Songbird – 5 reasons why it's my favourite media player

Digital Music, Software

songbird-summited.pngSongbird, the fantastic web-integrated media player, has released a new beta 0.7 version of its software client. It’s much improved on previous versions, but most people haven’t even heard of it. I strongly believe that Songbird is worthy of a place on everyone’s computer, and here’s why.

One: Web integration
One of the first things that strikes you about Songbird is the inbuilt browser. If you surf to a website that has links to audio media on it, then those links will pop up in a box at the bottom of the screen, complete with full metadata, allowing you to download them straight to your library with the utmost ease. But the integration doesn’t end there – Skreemr MP3 search is built into the program, as is search for “The Hype Machine” – an MP3 blog aggregator.

songbird-live-dangerously.pngThe homepage for the inbuilt browser is fantastic too – you can see it here. It’s got a big search box, as well as recommendations for new music discovery services, the latest music blog entries, links to online radio stations and places to buy music. Lastly, there’s an easy portal to get involved with the Songbird community, who produce add-ons and themes for the software. But more on that in a minute.

Two: It replaces your iPod/iTunes environment (nearly) seamlessly
For everyday use, Songbird will do everything that iTunes does for you. A plugin is installed by default that will let you sync music to your iPod, and when you install the software it asks you if you have an iTunes library that you’d like to import. The software itself will let you buy and listen to all music that you’d be able to in iTunes.

This is a great feature for increase the take-up of Songbird. It’s a sad fact, in my opinion, that most people use the default iTunes/iPod combo. People also don’t like moving too far out of their comfort zone, and so if they can’t use their iPod with Songbird, then they won’t use the software. Kudos to the developers for realizing this, and building it in.

But don’t quite uninstall iTunes yet – you won’t be able to do any software updates of your iPod through Songbird. You’ll still need to use Apple’s bloatware for that, sigh.

songbird-hack-on.pngThree: Customization – Add-ons and Themes
Ever installed an add-on in Firefox? Or a different theme? Because the inbuilt browser is based on Firefox, pretty much any Firefox plugin can be easily ported over to Songbird, and the community have built a tonne of plugins for the software already.

Want the lyrics automatically displayed when you play a song? You got it. Want to see if a band in your library is touring? There’s an add-on. You can even automatically bring up the Wikipedia page for whichever band is playing. Then there’s the themes. If you don’t like the default monochrome grey look, then you you can either download a theme from the online directory, or build your own.

I could go on and on about the available plugins. If you’re interested, the best approach is to check out the full directory.

Four: It’s multiplatform
Songbird has builds available for Windows XP/Vista, Mac OSX, and both 32- and 64-bit Linux. Brilliant! I don’t have to get used to a different media player on my Vista desktop, my girfriend’s Mac laptop, or my Linux laptop. I’d also say that it doesn’t have much competition on the Linux platform for media players. None of the players I’ve tried on Linux have grabbed me very much.

songbird-spread-the-word.pngFive: It’s Open Source!
I’ve alluded to this above, but there’s a big community of users constantly improving the software, and it’s completely free. I’m a big supporter of the open source movement in general – Songbird isn’t closed-box like Windows Media Player and iTunes – it’s open like Firefox. More of this sort of thing!

So that’s why I love Songbird with all my heart. But there is one feature I’d dearly love to see ahead of anything else in their comprehensive roadmap of stuff yet to do. CD Ripping. At the moment there’s no way of ripping CDs in Songbird. This is criminal, when it’s included almost by default on many other media players. I suspect that there might be a legal issue with the MP3 codec, or something similar, that’s stopping them from doing it, but Songbird – if you’re listening – this is the one feature that would make me tattoo the Songbird logo onto my arm, like Zune Guy.

Have you tried out Songbird? What do you think? What is it missing? Is there an even better media player that I’m missing? Let me know in the comments!

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Related posts: Why iTunes sucks | Why iPods suck

Duncan Geere
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  • Songbird is really awesome. This is one of my favorite music player too. I like it because of its two features, its Multi platforms and its open source.

  • I can plug my Creative Zen Vision:M in and Songbird will recognize it and show a visual of how much space is used, like iTunes does. SongBird also can display coverflow thanks to a plug in.

    • Awesome! Score one more point for Songbird. I wish it worked with my Zune šŸ™

  • That was the one redeeming feature of iTunes. (That and podcasting.)

    I could click a link in iTunes next to a track or artist I like and be whisked away through recommendations and user submitted playlists.

    That much I do miss.

  • I had a play with Songbird and Media Monkey and took an instant dislike to them both. The whole point of moving away from WMP and iTunes is that they offer so much added guff and gloss beyond what is necessary. I don’t want to browse the net through my media player. Likewise I don’t want to clean my teeth with my toaster.

    I’ve given up on full blown media center type products for Windows for the time being. Although I do hear many a good thing about the Linux ones, perhaps they’ll migrate?

    I instead resort to a heady combination of VLC for playback, the ‘My Music’ folder for selection and MP3Tag for PROPER embedded tag editing and not merely database creation proprietary to a specific player or set of devices.

    Drag, drop, play.

    It’s simple, quick, lean on resources and when I accidentally open a music file I’m not left waiting several minutes for a leviathan software to boot up just so that I might cancel the damned operation!

    Plus, the moment you play anything through those larger softwares they always insist on archiving it, adding it to ‘the library’ so that when you delete that novelty Christmas record by the Pope the following January it will still be in your music library database as a completely useless dead link to a song you know longer have on the system.


    • I most definately feel your pain, L. For a long time I felt exactly the same way – using the most lightweight version of Winamp to play music, and browing just using filenames, rather than ID3 tags. Simple, fast, basic.

      But then I discovered the world of music blogs. I found so many fantastic bands through the mp3 blogosphere, and I couldn’t categorise them quick enough into my folder hierarchy that they all just ended up in a mess over my desktop and in the root of my music folder. There’s also the matter of the ones I downloaded but didn’t really like and never got round to deleting. Now there’s a big pile of MP3s in the root of my music folder, half of which I don’t recognise.

      With Songbird, I can listen to MP3s before I download them, saving me quite a lot of crap-filtering. I can also find specific songs that I don’t own yet, and download them straight to my library quickly and easily. Dead links are highlighted in the library for me to delete, and there’s a wealth of fantastic bands that I’ve never heard just a few clicks away.

      If you’re completely happy with your music library just the way it is, then a barebones setup is lovely, but if you have the slightest interest in discovering music online then I think Songbird blows everything else out of the water.

  • it’s true that songbird rocks and besides that i use Deezer ( ) to listen to the songs i havent got on Cd or purchased online. it’s a website providing free music on demand, you don’t even have to sign up to use it, even doe it adds numerous features. give it a try if you want to listen to almost every song, for free and LEGALLY!!

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