I started using Songbird when I began using Linux (again). I wanted something with a powerful library and an intuitive user-interface. Amarok just didn’t feel right on GNOME and although Exaile was pretty brilliant I still felt something was missing. That was till I tried Songbird. I had last tried it on windows a long time back (when it was initially released). But Songbird had improved vastly since then. Songbird isn’t perfect but combined with the awesome add-ons – it soon became the media powerhouse that I was looking for. In fact now Songbird is my default media player even on Windows (replacing Windows Media Player).
Songbird is a great media player in itself and the latest release adds a few much needed (equaliser) and much requested (library management) features. However, what makes Songbird really stand out from the crowd are its add-ons and web-integration. Songbird makes use of the Gecko (Firefox) engine to allow tabbed web browsing right inside the player. Without much ado here are ten add-ons you must install if you are a Songbird user.
1. mashTape – This is one of the first things that made me fall in love with Songbird and remains one of my favourite add-ons. mashTape fetches relevant information about the currently playing track from the web. The main pane shows artist biography, members of the band, discography, and related links fetched from last.fm. It also displays album reviews from Amazon and latest info related to the singer fetched from a number of sources including Google News, Yahoo! News, Google Blogsearch, HypeMachine and Digg. But my favourite feature is the cool slideshow composed of related photos from flickr. And oh yeah, before I forget mashTape also fetches relevant videos from YouTube and Yahoo! Music.
2. Now Playing List – Songbird doesn’t contain a Now Playing list (like Windows Media Player or Winamp) that allows you to quickly drag and drop songs and create custom temporary playlists on the fly. This can be a deal breaker for some (including me). Thankfully, there is an add-on that allows you to add a Now Playing List pane.
3. MediaFlow – I love the iTunes like Filter View present in Songbird. However, if you prefer the flashier Coverflow then MediaFlow is the add-on you are looking for. However, this plug-in does have some performance issues.
4. Equalizer Presets – Songbird finally got an equalizer with its latest release. And it’s a pretty good one. Unfortunately it doesn’t include any presets. Manually tuning a 10-band equaliser according to different types of music is just too much work for me. Thankfully for lazy bums like me GeekShadow has done all the hard work. Go ahead and install this add-on to get some much needed equaliser presets.
5. Minilyrics – This is more of a separate software than a Songbird add-on, but never the less this is a must have in my opinion. Minilyrics is simply the best lyrics plug-in. It’s not free, but the shareware version doesn’t have any feature or time limitations. You can use it for free as long as you want to, if you are willing to accept a nag screen at the beginning of the program. Minilyric’s biggest strength is support for synchronised lyrics (LRC). Songbird does have another free add-on that supports synchronised lyrics – scrolling_lyrics. However, I found its song database to be smaller than Minilyric’s. Also another limitation is that it integrates itself with the Songbird GUI. This means that you need to have songbird window on top in order to view the lyrics. On the other hand Minilyrics can display floating lyrics in a transparent, click-through (i.e. you can click the background objects) window. This allows me to glance at the lyrics and sing along while doing something else. Check out the full review of Minilyrics to learn more about this fantastic piece of software. If you don’t want synchronised lyrics and don’t mind having to keep songbird window always on top Lyrics Master is another option you can try.
6. Aero Bird Pro – This is a purely personal recommendation. Aero Bird Pro is a dark, shiny blue and black skin (called feather) for Songbird. There are plenty of skins available for Songbird but Aero Bird Pro is my current favourite. This screenshot shows it in action. It’s surprisingly polished and professional looking. This. in my opinion, is the best skin (feather) for songbird.
7. AlbumArtPreferences – This add-on allows you to specify which files names to import as album artwork and also modify the file fetcher properties.
8. Metadata Tools – This add-on comes in handy when you are tagging your files. Metadata tools add the option to automatically fill in metadata from filenames. Another nice thing about this tool is that is adds an additional filter to the Filter View – Album Artist. I prefer using this over individual artists as a filter.
9. The Exorcist – The Exorcist allows you to locate broken and missing tracks as well as duplicate tracks. It uses track name, artist name, length and other metadata information to locate duplicate tracks. This is a pretty handy add-on to have and is useful if you want to clean up your media library.
10. Song Notifier – Just as the name suggests this add-on displays a little notification window (toaster) whenever a new song starts playing. Additional options include ability to include album cover and specify the icon used in Song Notifier.
These were my favourite Songbird add-ons. I couldn’t include a few other awesome add-ons as they don’t work properly with the latest build of Songbird and some editing is required to get them to work. I am sure that I have missed out on a few other useful add-ons too due to the sheer quantity of add-ons available for Songbird. If you are a Songbird user don’t forget to share your favourite Songbird add-ons. And if you aren’t using Songbird do give it a try. It is a bit heavy on the system but provides features that make up for it.