Songbird: A Viable Media Player?

Let me tell you one thing right up front. I am not a very big fan of Winamp. All you can do is add the songs to playlists — it doesn’t provide you with any features to organize your songs according to your fuzzy needs.

And iTunes? It sure can organize your songs but it’s also very cluttered and bloated. It tries too hard to accommodate everything in a single piece of software.

Songbird sells itself as the ticket out of this madness. Let’s find out whether it lives up to its claims.

What can I say about Songbird? Is it a music player or a web browser or a song organizer? This is an amazing application which helps you to unionize all your songs, listen to internet, put your favourite numbers to your playlists and get new ones right within the application by acting as a browser.

Download and Getting Started

Songbird can be downloaded absolutely free from their site. I was happy I did not have to go through the process of registering myself on their website just to get the software.

The setup file was pretty small compared to other setups. It was 17.2 MB to be exact. After the download, run the setup and be ready to get wooed!

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Setting Everything Up

On first run, the app asks if you want to import your library from iTunes or from your system. I accidentally clicked “Ask me later”. Doing the same thing from the application was a piece of cake. Go to File->Import Media and select the folder which contains all your music.

It took one and a half minutes to import 3000 songs from my system. Pretty darn good, right? The app itself is fairly performant. You can also import playlists from your system. Drag and drop the songs or videos to add it to the software.

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Add-Ons

The app recommends you a list of feature rich add-ons during the startup, the addition of which makes Songbird a mighty bird indeed!

Internet radio, mashTape CD rip support, Windows Media playback are some of the cool yet productive add-ons Songbird provides amongst others. You can edit the properties of the add-ons by going to Tools -> Add-ons.

The User Interface

Feathers

By default, there are only feathers (skins) installed in the application. The default Feather, Pink Martini, was a tad mellow for my taste. So I changed to Purple Rain which was not purple at all and very good for me. Yay! You can also get sassy feathers right from the application from its official site.

The player is capable of playing video songs in its own little player. Although I found out that not all formats were supported. Make sure you install the necessary codecs to play that file.

If you don’t want Songbird to fill up your whole desktop, you can switch the player to a mini player which consists of only the necessary functionalities for a player and nothing else.

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Those Goofy Panes!

I honestly think there are a little too much panes in Songbird. I had to resize every pane in the software for better visibility. They are just everywhere. Left, right, below, middle.. Phew! Let us now go through the functionalities of each pane.

The left pane of the software consists of playlists, devices and services for quick accessibility. The left bottom pane displays the artwork of each song that is selected or being plays. You can create normal playlists and smart playlists from the left pane or you can create through File -> New Playlist / New Smart Playlist.

The normal playlist doesn’t require any explanation and the smart playlists can be created by mentioning the genre, artist, bitrate etc. You get really smart options for creating smart playlists. You’ll understand what I mean when you try it out. It also gives you an option to auto update which is thoughtful because after the initial bulk import, we usually add one or two songs occasionally. When we do that, the software automatically adds that song to the appropriate playlist.

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The middle one consists of all your songs and videos from your device and playlist. Right click on a song and click Show file to go to the location of the file. You can also view the artwork the same way. There are two more panes! The right one can be used to display add-ons. You can select the add-ons to be displayed from the Menu.

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There is yet another functionality of the right pane. You get an option called “Play Queue”. When you click on it, you can drag and drop the songs you want to create an “On-the-fly” queue. When saving them it gets saved as your playlist. The bottom pane is also used to display your add-ons. If you require some more display panes, you can get them from the official site of Songbird.

Songbird as a Browser

The media player has a build in browser. Weird combination, right? When you try to access webpages through Songbird, make sure you configure the settings. Go to Tools-> Options-> Advanced to do so. How you use it just as same as you do in a regular browswer. Press Ctrl+T to open a new tab and browse away, my friend! You can also download files and media and select seperate locations to save them on your computer.

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Wrapping Up

As a music junkie, I find the software extremely useful. They have mixed the right features in a single user friendly software and I strongly recommend checking out Songbird.


Summary

Songbird is an iTunes alternative, complete with a music store, Last.Fm support and built-in web browsing. If you’re looking for a more customizable experience with your music library, Songbird could be for you.

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  • Andy

    I have been using Songbird since beta, it is a great music player, but in order to really be an “itunes alternative” it would need the inherent ability to sync my ipod. (really one of the few complaints I have is that it won’t handle this task.)

  • Justin Ball

    Songbird is one of those ideas that is perfect ideals that is poorly executed. Every couple of months I go back to it only to be disappointed by its failure as both a media library and a web browser.

    • http://www.projectbeyond.org Carlos Killpack

      I totally agree, I’ve been following Songbird since v0.1a and was really excited about it for the first couple of years of development but then the innovation dropped off, they made a lot of moves that killed the community around it, and they never really finished a lot of the amazing things they had claimed Songbird would do.

      Recently I checked back after two years of not using Songbird and was disappointed, nothing had changed or improved! IN TWO YEARS!

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  • richard

    need to know more about its relationship with ipod\iphone\ipad can you transfer files,as I also hate itunes and all its restriction

  • Brandon

    Looks like they’ve completely abandoned the desktop client project at this point.

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