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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

software Review : Songbird - Impressive media player

Software Review : Songbird -Impressive Media Player For Linux and Windows

I like listening most of my music on Ipod or my phone , i use laptop mainly for browsing Internet , programming and some other casual work . However since i purchased new set of speaker for my laptop so i decided to play some of my collection on my laptop at least when i am working on it and my search began for best tool for playing audio files on Linux i tried some of them including Songbird and Songbird even though is not a final release and still has bugs in it but it was impressive enough to be reviewed.



Songbird is based on solid Mozilla XUL platform like Firefox which is also based on Mozilla XUL(XUL—eXtensible user-interface language) , XUL language allows one to create apps that are cross platform
and can be standalone or work on Internet ,hence besides having ability to play audio files it also allows one to browse Internet without any hitch or rendering issue . For Linux Songbird uses GStreamer to play audio files and for other platforms it uses VLC plugin for playing audio files.Songbird supports a number of file formats including Ogg Vorbis , FLAC,Windows Media , and MP3 . It can also play some video files . However Songbird is still in early stage of development hence do expect few bugs when using it . The first version of Songbird was released in February 2006 and current version of Songbird is 0.2.5 .


Songbird since is still in early stage of development hence it is not available in ubuntu repositories so i had to download it from the songbird's website . The package Songbird_0_2_5_linux-i686.tar.gz was 15.4 Megabytes in size , the Songbird ran without any problem after extracting the archive on my Ubuntu 6.10 Edgy system.

Here is how you can install Songbird

First download the archive say you have downloaded the archive in directory /home/user

Now extract the contents of the archive by using command

tar xzvf Songbird_0_2_5_linux-i686.tar.gz

This would extract songbird in directory /home/user/Songbird however if you would like to extract Songbird in different directory copy the Songbird archive to different directory and use the same command to extract file there.

Now you can run Songbird by going into Songbird directory and typing ./Songbird to launch Songbird music player.


Creating menu item : -

If you dont want to type these commands every time you to launch Songbird you can create a menu item by following these steps: -

1. Download the Songbird icon from this page , a number of graphics image of Songbird are give there at bottom of the page download the most interesting one onto your computer . I downloaded button_jetpack.png to my home directory.

2. Now right click on menu bar and click on edit menu .

3. After clicking edit-menu you should see a Menu layout window like this.

4. Go to Sound and Video tab and click on 'New Item' to create a new entry in the Sound and Video category.

5. Type name - 'Songbird' in text field and in command go to the directory where you have extracted songbird and select the songbird binary file.

In icon select the icon you have downloaded by clicking on icon button and specifying the icon location.

6. Your menu should be created , launch Songbird by clicking on the menu entry.

Opening Window of Songbird Interface

The first thing you notice after launching Songbird is it's impressive looks , i have to admit it is one of the best looking audio player i have seen for some time on Linux platform , besides this it provides all the features that other similar media players offer and adds some of it's own, Songbird can be customized further and as it supports plugins ,various plugins could be installed offering different functionalities. Initially when you launch Songbird it presents you with choice of installing plug-ins for iTunes import, Shoutcast, audioscrobbler and Wikipedia. More extensions could be installed the same way as you do on Mozilla Firefox since both share common platform , so installing extensions for Songbird should not present any problem to you . You can find more extensions for Songbird from the following Internet address : - http://addons.songbirdnest.com/

Window Showing various installed Extensions in Songbird (Note the window is same as one in firefox)

Also on launching first time you are asked to import audio files from folders in your hard disk , this unlike other MP3 players take significantly less time to scan for media in your hard disk and add them your to Library.

Songbird allows one to play Internet radio stations , it allows making different play lists and customizing them and intermixing different play lists .

Watch folder Window

Songbird also has a feature to keep an eye on a folder for new media files which would automatically be added to Songbird's Media Library Whenever new media files are added to the folder.

I tried tuning into few radio stations , i searched for using shoutcast and on clicking Tune In icon , the radio stations were added into a new Shoutcast playlist from where they could be played.
But when i tried playing some of them strangely they did not play , i am not sure whether the Internet station were down or the functionality is not working in Songbird right now .

Anyways , Songbird groups audio files ,video files , the Internet radio stations together in library this can create some difficulty for users who have large number of audio and video files to sort them out ,It can be really a time consuming affair to search for music files or video files if you have large collection of audio and video files. So they can look into this and improve this in next release.
Cheezy Video Player integrated in Songbird

The video is played in strangely named Cheezy Video Window , there is small bar at bottom showing status of video (position of frame ) , and as usual Pause/Play button , a forward and rewind button and a volume bar . I tried playing mov,mp4 and mpg files on songbird and they played on songbird well , i could not try other file-formats so you might like to add the movie files you were able to play using songbird in comments section of this post.
Checking my GMAIL inside Songbird WebBrowser

Songbird can be used simultaneously for browsing Internet and listening music and you don't have to launch a new web browser or a media player to do so since it has Internet browser and media player built in it . You can browse website on Songbird without compromising on quality of page rendering on it.

Songbird's impressive looks can be changed using different themes which are called feathers in Songbird .

Another nice feature of Songbird is it allows one to do music search from within Songbird window, you can search various music blog for information related to song you are playing also you can configure Songbird to get additional information about the Track you are playing from the Internet and show it simultaneously while you are playing the song .
Wikipedia Plug-In showing Artist information as Song is playing inside Songbird

You can launch Wikipedia plug in window by going into Tools -> Wikipedia , now this plug-in shows you Wikipedia entry about artist whose song you are currently playing ,provided your ID3 Tags are set correctly if you are using mp3 file format.

If ID3 Tags are not set correctly Songbird does provide tool for changing them , you can set artist information and other information in multiple files with ease using it's in built track editor.
Inbuilt Track Editor

I tried the music search feature and typed in the name of few songs it searched for the song from the web using Dogpile and quickly showed the links to the song which were then added to Web library of Songbird allowing you to play song from Internet or download from the web to the local library, there were not any problem playing songs from web. Songbird by default uses Dogpile to search for audio files from various sources on the internet including yahoo,google and Singingfish .


On right clicking song inside songbird interface you can search for lyrics for song from internet or view them if you have added lyrics to song earlier.

Whenever you browse any internet page through songbird's interface and you encounter audio or movie links they are automatically added to web play list from where they can be downloaded to computer.
File being downloaded inside Songbird

Downloaded song from Internet using songbird are automatically added to local library.

A Screen Shot Showing my library inside Songbird

If you would like to sync your ipod with songbird you have to install ipod plug-in , however i could not try this feature so i would welcome any comment describing your experience with installing ipod support and using it.

Whenever you search for a music using Songbird's interface when it shows result you get this window at bottom of screen showing files which are then added to Web Play list ,
Window at bottom showing media files it found on site

from there file can be played on Internet or downloaded to local library.



Besides the full featured full screen mode songbird can be also used as a mini player occupying a small portion of your desktop you can switch from full screen mode to a mini player mode by clicking on this icon in top-right corner of the screen , also Songbird comes in over 39 Languages and list is growing day by day .So you can expect to work on Songbird in your local language.


However while playing i did encounter lockups 2-3 times since it is still in early stage of development so few bugs were expected.

Songbird currently does not support buring audio tracks to cd or ripping music from the cd to library expect these features in subsequent releases of Songbird.


Some of the features Songbird's developer are plaining to add in future release are : -

  • Tabbed Browsing
  • CD Playback, Rip, Burn
  • Crossfading ("Gapless Playback")
  • Normalization ("Replay Gain")
  • Equalization
  • Visualization
  • Device Support
  • XSPF Playlist Support
  • Better Smart Playlists
  • Subscription (podcast) Aggregation
  • Changing the UI to anything else ("Bones")
  • Lan/Internet Library Sharing (UPnP/Bonjour/Etc)
  • Writing metadata edits back to the media files

In the end i can say it is one of the best looking Media players to look to in coming future expect Songbird to rise further and become popular in coming days as songbird reaches it's final release.
Songbird has a potential to do in media players what Firefox did in browser market .


Here is offical Songbird Website : - http://www.songbirdnest.com

Here is Screen Cast showing Songbird's Features : - http://www.songbirdnest.com/screencast/

By Ambuj Varshney ( blogambuj(at)gmail.com)
For Linux On Desktop (http://linuxondesktop.blogspot.com)

3 comments:

RR1991 said...

here is a very easy script for installing Songbird.

www.psychocats.net/ubuntu/songbird

Pete said...

I'm building a new media server running on Linux, and came across this entry while searching for a good media library software. Your review is thorough, and I just want to say thanks! I'm going to try out Songbird and hope it will be able to do what I'm looking for.

Ridhi Web Expert said...

I've got a 4 gb sansa e200 mp3 player. Is it compatible with the Songbird Media Player?

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