Amp Up Your Linux Music Library With DeaDBeeF

DeaDBeeF customized on Debian

There are a ton of great music players for Linux, and most of them have a pretty strong following. What makes DeaDBeeF stand out? In a word, it’s customization. DeaDBeeF is as close to a DIY music player as you’re going to get without making the jump to the command line.

DeaDBeeF lets you customize the entire layout of your music player, how your library is arranged, and which information is displayed when you play a song. Plus, it’s highly extensible, and there are plenty of excellent plugins that open up even more options for how you can customize and control your listening experience.

Install DeaDBeeF

Even though DeaDBeeF is well-liked, it’s surprisingly not in many distribution’s repositories, so the steps to install it vary based on which version of Linux you’re using.


DeaDBeeF isn’t in the default Ubuntu repos, but as with so many things, there’s a PPA. Start by adding it to your system.

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:starws-box/deadbeef-player
sudo apt update

You can install DeaDBeeF normally with Apt.

sudo apt install deadbeef


Like Ubuntu, there isn’t a package for DeaDBeeF in the default Debian repositories either. However, the fantastic deb-multimedia repository does offer the latest versions of DeaDBeeF along with plenty of other multimedia software. Start by downloading the GPG key package.

cd ~/Downloads

Then, install the package to import the key.

sudo dpkg -i deb-multimedia-keyring_2016.8.1_all.deb

When that’s done, create a file at “/etc/apt/sources.list.d/deb-multimedia.list”, and open it in your favorite text editor. Place the following line inside.

deb buster main non-free

Save and exit. Update Apt to add the repository.

sudo apt update

Finally, install DeaDBeeF.

sudo apt install deadbeef


DeaDBeeF isn’t available in the default Fedora repositories, but it is in RPMFusion. If you haven’t already, enable the repository on your system.

sudo dnf install$(rpm -E %fedora).noarch.rpm$(rpm -E %fedora).noarch.rpm

Once RPMFusion is enabled, you can go ahead and install DeaDBeeF normally.

sudo dnf install deadbeef

Arch Linux

DeaDBeeF is available directly in the main Arch repos. Install it with Pacman.

sudo pacman -S deadbeef

Import Your Library

Open DeaDBeeF. It’s usually found under the Sound & Video section in your desktop’s menu. When you first open it, one thing should become abundantly clear: DeaDBeeF is super plain by default. If you came in expecting something that’s fantastic out of the box, DeaDBeeF is probably not for you. The strength (and some would say weakness) of DeaDBeeF is that it demands customization. You get to make it look and act however you choose.

Deadbeef Default

DeaDBeeF doesn’t have what you’d typically think of as a library. Everything in DeaDBeeF is a playlist. In order to import your music library, you only need to add the folder where it’s located. Click “File” in the upper-left of your screen, then select “Add folder(s).”

DeaDBeeF will open a file browser window.  Use it to navigate to the place where your music is stored. Once you have it, open it.

Deadbeef Library

DeaDBeeF will get to work adding your music files to the playlist. Depending on the size of your music library, this may take a few minutes. When it’s done, you can click a song to start playing it.

Customizing DeaDBeeF

After you have your music imported, you can get to work configuring your new music player to your needs. While it’d be impossible to lay out every possible configuration that you can choose or even most features, this guide will attempt to arm you with enough knowledge to get started.

You can customize nearly anything in DeaDBeeF through Design Mode. You can toggle it on at any time by clicking “View” and checking the Design Mode box.

Deadbeef Layout

With Design Mode enabled, you can right-click in any section of the screen to bring up design options. The section that you select will turn blue as well to highlight exactly what you’re customizing. To start, right-click in your music library. Delete that section.

Right-click there again and select “Insert.” You’ll see a list of available module types. DeaDBeeF breaks down into what essentially amounts to various building blocks. These blocks can occupy the different sections of your window. What you just deleted was a “Playlist” block. There are several other variants of the “Playlist” including one with tabs to switch through various active playlists.

Before you get into any of that, though, you should set up adjustable sections to divide the screen first. These sections are a “Splitter” section. You have the option to divide “left and right” or “top and bottom,” which is entirely up to you.

After you’ve split the screen, you can drag the bar between the sections to adjust the sizes. You can also right-click on either of the sections and divide them again with another “Splitter.” Spend some time setting up your layout to your specifications.

Deadbeef Modules

From here you can start plugging modules into the sections that you just laid out. Right-click in each one, and choose which module you would like to occupy that space. Remember that at least one should be your playlist.

For one last note on design mode, right-click the seek bar at the top of your screen. It turns blue, too. You can actually customize even the controls for the player, too. Just be sure to allow space for everything that you need.

Deadbeef Playlist Customized

DeaDBeeF makes it possible to customize the standard “Playlist” module to change how it displays your music. Exit design mode, and right-click in the top section of your playlist, then select “Group by.” These different groupings will change the look of your playlist. By right-clicking in that area, you can also rearrange, add, and delete columns from your playlist layout.

Installing Plugins

One of the other major selling points behind DeaDBeeF is the many plugins that are available for it. The developers have curated a list of the best plugins that you can use to customize the player even more.

Many of these plugins are actually new modules that you can add to different sections of the player. Once you’ve installed your plugins, they’ll pop up in the list when you go to add a new one in Design Mode.

To install a plugin, download and extract the “ddb” files, then copy those files into “~/.local/lib/deadbeef/.” You’ll need to restart the player for them to show up, too.

As you can see, DeaDBeeF is a wonderful option for customization junkies and minimalists alike. It offers a top-notch set of audio controls and functions to manage your music, and the customization options make it into whatever you want it to be. Because DeaDBeeF is so well-liked by Linux fans and the project is still in very active development, expect this one to have a bright future.

Nick Congleton
Nick Congleton

Nick is a freelance tech. journalist, Linux enthusiast, and a long time PC gamer.

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