The second alpha release of the inventive Linux media player Amarok has hit the web, and while there's a new look and some cool new tweaks, there's really two big reasons to take a look—namely, Windows and OS X. You heard right: The next full release of Amarok, one of our readers' favourite media players, will be cross-platform. At the moment, only Linux users can reliably run the testers' release, so I loaded it up and decided to share some early screens to let you all glimpse at the other open source, extensible, innovative app that's coming soon.
First off, if you're a Linux user who wants to get in on the bleeding edge Amarok, you've got two real options:
- Ubuntu/Kubuntu users can add the following line to their software sources (through Synaptic or in the
deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/project-neon/ubuntu hardy main
Substitute "gutsy" in place of "hardy" if you're still using the 7.10 distribution.
- Other Linux distros can head to Amarok's home page and download the source code for compiling. For a great primer on doing so, check out WebMonkey's tutorial on compiling from source.
On to the shiny stuff. Here's how the player looks on a fresh install, with a few tracks loaded and playing:
(Note: Click on any of the images below for the full-size view)
There's a lot less button clutter than with 1.x, and making the main controls larger and centered is a smart move. The left-hand column has some of the familiar left-hand tabs—Collection, Playlists, Files—plus a new "Internet" tab that we'll get to later. The playlist itself has been shifted into a right-hand column, but what's with all that empty space in the middle? Turns out it's supposed to be that way—until you add one of the new Applets.
Only a few of those widgets actually work as I write this, namely the Wikipedia look-up and (possibly) Last.fm Events, but it looks like an open field for anyone to develop for.
The new "Internet" tab on the left edge of the screen lets you access a variety of services, including streaming tracks from Last.fm and Shoutcast, access to the Magnatune and Jamendo stores, music streamed from Ampache or stored at MP3tunes.com, and a large podcast directory for subscriptions and individual episode streaming. Note how the Last.fm controls embed themselves next to the main buttons:
Fans of iTunes' Smart Playlists will be glad to see that Amarok 2 has made the interface for generating random playlists easier to access and more intuitive:
At this point, that's really it for glittering new features. I did notice a few impressive tweaks worth mentioning, though:
- Album art: Seems to be grabbed as soon as a track is played, loaded into a playlist, or even when its album is expanded in the collection list. The Cover Manager is still there, and it makes grabbing album art from Amazon for all your albums at once a one-click affair.
- Pocasts: Way easier to subscribe to, with the inclusion of that giant OPML directory (i.e. no more right-click-and-paste to get your shows).
- Audio Configuration: It's now a separate program in your applications list, and it seems to "just work" on a fresh install—even in a non-native GNOME environment.
- Scalable looks: Like other apps made with KDE 4 in mind, Amarok 2's graphics are mostly scalable and very pretty.
I can't heap too many complaints on this alpha release, but I'm hoping to see a new/better device interface for iPods, iRivers, and other players in the next release. I could still get into my iPod mini's music by manually browsing to its files, but let's hope the next release shows off some new thinking in this crucial area. Oh, and it crashes a fair amount on my system, but that's to be expected.
Found a feature in Amarok 2 we missed? Got an idea or feature you'd like to see in the next release? Let's hear it all in the comments.