Media players are an often overlooked part of operating systems. I remember back when I was running OS X, I never really had a need for anything other than iTunes. I can’t stand iTunes on Windows though, and Windows Media Player didn’t excite me either. So where did I turn?
Songbird is a media player available for Windows and Mac OS X. It aims to be a free and open application that works well with all modern devices and services. This is illustrated in the first time you launch songbird, when it asks you if you want to install other add-ons, such as Last.fm or the 7digital Music Store. It’s great to see it differentiate itself from other media players like Windows Media Player or iTunes in this regard.
Songbird can’t read or write to iPods. I initially thought this would be a total deal breaker, but they’ve come up with a somewhat unique workaround — automatically syncing libraries with iTunes to export your new songs onto your iPod, while simultaneously importing new songs from iTunes into the Songbird library. Yeah, it’s a bit clumsy, but I still appreciate the attempt. They must’ve really worked on optimizing it, because it imported the entire library quite quickly.
The Songbird UI contrasts the iTunes one in its color scheme, but has a similar navigation bar on the left. Its three-column divisions of genre, artist, and album is also different from the usual Windows Media Player and iTunes layout. The beauty of Songbird’s UI lies in its extendibility — you can actually choose to download add-ons to tweak the theme and look of the application.
The tabs you see up at the top are another way to get around Songbird. When you launch on your quest to find new add-ons, a new tab opens up and leads you to the website for Songbird add-ons. The add-ons are divided into five categories: Appearance, Playback, Web Browser, Content & Discovery, and Tools.
Its tabbed browsing system also doubles as an internet browser — which means you could potentially use it to navigate around sites like We Are Hunted to find new music right within your browser.
If you’re a fan of high-quality music, you might have found it vaguely annoying that iTunes doesn’t allow for you to import .flac files. I knew I found it a pain! Songbird definitely took the cake in this case, as I could simply drag and drop my .flac collection right in, and have it neatly integrated with the rest of my library.
Exploring and discovering new music is always a pleasure. The default collection of internet radio stations on Windows Media Player and iTunes are mediocre, especially when compared to Songbird’s inclusion of SHOUTcast. This is what I find to be the beauty of Songbird — it takes the the strong points of great services that already exist, like Last.fm and SHOUTcast, and it wraps them up neatly within the Songbird interface. It’s definitely different from its less open predecessors, and I can say I like this breath of fresh air.
With the emergence of Android, Songbird released a music app for mobile devices. With that, I see it filling the niche as the iTunes of Android devices (and potentially, all non-iOS devices). I definitely like the move, and I hope to see it flourish! If you want a speedy, refreshing, and very open application to organize, discover, and play music, check out Songbird.