Q: Do I need to download iTunes if I purchase an iPod or may I use Limewire, etc?
A: There actually may be two questions here: The iTunes Store where you can purchase content for your iPod, and the iTunes application for managing the content on your iPod, and
Firstly, the iPod and the iTunes application can import and play any content in the MP3, AAC, AIFF, WAV or Apple Lossless formats, with the only real exception being Windows Media Audio (WMA) files. Unprotected WMA files, however, can be easily converted into an iPod-ready format, and the iTunes software application can actually do this for you automatically during import. The bottom line is that there is absolutely no need to purchase any content from the iTunes Store, and many long-time iPod users have never downloaded even a single track from the iTunes Store.
In terms of the iTunes application, it is important to keep in mind that the iPod uses a database to index the content that is stored on the iPod. As a result, you cannot just drag-and-drop content onto the iPod like you can with many other digital audio players—you will need to use an iPod-compatible application to load and manage the content on your iPod.
The iTunes application is generally the best way to do this, as it’s developed by Apple themselves and therefore guaranteed to be compatible with your iPod. However, there are a number of third-party iPod management applications available which you can also use with your iPod. None of these are endorsed or supported by Apple in any way, and it’s not uncommon for new models of iPod or even firmware updates for existing iPod models to break compatibility with these applications, as Apple is under no obligation to support them.
Note as well that many of these third-party applications do not support all of the features of the iPod. For example, many will let you load music files onto your iPod but not videos, and some do not support things like album artwork either. Further, you will need iTunes for doing things like restoring your iPod in the event of a problem, or applying firmware updates from Apple, so it’s generally a good idea to have it installed on your computer even if you do not intend to actually use it to manage your media content.