Make Songbird sing your tunes

Start using Songbird if you haven’t alreadyYou should be used to being told not to use Internet Explorer anymore – it may be the default for the majority of users, but the existence of three better competing browsers means there are no excuses anymore. We all get used to programs, and don’t always notice if our traditional choice has stopped being the sensible one. Is it time iTunes went the same way as Microsoft’s mess of a browsing application?

But what, I hear you say, could possibly be wrong with iTunes? Aren’t we supposed to love Apple? Well, maybe we are, but I for one feel iTunes is turning into a behemoth – excess feature fat without functionality. Take the Genius Bar – it slows down iTunes a ton, and it’s rubbish. Cover flow may be pretty, but it’s hardly the easiest way to browse your library.

This year saw the first proper release of the open source media player Songbird, which is starting to look like it could be to iTunes what Firefox is to IE. Like Firefox, songbird is highly customizable with lots of add-ons available, so you can make it work the way you want it to.

A bunch of add-ons are bundled with the installation, giving you iPod support, a concert search tool, a Last.fm scrobbler and more. Adding more is easy and can be done from within Songbird – it has a browser (and any time you visit a page that has MP3s, they’ll be listed in a pane at the bottom so you can easily listen to or download them). From the add-ons page you’ll find a host of interesting tools. Here are a few cool ones:

The Exorcist is something iTunes is seriously missing. Anyone with a big library is likely to have listings which no longer exist and duplicate files. As your library grows, sorting out this mess can become an insurmountable task of epic proportions. Luckily, The Exorcist will just list both for you, making cleaning your library a breeze.

Last.fm is a great resource for music info, so why not take advantage? Music Recommendations lifts similar artist ideas based on what you’re listening to, and if like me you don’t have much album art saved with your music, Last.fm Album Art will find the artwork for your albums as you play them and display them where you’d see them in iTunes. Incidentally, if you really do miss iTunes, you can download an iTunes style skin. Feel better?

You can integrate a lyrics bar with LyricMaster, which will find lyrics from the web and show them in the right-hand side bar. Now there’s no excuse not to entertain your workmates with your vocal talents. There is also a seeqpod add-on so you can easily search for tunes to download if you’re not too worried about the legal side of things…

There are some reasons to keep iTunes – it does integrate better with your iPod for instance, but give Songbird a try and you might find you migrate there for everyday listening purposes.

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