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Songbird Music Player: Sweet Sounds on Your Desktop

Songbird is a free, open source, and highly customizable music player created by Pioneers of the Inevitable, a group of designers and developers who say they believe in the promise of an open customizable media player.

Well after using the newly released Songbird 1.0 for a few days, I can safely say that promise is well on its way to being realized with a product that's almost a suitable iTunes replacement.

Songbird 1.0 offers most of the standard iTunes / Winamp type functionality you'd expect right out of the box: wide ranging media playback support (including flac), importing, smart playlists, library management, and so on. Based on the same Mozilla engine that powers Firefox, Songbird also sports a seamlessly integrated web browser.

But what really makes Songbird sing are the add-ons, of which there are already more than 300 in such categories as appearance, playback & management, and content & discovery.

Here are a few of Songbird's most noteworthy add-ons:

Predictably for a 1.0 release, there are a handful of downsides to Songbird.

For starters there's limited device support, with notable omissions being the iPhone and iPod touch. There's also no support for video, metadata managment, subscriptions / podcasts, cd ripping, or folder watching. It's also a bit of a memory hog. But, based on the thriving developer community, it can't be long before these and other shortcomings are resolved.

And speaking of developers, Songbird is a programmers paradise, with countless ways to extend and integrate. You can change Songbird's appearance with custom skins; create custom media views and visualizations; add new functionality such as media playback and library management; and even integrate a website or webservice. Learn more at the Songbird Developer Center.

All in all I'm impressed with Songbird but not ready to dump my other music and media players just yet. It looks sharp, performs well, and is infinitely customizable and extensible — but the 1.0 release lacks some key features that can't be overlooked.

Download Songbird today to give it a try yourself.

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