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Friday, October 28th, 2005, 2:15 am

AmaroK Top 10 Features


XMMS and Winamp, among other popular music players, begin (or have long ago begun) to lag behind more bloated applications such as iTunes and Windows Media Player. Bloated software from the giants is continuing to develop and evolve. The target audience is easily manipulated into using anything that comes along these large marketing ‘pipelines’, either pre-packaged or pre-installed.

AmaroK is a fully-featured player/playlist management suite for KDE (Linux). Believe it or not, it boasts an endless amount of features that got me overly excited. I have been toying with AmaroK for the past couple of days as if I was a 1-year-old that has just discovered baby wipes. Here are the top 10 features the way I personally perceive them:

  • Lyrics of most songs can be brought up at the speed of a mouse click. This does not only apply to popular chart hits.
  • Album covers are easily fetched and displayed, also at the speed of a mouse click, apparently using an Amazon service
  • Smart list accumulation is handled by the application
  • ‘Jump’ function (equivalent to ‘j’ in XMMS)- character patterns are searched for among all songs. Indexing makes subsequent matches immediate. For example, type in “dless” and every song in your playlist which contains that string (even part of a word) will be listed immediately for you to select.
  • Universal keyboard shortcuts like the ones XMMS offers. The user can change track, for example, while desktop focus is placed upon another program.
  • Show all songs from the same artist, often subcategorised by albums while any song gets played
  • Media library management – breakdown of songs to form trees of artists, albums, or genres
  • iPod synchronisation built-in and included in the core of the application. I rank this feature low as I use a Palm Tungsten for MP3′s, not an iPod. For iPod owners this might be considered a “must-have” feature.
  • Popularity analysis – for each song, statistics are recorded, e.g. time last listened to, time first listened to and related songs/artists. That feature makes my log files merely obsolete
  • Transparent on-screen display (OSD), just like in XMMS

The following bulletpoint cannot properly be labeled “features”, but they are also worth listing, perhaps as “selling points”:

  • Rich graphical user interface, which is highly customisable. This includes some 32-bit transparencies.
  • External small GUI, much like that which is offered by XMMS/Winamp. This enables the user to control playlist flow without taking up plenty of screen space.
  • Various plug-ins I have not had the luxury time to play with, yet

On File Type Support

Support for MP3 files is not build-in when SuSE 9.3 initially gets installed, which is a PITA (setting aside that primitive, buggy variant of Real Player 10, which has spyware tendencies). The same applies to Fedora Core and has become a major notoriety. Other distributions like Ubuntu are no exception.

For SuSE, one needs to get update and recompile the multimedia components with MP3 support. This is something I discovered when I set SuSE up a few days ago. That possibly explains the declined pace of blog posts, by the way.

As for Ubuntu, XMMS with MP3 support can be trivially installed using the package manager called Synaptic. By default, older versions of Ubuntu (at the least) come with no application that handles the MP3 format. That is just a painful reality as far as I can gather.

AmaroK supports a variety of formats including WAV, OGG and the like. In fact, virtually any filetype is supported, provided that it is understood by the underlying multimedia layers.

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