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Amarok 1.1 Review

We have come a long way with our music players in KDE. From xmms, to Noutan, to Juk and now to Amarok...but has the progression been a good one?

by GweeDo767

I have been a faithful KDE user for a long time now. I started back in the 1.x days on Redhat 7 (I think...can't remember if I used KDE with Redhat 6). Having gone from Redhat 7, to 9, to Mandrake to now Gentoo I have seen KDE through all its evolutions. One of the software arena's that KDE has seen a lot of growth (and this is by no means the only area) is in the audio player/manager area. In the early days I used xmms and freeamp. These were mearly audio players though and weren't truly meant to manage my digital audio collection (playlists just don't cut it!). The first draw back here was that they were not native KDE applictions, so they felt out of place with all my other KDE applictions. After a while KDE brought a Noatun to the table. Noatun falls into much the same category as xmms, but this time it was a true KDE app and "fit" with the rest of my stuff. There was a problem though, my digital audio collection was growing and I needed something to actually help me manage this growing collection. In answer to this need KDE brought us JuK. It was a step in the right direction as it could keep track of your whole collection, but it still relied heavily on the idea of a playlist for seperating your audio out. While this might not have been a big problem a few years ago, other major software houses have started to offer really strong applications to manage our audio collections. Apple came out with iTunes and it basically rewrote the rules for how we deal with our digital audio collectoin. It made it very quick and easy to find your music based on artist, album, genre or any number of other criteria. Microsoft continued to update Media Player and with version 9 (and now 10) brought us a tool to manage our whole media collection (video's included now). WinAMP continued to advance and with version 5 brought a new media viewer that allowed for iTunes like sorting and seperating quickly on certain criteria. It was time for KDE to bring a real player/manager to the table...enter Amarok.

As of this writing Amarok is at version 1.1 and this is my first time getting to use it. Right off the bat I can say that I am very impressed. I simply told it what folder has all of my music in it and it very quickly cataloged it all and I was ready to start listening/managing. You are first presented with your collection in the left pane and can quickly create a playlist for a whole artist collection or just certain albums/songs from there. Your current playlist is always shown in the right pane. Once you are actually listening to songs the left pane can change to an informational window about the song, album and other tracks by the given artist.

(Left: Informational View)

All of the song information is of course generated by the ID3 tags stored in the file. You can edit these manually or use letting MusicBrainz fill this data in for you (which just rocks).

(Meta Data input, note the Music Brainz option)

You can also get album covers (from amazon.com) for all of your albums (which is just a very nice touch).

It will search for the cover for you based on the artist and album name. If it can't find out on that, you can narrow the search to just artist name or something else. It is very slick.

In the playlist area it lets you of course create your own, but it also has a "smart playlist" generator. Since it keeps track of your listening habbits it can offer some advice for you :) It can give you advice per artist, album genre or songs you just have never listened to. Very handy.

Now, most people using Linux also use virtual desktops, so often times their audio player isn't even on the screen. Amarok has two options that can help you know what you are listening to and such. The first is the task tray button. You can of course stop, pause, skip and such via it (and by using the hotkeys it defines). But if you just mouse over look at what you get:

And when a track change occurs you can set it to show this overlay (mine shows for one second):

Well, that is all I have to talk about for now. It turns out that Amarok can integrate with k3b for writting cd's as well (AWESOME) but I don't have k3b installed right now, so I will add that later. In the end for me amarok is just right. I can't wait to see what they bring me next!


by GweeDo767

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