I’m a creature of habit.

Most of it arises from the notion of not breaking what doesn’t need to be fixed. The problem with that line of thinking is that waiting for something to break can make you oblivious to doing something better.

I’ve never really explored the media library feature of Winamp. I organize my listening around playlists, and anytime some program offers to scan my hard drive to find all my music, I know it’s not going to be smart enough to discern music files from raw sound files used in applications.

Those prompts almost always come from media library features, and I’ve paid them no mind.

iTunes, however, is purely a library interface. It’s driven by the metadata in your media files, not by file system naming conventions. My library is my file naming convention, so when iTunes and my habits diverge, I usually end up cursing iTunes.

I wondered whether there was a way I could use Winamp to interface with my iPod instead of using iTunes. As a matter of fact, it can, but you would need to use the Media Library.

So I took it for a whirl.

After I got used to the interface — not an easy thing to do for Winamp, especially given how unintuitive the preference menus are — I let Winamp scan the big external drive of my music collection.

That’s when the usefulness of the media library dawned on me.

I was browsing through my entire collection the same way I would just by gazing at my shelves. The big difference was immediacy. Rather than having to take a case off the shelf, take the disc out of the jewel box, insert the disc into a player, I clicked a few buttons and listened to the album of my choice.

For the past few years, I would put the most current acquisitions to my collection on one big playlist, which would serve as an audition spot for coverage in Musicwhore.org. After I write about something — or decide not to write about something — I would prune the playlist and pretty much forget about things that were taken off.

Then I started using the media library and realized its strength — the ability to filter. With my big long playlist, my only filtering technique was manually jumping to a particular part of the list. My eyes still took in an avalanche of text. With the library, I was able to zero in on something specific.

As a result, I freed myself from the restraint of listening only to the latest things I bought.

With Winamp 5.33, Unicode support gets extended to the library — in part. It’s not completely supported, if the question marks displayed for Japanese characters in my Windows Taskbar is any indication. Those same question marks appear when Winamp syncs Japanese-tagged MP3s to an iPod and when Audioscrobbler reports a Japanese-tagged file to last.fm.

Although Winamp can’t yet totally replace iTunes as my sync software of choice, at least now I’m using more of its features.