UPDATED: Trial not limited to 30 days, clarified YouTube video embedding.

I'm not a big fan of iTunes for Windows. Even though I have an iPod, I haven't used its software sibling in nine months. (That'd be enough time for Apple to gestate a better version, you'd think.) However, iTunes addicts who just can't break away might want to take a look at TuneUp Companion, a neat little plug-in recently out of beta. It does a much better job of album art downloading, track tag repair and discovery, and tracking down concerts by your favorite bands.

In terms of user interface, TuneUp Companion is a bit awkward. (Credit: CNET Networks)

First thing to note with the program is that it installs as a sidebar on iTunes. If you're using the mothership in full-screen mode, or near enough to it, you're going to have to pull in the right edge of your jukebox before you can see what's going on. From there, TuneUp lets you register from within the add-on's sidebar.

The registration is boilerplate for Web sites these days. You don't have to contribute a credit card number, though, and that makes this an interesting replacement for the iTunes store. The new Genius bar is basically a repackaging of the old Apple hard-sell for the iTunes Store, whereas TuneUp Companion offers links to DRM-free Amazon under the now playing tab.

The program can clean song tags and discover new tracks, among other things. (Credit: CNET Networks)

Links in TuneUp include more than music purchasing, though. There's also a YouTube discovery feature, automatically pulling in links to related YouTube videos. Click on the link and video opens within TuneUp, which isn't quite as smooth as embedding the video directly--but it does save on space. Concert notifications are courtesy of StubHub, news comes from Google, and there's a bunch of eBay links, as well. These can be swapped around or minimized, but not completely hidden.

Other features include Clean, which fixes track metatag data that has been improperly maintained. This feature has been buggy in the past, although I didn't experience any crashes when testing it this time around. It doesn't come close to MediaMonkey's or Winamp's built-in tag repair, but it will make sure that your "RaDIOhed" tunes are spelled correctly and capitalized in the right spots. The album art locater worked well, having no problems with either popular or obscure albums.

Despite being fairly responsive, the plug-in's interface feels cramped and hectic, although that might be because it sits next to Apple's famously austere iTunes design. TuneUp Companion makes a good choice for people who want more out of iTunes, and it costs $20. The program limits you to 500 songs repairs and 50 album art downloads.