Earlier today the guys at songbird released 0.1 alpha preview of songbird, the firsthint at what is hopefully gonig to be a great new music player. Its more of a proof of concept model rather than a full program, just to prove to the many doubters that songbird does exist. Its no-where near a finish produce, so you cant do any strict comparisons yet, but so far its looking good, and has a lot of potentional.
The first thing that jumps out at me is the GUI, similar to itunes, thats a good thing in my book, but black, suits my black ipod nano very nicely. Well designed , well placed buttons,and has all the usual media player buttons and functions, one thing i noticed missing was an equilizer, not sure if i couldnt find it, or if it was just not included in this preview. Most certainly the best looking media player in my opinion. It also comes with a second red skin:
And a miniplayer:
Being built on the firefox engine means that instantly Songbird has THE best builtin webbrowser, of any media player i have used, very fast and responsive, just like firefox. It will open pretty much any webpage, i havnt had any problems with it yet.
One of the best features i have found so far is that on any webpage with media items such as .mp3’s or .mpeg files, songbird opens a small menu below the page showing all availbe media on the page, and gives the option to play or download them all or individually, i havnt tried this out very much yet, but its perfect for saving videos embeded in webpages and mp3s from bands webpages with just a couple clicks:
Songbird also handles podcasts very well, allowing you to bookmark feeds from within the player and then have songbird periodly check and download them. Its a very web2.0 browser, and so already works with many web2.0 music services already. As more come along the extension system, much like firefox will allow songbird to be very customisable and extendable.
The extenions are also the most likely way that songbird will connect to your ipod, due to legal implications and problems, which have already been slowing songbird down, i dont think that apple will let the makers include ipod transefers and functionality but there is nothing to stop a third party creating an extension to do just that.
Another thing that i noticed without really meaning to is the excellent way songbird handles online music, i played the 70mb mp3 i posted about yesterday through songbird and was able to jump to anyway where in the song and within less than a second it was playing from that part of the song, i dont know this has been included in any other media players but i was very impressed with the smoothness of it, it didnt seem like i was streaming it from the net at all.
Being an Alpha release, Songbird 0.1 does have its fair share of bugs, we were warned it would be slow, bloated and crashy. And they met all those things, when you drag the window around it doesnt refresh quite quick enoguh, it takes a good 10 seconds to open from cold, and the first time i tried the search music function it crashed straight away, i’ve had about 15 crashes so far today whilst testing out all the different things and had to re-install it once as well. But i didnt expect it to be any different, most pre-release software these days that is made publicly availbe is a beta, pretty much ready for the public and been in development for ages. This is a real life alpha and you have to take it with a pinch of salt, its going to crash and burn, but this release is not ment to be used for everyday music playing, its to show the web what it might be like, and to get feedback on what they have so far.
I’m going to keep watching songbird as it progresses and hopefully it will take over from iTunes as my general music player in the summer when the Beta is scheduled for.
Unfortunatly the website – Songbirdnest.com has been hit by the digg effect, and it struggling to keep up, so for a couple hours you may not be able to get on it, but it is a very good looking website. The graphic designers have been working hard on songbird, and it shows, the graphics on the site, and built into the player make it look very professional, and in this modern world, good looking programs do sell, i know there are a lot of hardcore geeks, often linux fans, who dont really care for the graphics, but there are tons more people who would choose a tasteful gui instead, and prolly wouldnt flame it so much.
I’ve been watching the songbirdnest blog since before xmas 2005, and the amount of flame and abusive comments they have had, many you can see on the digg story at the moment, jsut boggles the mind. Putting down a piece of software just because it looks nice (therefore uses a couple more mbs or RAM) is just petty.
I’ve been using Songbird for a good few hours now, and for playing music its jsut as good as everyother media player, it does everything that you’d expect, except the lack of equlizer at the moment. The only other serious thing i have noticed is that when importing my music, its all in .AAC and songbird does not see any of the artist or album labels that itunes does, im not sure if this is something itunes has done or an error in songbird, but i’ll look into.
You can download high-res screenshots from my Songbird flickr set.
Tags: songbird, music, media player