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Songbird mascotI have come to really like Songbird, the open source media player built on Mozilla technology. Its integrated web browser has lots of interesting potential applications, and makes installing extensions drop dead easy (unlike Thunderbird, boo). Songbird clued me in to the excellent music search engine SkreemR, which integrates very nicely into Songbird. Given the current extremely bloated state of iTunes, and how iTunes hogs all of my RAM if I leave Coverflow on, Songbird is less taxing on my system resources and manages to feel lightweight, even if it may not really be that lightweight in absolute terms. It's cross-platform, it's free software, it's easily extensible... what's not to like?

It doesn't have Party Shuffle, that's what, and there is no extension that implements this seemingly simple feature. Why not? I've come to really love Party Shuffle in iTunes... for those few bizarre people who have never used iTunes, Party Shuffle is a playlist auto-filled with random songs from your library, and after each song is played it is forgotten after a certain number of further songs are played (default is 5) to make room for new songs on the playlist. You can drag songs from your library to add to this random playlist, so you can easily mix randomness and non-randomness, e.g. you want to hear a couple songs right now but you want to return to shuffle play after that.

It may seem like a small feature, and it's not one that I use all the time, but I do use it very frequently and it's one of a very few things that Songbird does not do which iTunes does that makes me switch back to iTunes periodically no matter how much I enjoy Songbird. If this isn't going to be implemented in the core Songbird product, someone needs to write an extension which provides that functionality right now! The Now Playing List extension seems like it could easily act as a Party Shuffle extension if it would just let you turn on some sort of progressive random auto-fill function or something... but it doesn't have that feature. Alas.

P.S. The other main feature that keeps me switching back to iTunes is, sadly, the iTunes library. It's really handy to be able to just double-click on a song on e.g. my external hard drive and have a copy of the song immediately placed into my iTunes library folder, rather than moving it to my laptop's hard drive myself and having to figure out where to put it, etc. To get new music into my collection, I find myself going into iTunes and adding the music there, and then just re-importing the iTunes library into Songbird. I feel kind of stupid doing this, but there it is.

UPDATE: As pointed out in the comments, there is now a Songbird PartyShuffle extension. Ask, and ye shall receive! It's not quite as pretty as iTunes's implementation yet, but it's quite functional. I'm lovin' it! One problem is that it's basically a playlist that refreshes itself with new songs when you reach the end of the playlist, and this function breaks if you have "repeat" turned on because it'll go back to the beginning of the playlist without triggering the refresh. I'm sure these and other bugs will get worked out eventually, though, and in the meantime it works.

February 2009

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