This week we'll take a brief look at some of the many features that are making their way into Amarok 2, which is the development branch for Amarok in KDE 4. The features discussed are all in-progress features which have reached varying stages of completion. Read on for information about Amarok's engines (including Phonon), UI changes, changes to the Magnatune music store, OS X support, and more.
A few weeks ago, The Road to KDE 4 featured an article on Phonon. When that article was published, work on Amarok 2 had not yet started, but the Phonon developers were keeping Amarok very much in mind as they designed the Phonon libraries.
You see, in Amarok 1.x, the developers had to maintain separate playback engines for xine, gstreamer, aKode, etc. This was somewhat of a hassle to keep all of these engines up to date, and in some cases, they were very much a moving target, forcing them to focus on only a single engine, xine. And other programs, like Noatun had to re-implement these backends so there was much duplication of efforts. For KDE 4, the Phonon interface is designed so that programs like Amarok don't have to worry so much about the backends anymore and can concentrate on the other parts of the application. According to the Amarok developers, implementing a Phonon backend took all of 90 minutes before it was usable, and a few extra hours before it was fully implemented. When using Phonon, applications can playfiles over network protocols thanks to KIO, so we'll see what happens as the Amarok team explores this feature in more detail.
So Phonon is now working in Amarok 2. The old engines were also ported over, and in particular, the old xine engine is still being actively developed and they haven't decided to drop their old engines. Since Amarok 2 has only been in development for a few weeks, it is too early to decide to drop their existing engines such as xine, which has served Amarok very well in the past.
One of the side effects of using Phonon is that Amarok can access the video playback functions of the underlying engines where they exist, such as in the phonon-xine engine. They have added rudimentary support for video playback in Amarok, but it's designed to complement audio playback, rather than supplant more involved video players like Kaffeine. The idea is that if you have a music video in your collection, and want to use Amarok to play music from that video, then the video stream would be considered as a Visualization for that music. Having video support will in no way hinder your Amarok audio experience in version 2. According to Dan Meltzer, adding initial video support was a whole seven lines of code using Phonon.
Of course, thanks to KDE 4's newfound portability, Amarok is able to run on other platforms, not just Unix/X11. The development version has already made its first appearance on OS X thanks to the work of Benjamin Reed. Porting to Windows as well is underway, although I don't have a screenshot of that progress.
I personally think that having Amarok on these platforms will single-handedly do more for awareness of KDE as a multi-OS development platform than any other application that currently exists for KDE, since the program is head and shoulders above so many other media players out there.
But they wouldn't have a good reason to call it 2.0 unless there were some really big changes happening, and there are.
Amarok is in many ways inspired by XMMS, which in turn bears a lot of resemblance to Winamp. Basically, it's a music player with a multi-column playlist that displays information from tags contained within the media files. Now, these multi-column playlists have not really changed much over the last decade, except that different applications have added interesting ways to sort, filter, and edit tags. Amarok is particularly good at sorting and filtering, and half decent at tag editing (see JuK as an example of a player with an amazing tag editor). But none of these functions really require Amarok to present its playlist in a rigid column format, except for traditional reasons. So as part of the UI reworking for Amarok 2, the playlist is seeing a rebirth of sorts. While it still lists Tracks, Titles, and other tags, it will no longer be constrained by the old fashioned playlist column format.
This requires a picture to properly describe, so here is a mockup showing the concept in action.
You may first wonder "Where is the playlist?" as I and a few of my peers on IRC initially wondered, but if you look closely, the list on the right is actually the playlist, only it's broken free from its old format. So now, when your file is missing some tags, the playlist will simply adjust around those missing tags, smartly displaying what information it does have.
Also featured prominently in this screenshot is the middle pane. This pane is the focus of Amarok 2, as they try to give you more information about your current track, and allowing you to "Rediscover Your Music" as their motto goes. The leftmost column will function much as it used to, except with the "Context" information moved to the centre. Of course, as is KDE tradition, much of this will be configurable.
Here is a shot of Amarok 1.4.5 showing its current layout for comparison as well as a shot of the development branch of Amarok showing off some of the progress they've made in moving user interface elements around. The mockup above is the targeted UI they wish to achieve, but there will be bumps and changes along the way as they find what does and does not work well.
And now another screen the Amarok 2.0 development version, this time on Linux. Keep in mind that Amarok 2 has only been in development for a single month, and work is still ongoing.
One of the most promising of Amarok's features is Magnatune store integration. According to Wikipedia: Magnatune is an independent record label which aims at treating both its musicians and its customers fairly. Users can stream and download music in MP3 format without charge before making a decision whether tobuy or not. Music files sold by Magnatune do not use any form of Digital Rights Management to prevent customers from making copies of music files they have purchased; and actually encourage buyers to share up to three copies with friends.
Amarok debuted with Magnatune support (for both audio streaming and purchase) in version 1.4.4. Since then, the team has received many emails from other stores interested in being added to Amarok as well. But in Amarok 1.4, the developers have been busy polishing up Magnatune support and had no manpower to start bigger tasks. With Amarok 1.4.5, the second version of the Magnatune store was released and developers are really pleased with that version. It works well, and generates a small but growing number of sales for Magnatune.
So it is time to move on. Nikolaj Hald Nielsen, the main developer of Magnatune store, is planning to move things up a higher level by providing a service framework for all streaming music sources. This service framework could, and is in part intended to, be used as a starting point for adding other stores, and will provide a large amount of basic functionality with regards to adding previews to the playlist, displaying data about selected items, and similar "read only" functionality. As a prof of concept, a service that can be controlled using scripts have been implemented on top of this framework. Currently there is no intent to make a framework for the more store specific functionality (purchasing, parsing of info from websites), simply because each store has their own unique way of handling these things. Nevertheless, it's a great step forward for unified streamed music support in Amarok, and in fact, the CoolStreams service has been already ported to this new framework (as a rubyscript), and a Shoutcast browser is coming along.
Now, with the Magnatune store well received and with the possibility of using the service framework, it might be time to contact some of these interested music stores again.
Here is a screenshot showing the experimental "Cool Streams" ruby script running on top of the scriptable service:
If you'd like to get involved in the Amarok 2 development process, you will need to set up a KDE 4 development environment. There are instructions for using SVN available at the KDE TechBase website, or use the kdesvn-build program to automate the whole thing. The Amarok developers accept patches, and will hook you up with SVN access if you require it. They also need help from artists, testers, and people to offer user support via the #amarok IRC channel on the freenode network.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Amarok 2 is progressing very rapidly. To quote Mark Kretschmann, Amarok's lead developer: "If development continues at this pace, we'll be done with Amarok 3 by the time KDE 4 is out ;)" Be prepared for something awesome, as you've come to expect from the Amarok team.
To stay up to date with Amarok news, check out the Amarok Newsletter published by Ljubomir Simin. Special thanks for his contributions to this article. It's my first experience co-authoring, and it went very smoothly. :)
Thank you for telling me what I really want! You are right, to be aggressive with the developers is the solution !
Listen to me Amarok devs : don't forget that everybody is paying you for this software!
read and learn...
two things: your response hardly went any ways towards addressing the OP's point about manners being something that should be included when hoping to sway people who are working for free.
Secondly, having had a quick (by no means comprehensive) look at the link you provided I'd hardly characterize the number of votes for the wish list items you listed as an overwhelming mandate of user opinion. I'm not saying that some of these items may or may not have merit, but the number of votes the various wishes have received certainly don't warrant the strident demands you seem to feel entitled to make on the devs
I agree with you...
I think that the new GUI is step backwards.
I never said the new GUI is a step backwards.
What I'm saying is that there are much more important things than the GUI...
I also think, it's a step backwards. Main advantage of amarok is playlist creation and in 2.0 is playlist area moved to the little right pane with almost none information about tracks.
And think about 1024x768 users, which don't want amarok to take all the screen area. And I'm not primary interested in artist info (which takes the most area).
But the mockup is not only bad. I like the top bar and little redesigned collection pane. The rest should not be changed...
Well I'm a user and I don't want any of those features you listed. However I do like the new GUI and look forward to using it. So don't make sweeping generalizations that are obviously wrong.
Is that why all those features are the top wishes in the Amarok bugtracking and why there are tons of threads on the Amarok board about tabbed playlists and all that?
How do you figure those are at the top of the wish lists? I read the link you posted before and I certainly didn't get that. They may be the ones YOU posted there and there may be some other folks who asked for the same thing, but just because you SAY they're the top items doesn't make it so.
I for one have been waiting and hoping for exactly what this mockup is showing. If it is combined with an improved winamp/itunes style collection browser I'll be in heaven.
- Tabbed Playlists.
I have yet to hear a convincing arguement for tabbed playlists. I thought one day about coding them, then I realized that I could not think of a use, so I didn't. They look ugly, they do not accomplish anything, and they have no buisness in Amarok.
- A full screen mode.
I've thought about this a little. amarokFS already exists, if the developer of that wants to email the list and further explain what they need in order to make amarokFS better, then thats probably the best way to go.
-Volume normalization without a need for scripts
show us the code. None of the developers have expressed much interest in doing this, I'm sure if you coded it it would be added.
-Recording/capturing streaming media to disk
Beyond the scope of Amarok
-A better use of covers
We'll see :)
-More data from last.fm integrated into Amarok
We have big plans for the context in 2.0.. wait till you see them.
Now I take big offense to "This is what users want." That is what you want. Most of that I could care less about. The fun thing about open source software is taht you are free to add whatever you want--so do it.
I am the person who has done most of the gruntwork behind the gui refactoring thus far (working off of mxcl's mockup). I did this soley because I liked the new look, as did other developers, as did other users. The interest has been there for a new look for quite a while.
"I have yet to hear a convincing arguement for tabbed playlists. I thought one day about coding them, then I realized that I could not think of a use, so I didn't. They look ugly, they do not accomplish anything, and they have no buisness in Amarok."
But your USERS *want* and *love* them!
There's tons of threads about tabbed playlists on the Amarok board and people keep on asking about them on the IRC. Also, it's the #1 wish (almost) in the bugtracking system. You can, of course, ignore all that, but not adding tabs to Amarok 2.0 will disappoint a whole lot of users and they will prolly go elsewhere, that's for sure...
"amarokFS already exists"
Sure, but adding it by default would be better.
But we had this discussion before on the mailinglist...
"code. None of the developers have expressed much interest in doing this, I'm sure if you coded it it would be added."
There's a script already that does it, so why don't you take a look at this code?!
"Beyond the scope of Amarok"
"Now I take big offense to "This is what users want." That is what you want."
Read the Amarok SMF board and check the Amarok bugtracking system.
Those are the top wishes and it's exactly what LOTS of users would like to see in Amarok 2.0...
"Most of that I could care less about."
It seems you also could care less about all the Amarok users out there.
Ignoring all the requests is the easiest, eh? Yeah, why bother...
"I am the person who has done most of the gruntwork behind the gui refactoring thus far (working off of mxcl's mockup). I did this soley because I liked the new look, as did other developers, as did other users. The interest has been there for a new look for quite a while."
Okay, yes...and I NEVER criticized the new look. Actually, the opposite - I really like it.
However, just changing the look will disappoint lots and lots of users...
It's not what most of them are waiting for - the mentioned features is what lots of them would really love to see in Amarok 2.0 and not "just" a GUI fefactoring.
But yeah, keep on ignoring - you'll see where it leads to...
If it leads to make users like you switch to another audio player (banshee or whatever), then it might be a good thing.
I think you don't understand what is an open source project. The devs are working on amarok for free, and because it's fun. You can't FORCE them to make something that don't interest them.
Moreover, what's the problem of having a feature in a plugin ? Why should it be better to add it by default ? (except adding build dependencies...)
Does Firefox bundles adblock, flashgot, fireftp, [insert your prefered plugin] by default ? No. Does it affect firefox popularity ? No. You see ?
By the way, I hope there are plan to integrate kghns2 into amarok2 for managing plugins :)
my problem with plugins is that I'm too damn lazy to install them ;)
however, ghns does solve that in some cases...
"However, just changing the look will disappoint lots and lots of users..."
Just think about how long it will take until amarok 2.0 is release...
So there is quite a long time left to implement more features. But many of those features should be done _after_ the GUI refactoring.
Let's see what the amarok 2.0 will bring. I bet many of your mentioned features will be (more or less) be included.
I also would use tabbed playlists.
But you need to keep in mind, people ask for stuff that isn't always a good idea.
Even if a lot of people want it, doesn't mean they are onto something.
Yeah, you guys are sooo not going to make any money on this version. No one is going to pay for this upgrade.
> -Recording/capturing streaming media to disk
> Beyond the scope of Amarok
In Amarok 1.4 there is a menu-item "Burn to CD" which opens k3b when selected. I think that there should equally be a menu-item "Rip stream" which opens a stream ripping program.
By the way, Amarok is a great app and your new GUI is cool! I agree with a lot of other posters that the GUI should be customizable.
Maybe you should take a look at, http://www.kde-apps.org/content/show.php/FALF+Player?content=43961
I like Amarok, and I've briefly reviewed it in my blog for the Linux Journal at http://www.linuxjournal.com/node/1000181. For me, its most glaring lack is stable support for JACK. Gstreamer's JACK back-end is in need of maintenance (last time I checked), and I'm not sure what xine's current status is re: JACK. Give Amarok clean JACK audio support and it'll be the bee's kness for me. :)
If you want jack support you need to grab libxine from cvs (or is it svn) and compile it yourself.... (or wait until the next release)
Jack suddenly becomes an option in Amarok. Which is great because my good soundcard does not have alsa drivers.
That makes no sense. I think you would be better served asking the audio backends to improve JACK support. Amarok has no contact with JACK what-so-ever and never will.
That would prob be because pretty much no one uses jack
sorry but ardour/rosegarden/rezound/hydrogen users i.e. musicians doing music with Linux use Jack... Jack support would be very much appreciated.
The new gui doesn't look good. There (on the mockup) the tracks rows height is big, so you can't see many of them on one sreen.
Can you please leave the old style as an option?
First of all: you guys are doing a great job, keep up the good work.
One of the reasons I like the old GUI better is: I think it's a bad idea to use 3 columns. It's just too much. Think of it: every professional program/website has 2 columns...
Simply not true.
Since getting a widescreen monitor, three pane interfaces is a huge productivity boost. Among the programs that would be far less usable without it that I use are: kdevelop, eclipse, visual studio, outlook and thunderbird. And that's just an off the top of my head 20 second list.
I think that, on one hand, there are some great innovations with news GUI, but on the other hand, other innovations are just trying to change the user interface because of changing it : well, it's not the good way.
There should have been some example mockup releases before to begin the development. As some others, I think, for example, that the context menu, shouldn't be there, in the middle of the window. Because, yes, the context menu is good looking in himself, but I don't look at it so much when I'm workin'.
And I think that, the common use of Amarok is, listening music when you're working. You just want to see Amarok icon in the system tray. When the playlist is finished, you click on it, and drag&drop some other files in the playlist.
There is something I like yet, it's that the playlist informations are not in columns anymore. The informations are integrated in the file line (I hope you see what I mean...) : author, time, notation etc.. (see mockup).
I also think that, the collection should take more place, and should more use CD-covers. The collection is one of the things that made I decided to migrate to Linux & KDE : I didn't find this on Xmms.
And to finish this message, I'll say that : Yeah ! the menu, with navigation buttons (play, pause, next, previous etc...), is great. It's large, usable, with great graphics...but it should be on the bottom, not on top.
Please tell me there will be an option to make Amarok use the current main window layout? I don't think the new one looks as good (yet), and also it doesn't really leave enough space for people like me who want to see 7 or 8 columns of metadata for their playlist. More customisability of layout wouldn't be bad. Being stuck with a layout like the mockup would be bad for a lot of people who really like the current GUI.
IMHO, Amarok's current GUI is very good, certainly the best of any existing audio player (being easier to use than iTunes is pretty impressive, given that iTunes is supposed to be built for simplicity and Amarok is purposefully feature-rich). Phonon support, scriptable services and all that are cool additions but it would be a shame if the stuff which is already almost perfect were changed just because it's The 2.0 Release.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Amarok 2 is progressing very rapidly. To quote Mark Kretschmann, Amarok's lead developer: "If development continues at this pace, we'll be done with Amarok 3 by the time KDE 4 is out ;)" Be prepared for something awesome, as you've come to expect from the Amarok team.
According to the comments I've read so far, they've got enough work ahead to match users' needs instead of implementing what they thought was the best ;)
Keep it up team, we're not asking for Amarok3, just a really good Amarok2 will be enough ;-)
I am looking forward for it, I like the mockup and I don;t think that it looks too much like itunes. I really like that the middle pane with information is taking special attention since I listen to a bunch of podcasts and its a pint to go trough the play list and then having to click on the bottom button (show more information)and maximizing an minimizing the info just to see what the podcast includes. I am also glad that you have added basic video support( I hope you keep it basic) and I am looking forward to see what other features are implemented.
I would love to see a skin optimized for small touch screens. I have a car pc with 7" screen and so far you either get a gui that's easier to use with features like giant buttons, but doesn't navigate through music collections well or great navigation but buttons and title info just a bit too small.
GUI looks terrible. Just terrible. Kinda looks like the alignment has 100 different rules and nothing is following it. Images look really basic, like something from windows 3.1.
Whoa, easy there!
Please remember that this version was ported to KDE4/Qt4 just one month ago, and the new layout was introduced even later than that. Considering that there are several months to go before Amarok 2.0 will be released, MUCH will change before that!
If you think it looks bad now, you should have seen it a few weeks ago! :-)
As others have said, have a little faith, this a PREVIEW article about the current state of development! This is how software in (very) active development, far from a release, trying out a completely new GUI looks!
It does look very messy, so thanks for reassuring us its not permanent :p
Amarok is great. One question: will we be able to choose horizontal panes instead of vertical ones (I still hate vertical panes with vertical text on them... :( )
I do allot of copying from the files tab to the playlist. With the new layout, one will have to drag over the context menu, and then into the appropriate place in the playlist. I think that is the main downside to the new proposed GUI. The other downside being that if I want all the current info that I like using (Artist, length, album, score, stars) and have the context menu open.... would require allot of width.
I would have to agree that if you do go with this GUI, the old Gui should be an option.
I like the new look. Can't wait to use it.
Two things I'd like to see in Amarok 2
- Fetching context information for internet streams (Context info doesn't work for radioparadise.com for example, and since context is such a central focus of the app, it should always work)
- I know its not easy to do with the current toolbar approach to buttons, but it is very nice when the important buttons are bigger than the less important ones. Like Play is bigger than skip.. Windows media player does this and it works quite well. http://www.winsupersite.com/images/showcase/wmp11_xp_15.jpg
Not that you should copy that layout, but I like the idea of making the play button more visually prominent than the others.
Not so sure about this. I know that for each play (to start playing an album) I usually press skip a number of times (to move to another track).
Well, how could you get any relevant information from radioparadise? It's not obvious to me.
I mean just loading the song info correctly. I don't know the right term for it, since it is probably different than ID3 tags, but radio streams like radioparadise do send the author - song name when the song switches.
This is what shows up in the metadata history.
However, in the current Amarok, when I click Lyrics it doesn't show them to me. Although right now it says:
Lyrics for track not found, here are some suggestions:
Squirrel Nut Zippers - Put a Lid on It
Squirrel Nut Zippers - Bad Businessman
Squirrel Nut Zippers - It Aint You
The track I'm playing is the first in that list, worded exactly like that, so I don't know why it didn't find it. If I click on the Wikipedia tab, it says:
Squirrel Nut Zippers - Put A Lid On It
Jump to: navigation, search
Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name.
I assume that the stream sends the author and name as one string, and then amarok uses that to search. So all I really want is for Amarok to take a stab at parsing the string it gets back. They are always formatted like "Author - Song name" (on radioparadise streams) so it shouldn't be too hard.
I really can't wait to have amarok2.0 but I would like to suggest a pair of things to devs.
I think amarok is going the right way with new functions and gui but is important to remember features we're waiting amarok2.0 for.
Concerning gui I think an implementation for amarokfs cuold be great; to use it as screen-saver or anti-geek.
About collection imho a full implementation of what regards bug 119539 or 90095 could be great.
Another thing about collection is that it's not necessary to show it when playing something; a better way to show all we want to see in it is it to have collection screen-wide (and so not together with playlist and contest browser).
I also think that in the middle of the screen it has to be what a user uses mostly, not what is thougth to be important (eg. I prefer having infos, which I read quite often, on one side most likely than in the center).
Anyway amrok is great and for what I've seen about it will continue to be so.
i think that middle pane is useless and it takes a lot of usable space in the window. i use amarok for playing and listening to the music, not for reading some information about artist, which i am not interested in. yes, it could be an optional feature, but i think it shouln't be there by default. try to replace it with something useful.
I would very much rather see KPlayer ported to KDE 4. I really like its multimedia library far better than all the Amarok clutter.
In KPlayer everything is very clean, only the really necessary stuff is shown by default. And the multimedia library is so easy to use, and never gets in your way.
I just set up a few playlists, and then closed the library window because I don't need it anymore. All the playlists I made are on the File menu, very easy to click and play.
I wish all KDE programs were that simple, flexible and powerful at the same time. Oh, and KPlayer will never ever pop up any stupid flashy window right in your face when you are in the middle of something else.
Thanks for pointing out KPlayer. I cannot believe that I've completely missed it's existence for so long. I've just found my new default video player :)
I'll definitely be keeping Amarok for my music though.
Man, what are you people bashing the UI for? I like the new UI. It looks really cool! It's probably not done yet, so just wait and maybe they'll improve it to your liking. :)
And to the Amarok devs, perhaps an option as to whether to use the old UI or new UI is in order.
I don't like the new GUI because it marginalizes what I consider to be the most important function of Amarok.
I like Amarok so much because it does a very good job of keeping my music organized. It has tag editing, "Organize Files", a rating feature, "Suggested Songs" ... and (unlike JuK, the last time I tried it) an actual playlist.
Sure, sometimes I want to read lyrics, and the cover art is a nice touch. But those are *secondary features*. They are tangential to the primary job of organizing and playing music.
Most of the time, I have Amarok going in the background while I'm at work. That's my primary use case. I'm rarely (if ever) interested in staring at cover art or reading artists' Wikipedia entries while listening to music.
I'm either *listening to music* and completely focused on it, or I've got some music playing in the background and I'm doing *other things*. Neither of those two scenarios involve digging deeper into the artist/track that's playing, which is what the new interface seems to be focused on.
Now, don't get me wrong -- I think it's a perfectly good idea to have those features. But I don't think they should become the central focus of the player. If they were to become so, it would greatly reduce Amarok's usefulness to me because I'd be constantly trying to navigate around things about which I don't care.
It's not a question of "improving" the new UI. It's an issue of taking Amarok in a completely different direction, one that I'm not happy with. (It sounds like many others feel the same way.) I honestly can't think of a way to "improve" the new UI that doesn't involve moving back toward the old one.
We'll see. Amarok developers have done a kickass job so far, so I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. But it seems to me they have a lot of work ahead of them.
JuK does have playlists, you can drag your collection around, or drag and drop back to where your collections are listed and it creates a new playlist.
I think JuK and amaroK complement each other nicely. I use JuK for my purposes (mostly recorded radio and listening to complete albums), and can easily see a music playlist obsessed person preferring amaroK.
I love the concept of the second screenshot. It's realy cool to be able to get information about the band that's currently playing, and to get it in a readable way.
I wasn't convinced about the playlist but thinking about it, it can actually be quite cool.
One thing it would be cool to have is to be able to get information about another band than the one currently playing. I don't how that should be handle. But when you're with friends and trying to remember the name of that guitarist in whatever band, it would be great to go the collection and be able to right click (for instance) and get information about the selected band displayed in the center panel.
If they manage to finish Amarok 2.0 before KDE 4.0 is released they could already release the Windows version. Some of my Windows friends really like Amarok when they see it on my PC but are just not yet ready to switch to Linux just for one app. If they could already enjoy Amarok before the final release of KDE 4.0, that would be awesome.
...and I really trust in its developers. They have proven again and again that they know what they do. Keep going!
If I were to ask something for Amarok, be it 2.0 or 1.x, is that I'd like it to start quickier when double clicking files in Konqueror.
I still miss good old Winamp for that reason, currently Amarok takes too long to load a song, even when it's already running.