Ecoute offers a simple, attractive alternative for Macs and iPhones to Apple's 800-pound-gorilla media player, while MediaMonkey lets you manage your iTunes tracks and other media files in Windows via an Explorer-like interface.
Apple's media software doesn't earn a spot on my personal list of adventures in bad coding (which is dominated by products from Microsoft and Adobe), but I rely on the program primarily because of ancillary products: the iPhone, iPad, iCloud, and iTunes Match.
As stated in CNET's iTunes 11 review from last October, the program's interface is much improved from previous releases, but it's still too complex and too much of a resource hog. Using iTunes simply to listen to some music is like renting a backhoe to plant some tomatoes in the backyard.
I was struck by the disparity on Download.com's iTunes page between the program's five-star rating by CNET Editors and its two-and-a-half-star rating by users.
I looked at two very different iTunes replacements: the free MediaMonkey for Windows (also available are $25 and $50 Gold versions) and PixiApps' Ecoute for Mac OS X and iOS. Ecoute's page on Download.com indicates that the program costs $8 after a 15-day free trial, but the PixiApps site's FAQ states that the Mac version is free due to "sandboxing issues for the Mac App Store." The iOS version of Ecoute costs $2.99.
(An alternative to iTunes for transferring media from a Windows PC to an iPhone, iPad, or iPod is the free CopyTrans Manager.)
All your media-file information at a glance
The first time you run MediaMonkey, the program prompts you to register (optional) and to make the program the default for playing various media file types (deselect some or all of the preselected types to retain your current default player). If you change your defaults, iTunes will prompt you to change them back to that program the next time it opens.
Next, MediaMonkey prompts you to select which locations on your computer you want it to scan to discover your media. The current user's Music folder is selected by default.
The option to scan for new media files at startup is selected by default; you can choose to scan for files continuously. Click the Options button to make other changes, such as enabling a password-protected Party Mode.