Exaile – The First Linux Media Player I Don’t Hate

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.


Getting Exaile

To install Exaile, Ubuntu Lucid users can click here or use the Ubuntu Software Center to fetch the exaile package. For other distributions, check the Exaile website.

Multiple Playlists

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.


Smart Playlists

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.

File Browsing

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.


Stream Browsing

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.

Joshua Price

Josh Price is a senior MakeTechEasier writer and owner of Rain Dog Software


  1. Thank goodness you found this. Exaile has been a favorite in PCLOS repos for a few years, at least. There were even alternate GUI templates available on the web for a while (sweet). It is a shame that in 2010, you have just gotten around to this jewel.

    Also, there are some movies out there you need to check out: “Star Wars” and “Shawshank Redemption”. Just kidding.

  2. Yes, Exaile is definitely faster. In a huge music collection, it will create a database a third or a half as big as that produced by Amarok. But it's also flaky, and thus breaks or refuses to start at times. I want a player that just plays music I drag into a playlist, and that has an equilizer. I don't one a player that wants to catalog my music. My music is already perfectly cataloged by hand, organized in folders by gener, author, etc.

  3. Why is the author of this using Ubuntu? He claims Rhythmbox sucks yet he is using Ubuntu? I'll stick to my Arch Linux thank you. Which reminds me that I will always have the latest version of everything including Exaile. Arch Linux:Then only distribution that doesn't piss me off.

    1. Lol I love Arch Linux it’s the best distribution out there. (for advanced users of course)

  4. hmmm
    exaile i tried oly for a short time. foobar was on windows, but o ubuntu…for me the innovative programme reduced to simplicity and usability far beyond my dreams was quod libet.
    its still slow while scaning at start up, but hy…
    just a few words with pipe and brackets and there u have a playlist…
    its just another way of using music libraries i learned.

  5. I run Ubuntu because I write articles for Ubuntu users. My actual preference is for pure Debian.

    And I don't claim that Rhythmbox sucks, merely that it's not a good fit for me.

  6. Yes! Exaile is my favorite music player, too. First of all, I was looking for a player written in Python. I had an issue with the version installed in Ubuntu 10.04. The 'Custom' equalizer settings wouldn't stick. So I started the equalizer of another player, I made a note with the values (dB's) of my favorite settings, then I copied directory '/usr/share/exaile/plugins/equalizer' into '/home/username/.local/share/exaile/plugins/'. Then, in file '/home/username/.local/share/exaile/plugins/equalizer/__init__.py' at line 330 I replaced the default values with:
    0, 2, 0, -4, -10, -15, -19, -15, -4, 0, 2])

    That's it.

  7. My choice of music player may not fit in with all the criteria listed in the article, but for a player that is fast, flexible, and stays out of my way I choose (drumroll please): cmus. cmus is a command line music player/manager that can be easily manipulated with easy keystrokes (and/or vim like commands). Add a directory for cmus to remember? :a ~/Music … add an album to a playlist? select your folder with the arrow keys (or search the database for it) and hit “e”. Done. Cmus is certainly not for the brand new Linux user, but it's definitely a powerful one… and of course you can listen to your music without X running.

  8. I started in xmms, not a great player but it did the job, once I found Amarok I left xmms behind. Just as you said, it broke itself in later versions. I the moved on to trying RythmBox, Audacious, Songbird, VLC, and Banshee.

    All failed me, for one I hated that I could not get shoutcast radio stations right in these players. Sure you go to shoutcast and download the .pls file by hitting the “play now” button on any station you chose, but why do that when Amarok had side bar for shoutcast, last, etc…

    Then I found Exaile!

    I now have my shoutcast list on my side bar and can select any genre I like *without* leaving .pls files on my Desktop.

    Thanks Exaile project for a great product!

  9. That was another big bonus for me as well. I'm a Python hobbyist and working on an Exaile plugin now.

    It may not be perfect, but with Python plugin support it's relatively easy to improve it yourself.

  10. Sounds like our experiences were nearly identical. I also started with XMMS as it was so close to the Winamp I had known in Windows. I liked it quite a bit and then, as often happens, new versions were released that changed pretty much everything. That seems to happen often in this genre of software. Let's just hope Exaile sticks to what it's good at.

  11. I've always used fapg or right click in my music directory and run: find ./ -name “*.*” -print > playlist.txt
    So playlist have never been an issue for me. But then my music player's consisted of xmms & using mplayer from the console.

    Now I'm enjoying ryhthmbox as it allows me to rate, shuffle and also does jamendo, magnatune, lastfm & I found a plugin that retrieves shoutcast & icecast stream like streamtuner does. I'm not a big fan of bloat either but ryhthmbox just works and I don't forsee myself compiling xmms now that I've gotten the hang of rhythmbox.

    What's funny is that I actually enjoyed songbird and might have ended up using it in replacement of xmms but we all know the route they chose for gnu/linux…

  12. gmpc keeps getting better and better. its all ive bothered to use for a very long time now.
    mpd and pulseaudio are pretty friendly too.

  13. For disk browsing I think Decibel Audio Player is better: It shows the tree of files instead of a flat list. For me it's way easier to access what I want with a tree.

  14. Have a look at mpd + sonata, which has all of the features you mention, except for the compound search filter playlists. It does support Regex searches though, and is also “very fast”, unlike Exaile.

  15. me too. in win7 I use foobar2000 cuz its modular interface n lot lot of plugins.
    in linux, I'm stick with banshee, but it lacks of custom library. in foobar, i can choose view by directory structure that any other linux media player lacks.
    for me, foobar is the best music player.

  16. Tell me, what good does a file browsing feature do, when you cannot focus a parent directory from a file in the playlist?

    Let's say i have a song playing which resides somewhere deep on my external disk. I want to get to it's directory quickly, but instead I have to start digging from my home dir.
    Like I can't drag and drop a file from Nautilus into the player, it's the same thing to me. Useless.

    Another thing is the equalizer. Maybe not important to you, but VERY important to some people. I STILL can't make my custom setting work, even if I could, the EQ itself is crap, it just chokes the sound. Try Banshee's EQ to see the difference.

    1. Current versions have all of these features. 1) There is a side tab called “Files” to handle directories and files on your local machine. 2) You can focus and even open directories from several points within the player. 3) Drag-and-drop files works perfectly. 4) The player comes with an equalizer plugin.

  17. I got a laptop and decided to try linux on it. Being blind my only choice was a distribution with Gnome, and since Ubuntu is pretty aclaimed for its facilities for those who are willing to leave Windows, I went for that. My first beginnings weren’t that good because Ubuntu 9.10 had many issues with audio, but soon came Ubuntu 10.04 and things have changed drastically. And during this course, I saw Exaile’s progress. Today, I’m using version 0.3.2 and it is my music player of choice. My only complaint regarding this application is the missing ability to browse by album artist, but not even ID3 has native specifications for such field, and many players, including hardware ones, give partial support for it, so whatever. But it can display discrete values, for example, when a song has several composers or artists, and it fits well with vorbis comment fields. (my collection is in FLAC). And it integrates pretty well with Orca Screen Reader, bundled with every Gnome-based distro. I just don’t use it for ripping, but I love its capabilities. I’m really content with Exaile, and hope that it stands as the-music player for GTK for years to come, bringing more enhancements and serving the user to its fullest. Congratulations to the Exaile’s team.

    1. Funny you should mention some of those points. A friend of mine is a huge MediaMonkey fan (for Windows) and misses the advanced filtering features like the ones you mentioned.

      As it turns out, I like Exaile so much I began writing plugins for it a few months ago, and I’m working on one for him that will allow Exaile to search based on comment tags and some other fancy MediaMonkey stuff.

      The plugin system for Exaile is sadly very poorly documented, and as a result development has been slow so far. If and when I got it to a usable state, I’ll try to remember to update this post and give you a link.

  18. This makes me want to start a website dedicated to exaile plugins. I haven’t been able to find a good list of exaile plugins to download. It’s just an idea at this point but if you guys like it let me know.

    1. Actually, I’m working on an Exaile plugin myself. It’s mostly a GTK learning project and personal tool to make compilation albums, not sure if I’ll want to release it anywhere, but if I did it sure would be nice to have a site.

      Based on my experience, what I’d really LOVE to see would be additional/improved documentation for writing Exaile plugins.

  19. I’ll have to give Exaile a try. I use quodlibet normally and I like it a lot, but maybe theres something I’m missing.

  20. I didn’t know about this Exaile player but it just works! Thank you for your review JoshPrice, without it I would still be muddling around.

  21. Thanks! I was searching for a music player that make use of folder structure instead of tags. Glad that I’m not the only one with thie “problem”. Gonna try this one.

  22. Exaile is an awesome player. I have exactly the same problem you mention: music players handling music only by the concept of “lybrary”, which is so unuseful. And let me recommend you another great one: Clementine: It does handle lybraries, but it also has file browsing, multiple tabs for playlists and many more. It is written in qt so it would fit better in a KDE environment, but definitely, its a great player.

  23. Very Nice. The Library file folder designation was counter intutive and indirect though. However, it works great. BEST OF ALL, I can create randomized play lists directly in Exaile, and export the play list to burn using a data disc burn program. This allows me to take all of a genre, export 100 song discs randomized from the whole genre, and burn each individually. This allows me to put all my salsa music in my car in a set of CD data disks, all pre randomized. And since I have the stock radio/CD player with no front panel MP3 audio jack on the front, this is the best that I can do.

    1. That’s a great use case, I had never thought of making a mix like that. Thanks for the comment!

  24. Couldn’t agree more. Love Exaile. I use Xubuntu & am disappointed that they are going with GMusicBrowser by default now. Exaile really is the first media player (on any platform) that I don’t hate.

  25. While I use a Mac for my everyday business work, I run Ubuntu for my media centre and general net browsing through the big screen TV. I’ve gotta say I use VLC for most of the things I need on both Mac and Linux, but I’m willing to have a look at Exaile if it’s getting this high a review.

    1. Yeah I love VLC for video, and while it does support all the audio I’ve thrown at it, it doesn’t have much in the way of easy playlist management and needs a separate file manager open for quick drag-and-drop playlists.  

      Don’t get me wrong, I love VLC, but as an audio player I think Exaile is much more usable.  

  26. Exaile is great, but I really prefer Amarok. There isn’t much difference but in some way I find it more “handsome” :)

  27. Used Clementine before this, but like Exaile more now, after Clementine repeatedly crashing on me…

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