Songbird: Firefox-based Media Player

April 17, 2007 by aaron

Please note that this review is based on a much older version of Songbird than the current one. Features and glitches may no longer be applicable.

The Songbird media player is a cross-platform media player that is based on the gecko browser engine. Songbird enables you to use add-ons and skins feathers just like you can in your Firefox web browser, and combines the the most useful parts of the browser into a fully-featured music player. This means that rather than having a web browser added into your music player, like in Amarok, the program natively includes the code, so it is exceptional at both, and allows the media program itself to download music and video files on a webpage automatically or load playlists with a click. These features make this the ultimate program for listening to podcasts at your computer.

How you can use SongBird.

Songbird looking at shoutcast{.left} Because you can load playlists with only a click, browsing to websites like Shoutcast allows you to automatically tune into radio stations just by clicking “play now” without having to open/download any files or opening second programs. This is also excellent for podcast websites or playlist-sharing websites.

Songbird automatically adding files.{.left} If you use the DownThemAll extension to download music or videos, Songbird will make this much easier and natively supports browsing to any page and automatically downloading files, so if you use google “hacks” like intitle:”Index Of” mozart to find music files this will make things much easier. If you use a company laptop or have a small drive, you can do the same thing as above, but instead of downloading the files, you can add them directly to your library without downloading, so anywhere you have an internet connection, you can find your music.

This is a little tangential, but if you have ever gotten the urge too look something random up while listening to music, the fully functional browser will come in handy.

Songbird web library{.left} This one is iffy, when browsing the web files are automatically added to a “web library” and are stored separately from your normal library. I don’t know if this is good or bad, but if you are normally on a fast connection, it can save you a lot of time, but at the same time, you might get some odd or embarrassing files added there.

Now there are a few things I don’t like

  1. The program is a little weighty (~40MB fully loaded.)
  2. When loading playlists from Shoutcast it adds ALL servers to your library as individual files.
  3. Currently Library information only works off of the ID3 tags without any filename parsing.

    Songbird stuck on a name

  4. The track editor can’t save changes to the ID3 tags (it can only save to the internal database).

Songbird Track Editor 5. Songbird showing duplicate files{.left} When listing files found in webpages, there is no way to filter them. For example, browsing to a Librivox page will show you three copies of each recording (one for each file type.) To play them, you have to manually remove the duplicate files. A quick solution would be to be able to arrange them by format, but this doesn’t exist yet. 6. The default “mini” player isn’t so mini. 7. The program isn’t as snappy as a standard media player or web browser, but this should be resolved as the project matures. 8. When playing streams, the currently playing track isn’t updated.

Some lovely Video demonstrations

This video, produced by the guys from Songbird, is for a slightly older version:

This video highlights the collapsible UI.

And the playlists.

Final Thoughts

Songbird is extremely attractive, and it has the potential to replace Amarok as my favorite music player ever, and has the the ability to work across all platforms because I have to jump from OS to OS all the time. I don’t think it is ready for prime-time yet, but a couple more versions and it will be perfect.

Categorized as:
comments powered by Disqus