts is now at your fingertips—literally! The list below provides keyboard shortcuts which are the most handy for everyday computer use. These basic shortcuts are easy to use and will drastically speed up how you move around your computer. The shortcut keys below are based on PC keys, so if you are a Mac user, you will need to press “Command” when it states “Ctrl.” There are two exceptions, which are marked in the table.

Quick Look
New Browser/Document
Depending on which program you’re in, this will open a new browser or a new document.
New Tab
This will open a new tab in the browser you’re currently in. Very handy.  
Ctrl+Tab (Ctrl+Tab)
Switch Tabs
While opened in a browser, this allows you to toggle between opened tabs, in the right-ward direction. This helps with multi-tasking and speed in general. (Reverse direction: Shift+Ctrl+Tab)
Alt+Tab (Com+Tab)
Switch b/w programs
This is my most-used keyboard shortcut. This allows you to do fast switches between the currently viewed program and other programs you have recently opened. If you hold down the Alt key and press Tab, you can see a list of all the currently opened programs that you can tab over to. (Reverse: Shift+Alt+Tab; Mac: Shift+Com+Tab)                 
Find Bar
This pulls up the find bar in whatever program you’re in. This allows you to search for any word/phrase in the program and jump directly to it.
Print Page
This will print whichever page is open in your browser (also the command for Microsoft Office). Keep in mind it will print all the page details, including ads or the small print at the bottom.
Save Page
This saves whichever page you are on, in a browser or Microsoft Office.
Select, spacebar
Quick Preview
When looking at files in Finder or File Explorer, select the images you want to see and simply press the spacebar. This will open the files in the easiest preview possible.
This will copy any text you’ve highlighted.
This will past any text you’ve copied into the place you click in.