iTunes. You can’t live with it, and yet you can’t live without it. Sure, it does its job, but there are a whole lot of features which are unnecessary, and necessary features which haven’t been implemented. It has Ping, a social network used by about 7 people, but no support for AVI videos, a video format loved by millions. Unfortunately for us, there aren’t many decent alternatives.
Miro 4 was released recently, and although Miro was always an iTunes competitor, version 4 has really brought it into its own. The 100% free and open source media library does all of the things you want iTunes to do, and more. But is it worth abandoning iTunes for? Read on to find out.
Miro is not available from the App Store, so you’ll have to download the DMG from their website. At 40MB, half the size of iTunes, it won’t take hours to download. Installation is done by a process we’re all-too-familiar with – simply dragging the app into the Applications folder.
When you first open the app, it’ll ask a few questions to help you make the most of Miro. The first is the language you want Miro to be in. There is a huge list of available languages, but not all of them are fully translated (just Spanish and German at the time of writing), however many more are well on their way. Anyone can volunteer to translate Miro and help make the software as accessible as possible.
You can also quickly import iTunes media and/or all media on your computer, or simply media in a certain folder. This is a handy way of quickly gathering media so you haven’t got to import everything from scratch. That said, the importing process will take a while, especially if you have a large library.
What instantly strikes you about Miro is its beautiful interface – Every button is pixel perfect and looks wonderful. Designed by Morgan Allan Knutson, it’s obvious that he put a whole lot of time and effort into its design.
Unfortunately, for me, whilst its aesthetics are amazing, the usability of the interface is a little lacking. It would appear that Miro has gone so far out of its way to not be an iTunes clone that it has ignored the good elements of iTunes. For example, in Miro, all of the controls are along the bottom. Users are used to toolbars and buttons being up the top of the window, so this decision doesn’t feel right.
Miro handles your music relatively well – you can play it, and pause it, which is certainly a start. I’m afraid that I’ll have to compare Miro to iTunes most of the time, as that is what most people use. And, really, it just doesn’t compare. iTunes has been handling music all its life, so by now, it really is quite good at it. To me, it feels like Miro has added music functionality at the last minute, and it really hasn’t had time to think about what really makes a great music library.
One major issue of mine is the lack of view options for your music. You can either see your music in a full list with all its details, or in a completely useless view where you see each song with artwork and a few details, with only 4 songs fitting into the window. What’s really missing is the ability to view thumbnails of albums, or at least artists, like iTunes. Until that happens, there is no way I can use the music feature.
This is really where you feel Miro developers put all their effort into. It doesn’t really do anything iTunes doesn’t, except for the fact that it can handle most codecs you throw at it. And if it can’t, Miro Video Converter features are bundled in, so you can convert videos within Miro to make them playable.
Unfortunately, there is one feature which, for me, makes Miro defunct for video is a lack of external remote support. I like to watch movies from a bit of a distance, and using my Apple remote is a must when doing so. That said, you have the option to open a video in QuickTime directly from Miro, but to me, that’s not very different to using Finder.
If MPlayerX managed to incorporate remote functionality, it must be possible, and I hope Miro developers will introduce the feature soon. Until then, I’m sticking to Finder and QuickTime for video.
Miro has done what iTunes neglected to and brought in a lot of online functionality – It has a built-in torrent client (for legal torrents, of course), and links to sites with legal torrents such as YouTorrent and ClearBits. You can add any torrent source you wish to – It certainly is a nice feature to be able to download a file and have it straight in your library.
Miro has also got built in browser functionality, with a few sections which essentially act as site-specific browsers – YouTube, Hulu, and PBS, along with the afore-mentioned YouTorrent and ClearBits.
You can add any URL you want as a source, so in that way, acts a little like Fluid, only that all the SSBs are kept under one app.
The only problem is that there isn’t an address bar, so if you find something and want to send someone a link, you’ll have to open it up in the browser first.
Just as iTunes has the much-loved iTunes store, and the App Store, Miro has incorporated support for Amazon’s MP3 store, the Amazon Android Store, and the Google Android Store. With Miro’s support for Android syncing, these are great features.
Personally, I haven’t found any way in which Amazon’s MP3 store betters the iTunes store (unless you count Lady Gaga’s Born This Way for $0.99), but it is certainly a feature which nowadays every media library should have.
I want to love Miro. I really do. It is a wonderful idea in theory – developed by volunteers, designed by volunteers, translated by volunteers, and distributed completely for free. But do I love it? Not quite.
Despite its aesthetic goodness and excellent online functionality, it falls down in a few vital areas which make it unusable as a media library, for me at least. All it needs is a few more viewing options and support for the Apple remote and I’d rate it much higher. The devil really is in the details.