JoeSoft Jax 1.0.2 Review

JoeSoft’s Jax 1.0.2 is a set of tools that pulls a lot of disparate functions involving audio, video, album art, lyrics, RSS feeds, and documents into one package. This multi-purpose add-on for iTunes can be both fun and practical, but delivers less than it promises.

For example, it is at times unable to find album art and artist information easily obtained manually from the web. And while it’s an iTunes add-on that you launch from the iTunes menu bar, it doesn’t work in sync with iTunes – the music you currently have playing is not connected to any of the modules, except for the visualizer. In other words, you can’t tell it to fetch information on what’s currently playing.

When you launch Jax, it appears in a separate window on top of your iTunes application. A pane on the left side of the Jax window displays the modules you can choose from. At the top are five ‘Tunes’ modules: Visualizer, Music Map, Lyrics, Album Art, and Video. Below that are ‘On the Go’ modules that enable you to fetch news, weather, film screening times, and other information from RSS feeds, and to add read-only documents from the web and your own machine.

Jax the blipper
Problems and glitches are annoyingly common, but the biggest fault is that the software can appear very sluggish when undertaking large tasks. Often it appeared Jax had hung iTunes, but really it was just chugging away at its appointed tasks, batch-fetching lyrics or album art. This makes Jax’s Activity Viewer, which you can select from the Jax menu, a must-open before asking Jax to do a lot of work. Using this monitor, you can see whether Jax is working or hung.

A simple ever-present progress bar would be better. The Music Map module enables you to create a spider-like diagram of similar artists and influences on your current choice of listening.

Jax does a decent job of fetching lyrics and album art – allowing you to choose from several different sources for this data – and provides multiple options for automatically adding the art and lyrics to your iTunes library. When Jax discovers multiple CD covers or versions of lyrics, you can manually choose which of these to add.

But a sample search of a few dozen artwork and lyrics fetches was patchy – at times the application couldn’t find lyrics to hit songs, and on album art it failed a few times in vastly different ways.

Although web sources can be inconsistent and inaccurate, Jax should be able to obtain album and artist information more accurately with well-established databases.

Jax also enables you to convert videos on your Mac, or those you’ve recently watched on the web, for optimal viewing on your choice of devices: iPod, iPhone, Apple TV, or your Mac via iTunes (though four buttons are provided, the options boil down to two choices: 320 x 240 pixels or 640 x 480 pixels). Jax does a good job at these conversions, working quickly and producing the expected results. On the other hand, this module is the simplest and most limited; the free iSquint, for example, is just as fast and offers much more control over video quality.

In addition to those modules, Jax can grab web feeds and local documents that you can sync with your iPod’s Notes feature. You can subscribe to RSS feeds via Jax’s news viewer, and also get weather forecasts, film screening times, stock prices, driving directions, and petrol prices. You can also fetch email messages, local documents, and web pages. This last feature sounds great, but only the text of the web page is captured, limiting its usefulness.

While having some of this information on your iPod may prove helpful, it doesn’t seem any more useful than simply printing it out.

OUR VERDICT

Jax has lots of potential, in part because it is designed to be expandable; JoeSoft promises to add to it for free. However, much of the potential rests in a hope that JoeSoft will make much-needed bug fixes and improvements in functions. If you find the current features appealing and have some patience, give Jax a test drive; if not, wait for a major upgrade.

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