Review: J. Masters EphPod 2
Pros: EphPod is extremely easy to use for transferring music to and from the iPod. The sync feature works well. It supports the “extras"that the iPod has. Playlists can be added at any time without requiring a full sync, unlike other programs. It’s free!
Cons: Navigating through the menus and windows may be difficult or unintuitive for some people. It doesn’t handle some ID3 tags very well, and it doesn’t allow mass-editing tags. Calendar support is hardly adequate.
Long before the Windows iPod, there was EphPod. With a simple yet effective interface, EphPod provides an easy way to transfer music to and from any iPod. It also has a variety of other features and provides support for the iPod’s Contact and Calendar features.
Just The Basics
EphPod’s main function is to copy music over to the iPod and modify the iTunesDB file, a proprietary database file the iPod uses to organize, display, and play all audio files. Because EphPod deals mostly with putting music onto the iPod, it is a very clean-cut program with complex features that is excellent at what it does.
EphPod was designed to be completely independent of disk format, which means it’ll work on any drive that Windows can read, whether it be a PC iPod (formatted with FAT32 which Windows can natively read) or a Mac iPod (formatted with Mac HFS+ and requires MacDrive or MacOpener for Windows to read). In addition, it is compatible with iTunes3 and MusicMatch Jukebox Plus, so it can be used simultaneously with other software and on either the Mac or PC iPod. Thus, EphPod works with any iPod.
The interface is plain and straightforward. It consists of two main windows, the “iPod View” on the top and the “Songs” window on the bottom. The bottom window displays the ID3 tag information for all MP3’s, and clicking on the labels causes the songs to be listed according to whatever tag that was selected. Holding down “shift” and selecting another label further lists songs according to your needs. Using this effective setup, EphPod allows fast and detailed access to all music on the iPod. In addition, music files can be viewed by artist, album, playlist, or all songs, so what you see in EphPod resembles the iPod’s own menus and elegant interface. When songs are being transferred, a progress window appears that displays the current song being copied, time remaining, and the transfer rate.
Designed to transfer music to the iPod, EphPod has all the features you’d expect. It is able to add MP3 or wav files to the iPod with just a few clicks of the mouse. It can also add entire directories and subdirectories of music at once, making things more convenient. Unlike other programs, EphPod also fully supports existing m3u playlists. However, its capabilities don’t end there.
Working with playlists is one of EphPod’s great features. Arranging songs within a playlist is as simple as click-and-drags. Adding songs to a playlist by artist or album is as easy as dragging selected songs from the bottom window to the top window. It also has an innovative option that allows the creation of a playlist of any recent files that were added or of a certain genre. In addition, you can arrange the order of playlists to how you want them to appear on the iPod, or just have EphPod arrange them alphabetically.
EphPod also has a synchronization feature that allows one-button updating of the iPod’s content. Setting up the files or folders that you would like to synchronize between the iPod and the computer in the Config menu is quite tedious, but it only needs to be done once. After that, syncing music with the iPod becomes marvelous. More important, it is a true sync feature that doesn’t just delete and recopy all songs over to the iPod.
Going beyond the essential features, EphPod is the only program that provides an effortless transfer of songs off the iPod and onto the computer. As with all of EphPod’s other features, it just requires a few mouse clicks and becomes extremely useful for recovering lost files or sharing music on other computers. For extra usability, you can customize how you would like EphPod to name the music files when they are copied to the computer.
Although EphPod’s excellent functionality lies in transferring music to the iPod, it is also the only program that supports the “Extras” that Apple recently added to the iPod. EphPod can create and edit contact and calendar information, as well as export contacts from Microsoft Outlook. While its contacts support is thorough, the calendar feature is more basic compared to Outlook or other software. However, EphPod’s additional features are convenient for quickly editing the extras and for those who don’t heavily rely on those features but would like to use them.
A Work In Progress
One of the best things about EphPod is that it is still being developed. Joe Masters, the sole creator and developer of the superb yet free program, is constantly working to improve and expand its features. EphPod does have a few bugs that pop up here and there, but none of them really limit its usability or features. But, because it has remained more of a “hack” or freeware program than a commercial application, it is very easy to send Masters comments, requests, and bug reports, or communicate with him directly. Critical bugs are quickly addressed and fixed in the next update of the software. New versions of EphPod come relatively often, with Audible and “Smart Playlist” support expected soon.
EphPod is incredibly effective at what it does. It fulfills any needs that arise in transferring music between the iPod and computer. Because it is a simple program that has no heavy reliance on Windows, drivers, or an integrated GUI, it works well and doesn’t have any unnecessary features that may cause problems. But, since it wasn’t designed to manage and organize a music collection, other programs may be necessary to compliment EphPod.