Like Firefox, the open source media player Songbird is a pretty neat alternative to a big-name competitor on its own, but the ability to extend it through add-ons is what really makes it boss.
We considered the release candidate of the potential "iTunes killer"—Songbird a sloppy mess, then backed up a bit when it's 1.0 release was official. Now we're geeked to show you a few add-ons that make Songbird a great place to organize your MP3s, iTunes purchases, iPods and whatever else you listen to.
The suggested pack
Songbird's developers chose wisely when it came to the extensions it recommends installing when you first load Songbird. iPod Device Support, QuickTime Playback and Windows Media Playback give owners of protected files, and iPods, access to their tunes with few hitches. Shoutcast Radio and Last.fm integrate nicely as streaming players, and Concerts tells you whenever an artist you dig in your library is swinging by town to play a live gig. Last, but certainly not least, mashTape gives you all kinds of web-driven contextual content on your played artist, putting artist info, news, photos, and videos from a wide variety of popular sources—Flickr, YouTube, Wikipedia, Digg, etc.—in your bottom tray. All worthy of installation, and, in some cases, hard to imagine music browsing without.
LyricMaster smartly hunts down the lyrics for any song playing in Songbird, whether in the file's metadata or through Mashtape's search. If it gets a match, it puts them in a skinny right-hand window; if not, it offers a pre-formatted Google search for your song, which you can copy the results of and paste directly into the song file. Pretty straight-forward, but seriously helpful, too.
Those familiar with Seeqpod's find-and-stream MP3 search engine can smile at its seamless Songbird integration. A search bar and results listing pops open in a new tab, and you can queue up over-the-net tracks or download them directly to your library or specific playlists. Downloads head into your standard Songbird downloads window, and, well, that's it—it just works, and it expands your library exponentially, assuming you're down with the kind of quasi-legality involved.
If you're a fan of iTunes/OS X's CoverFlow style, with album art flipping by as you play and switch tracks, this is its Songbird near-equivalent. There's a few bugs and performance tweaks still to be worked out, but it basically delivers on the promise of big, flip-sliding pictures. If you're going to install this, it's best to also install the FocusTrack extension to get instant album art updates as you switch tracks.
If your library looks pretty barren in MediaFlow, let Last.fm's vast database do the heavy digital image lifting for you. This extension shows the album art that the music-sharing service has on file for whatever you're playing in the lower-left. It (unfortunately) doesn't let you grab and save that art for metadata implanting, but makes for a light-weight way to keep your visual field stocked in your media player.
As a long-time iTunes user, this is the add-on your long-suffering editor is probably most excited about. The Exorcist adds two views to your media listing options, Ghost Tracks and Duplicate Tracks, that do exactly what you'd hope—list songs referenced in your library without a related media file, and list any songs that seem to be similar in file size or metadata. Better still, those views show you the full path of duplicate files, and offer buttons to just clear out all duplicates or find your missing tracks.
If a single play/pause button just doesn't do it for you, you can add a stop button that looks built-in with this tiny, helpful extension. Not the sexiest of extensions, for sure, but a good indicator of the Firefox-like potential to customise Songbird to whatever shape you want it in—once more add-ons make the list and get updated.
What Sonbird add-ons are you enjoying alongside your music? What functionality would you love to see someone code up for a weekend project? Tell us your add-on ideas in the comments.