KDE Chatterings: Amarok

I’m really getting into my new KDE 3.5 desktop based on the latest release of Kubuntu linux. The level of integration and polish that has gone into the system is constantly amazing me. I’ll be chatting about various applications and components shortly, but I’d like to talk about one in particular right now. Amarok.
The Application
Amarok is to KDE what iTunes is to the rest of the world. A slicky smooth application with a ton of ‘community’ and ‘wide world’ stuff in it, but at it’s core, it’s a music player. Linux is certainly not without it’s share of music tools, but a decent, intuitive, and powerful system has been scarce for quite some time.
Amarok fills a niche for a tool that is not only a capable player, but also manages your music collection, organizes playlists, titles, and tags, as well as keep track of what was played when, and what order it was done in. Amarok makes no distinction between a local playlist and a streaming audio feed – the entire interface handles both sources without skipping a beat.
Add onto that a popup ‘banner’ display that shows the current track when it changes, then disappears (without affecting keyboard focus, windows, or anything – it’s a neat trick), and an extremely compact and well designed interface, and you have all the makings of an attractive and useful tool.
The Experience
I’ve been using Amarok as my default player now for almost 3 weeks, and I find myself pulling it out of its hidey-hole in the KDE toolbar to do basic things “Ahh, skip this track, it’s boring.” “Who the hell IS this?” “Switch over to that other playlist.” “I just added a couple more albums to the store, rescan please.” without spending half an hour navigating man pages, unintuitve menus or hacked interfaces that don’t behave like any other application on the planet. It’s delightful.
Other little tidbits that surprised me include things like Amarok’s link wth Amazon.com. Album covers can be automatically displayed based on CDDB or FreeDB signatures, and they’re invariably correct. Another one is integration with your iPod. Dock them, and you can drag and drop songs into the iPod directly. Amarok also has an interace to last.fm, a community based site oriented around music. The songs you play can be reported in as favorites / regularly played, and will update the ‘popular songs’ info on the site.
Conclusions
Amarok may be one of the best applications out for KDE, but it has great company with all the other improvements in KDE 3.5. Stay tuned for other reviews, but if you have a chance, take a look at Amarok now. You won’t be disappointed.

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A wandering geek. Toys, shiny things, pursuits and distractions.

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