Anyone who knows me will have heard me rant about the poor state of music software, particularly for Linux. There seem to be two types of music players out there: the tiny ones that don’t get in your way but often lack important playlist features or format support, and the monstrous software beasts that drag your system to a halt and insist on “importing” the files you’ve already organized. I had been stewing over this for years, and nearing the point of writing my own, when I found Exaile – a GTK music program originally modeled after KDE’s Amarok. This may be the first music player since Winamp 2.95 that I don’t despise, and here’s why.
This is a feature I can’t believe is missing from so many media players. Exaile allows you to keep several playlists open at the same time and drag files between them. This is immensely useful for those of us who like to create playlists for compilation albums or specific occasions.
Exaile supports compound search filters so you can generate playlists based on certain criteria on the fly. If I want a random selection of 10 songs from all VAST albums, except Music for People, I could specify that like this:
And each time I load this playlist into Exaile, the contents are generated on the fly.
Of all the annoyances I have with music players, there is none more infuriating to me than the program’s insistence on reorganizing my music into its own arbitrary library. I know many people like to browse their music based on tags, and that’s all well and good, but I have my files sorted on disk for a reason. Any music player that does not allow me to access my music based on disk location as easily as by tag is immediately junk to me. Exaile understands this, and leaves a perfectly functional file browser handy.
Even a huge music collection can’t have everything you’ll ever want to listen to, so it’s handy to have stream support built right into your player. Exaile has an extensive list of streams built in, and you can add your own with the Add Station button at the top.
Exaile isn’t the fastest player out there, not by a long shot, but when compared to many of the larger players it seems to fly. In my experience, it’s much faster than Amarok and Songbird and better integrates into the Gnome desktop.
For me, Exaile is faster than Amarok, more useful than Audacious, smarter than VLC, and better organized than Rhythmbox. I can’t claim it’s my dream player, but it’s the closest thing I’ve yet found. For what it is, I’ll pay Exaile the highest compliment I’ve given a music player in years: it doesn’t suck.
If you’re curious about the software that has failed me, the following music player programs have all been tried and rejected for one reason or another: Amarok, Audacious, Songbird, Rhythbox, XMMS, VLC, and Banshee. Amarok had it closest, then broke itself with later versions.
If you’ve used Exaile or would like to share your complaints with music players, sound off in the comments below.