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Software Media Player Roundup

Time For A Change

Songbird

For most users the biggest deterrent to changing media players is the loss of library data. Songbird is an ideal choice for users with an extensive, carefully labeled and updated library, because it offers the ability to both use standard folders and to import a full iTunes library - you won’t be left out in the cold, adding tracks by hand.

Songbird’s easy navigability is a big draw.

Songbird’s most laudable achievement isn’t the importing of other libraries, though; it’s the easy access it offers to its own features. As Windows Media Player 11 has taught us, there’s no point having more features than you can shake a stick at, if those features are rendered inaccessible by a poor interface.

Songbird’s library layout should be instinctive to anyone familiar with Winamp. Its layout is such that all relevant information is displayed at all times, so there’s minimal difficulty in navigation. Artists are listed on the left, albums to the right and the resulting cross reference immediately below. It’s simple and elegant, and means that most of your time is spent listening to music, rather than browsing for it.

Songbird features a built-in web browser.

If you’re looking for a media player with something very specific above the competition, then the level of web integration should be considered Songbird’s biggest draw. From anywhere in Songbird’s navigation, users can point the address bar (top) at a web page and use the built-in web browser, rather than opening a dedicated web browser on its own. Browsing the web from inside a media player isn’t ideal, but it is convenient.

The other immediate benefit of Songbird’s web access is that it automatically shows what downloadable media are available on any page you happen to load. If you find yourself on a page with content you’d like to listen to but don’t care to download, the option is there to just play the file.

The list at the very bottom is content available on the page.

It’s important to note that Songbird isn’t finished yet; the current release build is 0.2.5, and weighs in at a surprisingly lightweight 12 MB. The fact that it’s unfinished means that there are some niggling issues; for example, it asks whenever it’s opened whether or not you’d like to import more music. These are all minor problems, though, and there’s nothing that should stop this slick player from being anyone’s first choice.

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