YouTube Desktop Players for Linux: Atraci vs QMPlay2

Watching YouTube videos doesn’t have to be limited to the browser window. There are many tools at your disposal to transfer the YouTube experience to the desktop and make it more enjoyable. Many Linux users rely on Minitube for this task, but it’s good to know there are alternatives.

Atraci is a YouTube desktop player for Linux, Mac and Windows based on HTML5 and Node.js. It relies on Last.fm, iTunes and SoundCloud to retrieve information about your searches. This means that Atraci is primarily focused on music, and the search function will find only videos that it recognizes as songs. Don’t forget that you need an Internet connection to use Atraci as it streams content directly from YouTube.

There are several ways to install Atraci on Linux. Ubuntu users can add the repository of the popular website WebUpd8 and obtain packages from there:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:webupd8team/atraci
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install atraci

Arch users can find Atraci in AUR and install it using their favorite AUR helper. Of course, you can download the source and install Atraci by unpacking it and running the executable file called Atraci in linux32 folder. If it’s not executable, you can quickly change its status with:

chmod +x /path-to-unpacked-folder/linux32/Atraci

youtube-tools-atraciinterface

At first run, Atraci shows current “Top Tracks” from YouTube as tiles. You can switch the view to list by clicking one of two small icons in the upper right corner. The interface is clear and modern with playback controls at the bottom and search bar (with autocomplete function) at the top. Atraci offers a dark and a light theme, and you can switch them in the “Settings” dialog.

youtube-tools-atracisettings

Settings are rudimentary – you can remove data about recent searches and listens by resetting the database. Notifications integrate well with the system and appear when you play and switch songs. Clicking “Developer Tools” launches a separate window that reveals what’s under Atraci’s hood and can be useful when debugging errors.

Using Atraci is easy: search for some music, sort the results by desired criteria (artist or track name) and play selected tracks. Atraci preserves a history of listened tracks. Right-clicking a song lets you copy its URL, open its YouTube link in the browser and find similar songs and artists. You can also create playlists or import them by pasting a link to a YouTube playlist.

youtube-tools-atraciplaylist

Playback can be controlled with multimedia keys (if your computer has them) or with arrow keys (previous/next) and spacebar (play/pause). Videos will play in a small box below the sidebar, but you can maximize it to cover the entire window.

youtube-tools-atracifullscreen

Atraci is a fresh app still in development, so you might encounter hiccups. The biggest (and only) problem I stumbled upon was when Atraci refused to play videos properly. This problem is widely reported for the version 0.7 on Linux, and for now can be solved by running Atraci from the terminal and appending the --ignore-gpu-blacklist option.

Other than this, Atraci seems stable and it’s very pleasant to use. It would be great if there was an option to clear history directly from the “History” tab instead of manually removing each track. Also, the import option doesn’t indicate which playlist formats are supported, and the dialog itself feels clumsy because it combines two different options (importing playlists and saving those you created). Still, it’s a simple solution for people who want a desktop YouTube player. If you want to play more than just music, turn to QMPlay2.

QMPlay2 is a full-fledged multimedia player based on FFMpeg and Qt, and available for Linux, Windows and Mac. Like Atraci, it’s a new app, but much more powerful and polished in terms of functionality. You can use it to play music and movies, listen to online radio stations, organize playlists, add various audio and video filters and adjust subtitles in several formats. QMPlay2 supports a great number of codecs thanks to FFMpeg and its libraries. Since this is a comparison of YouTube desktop players, we’ll focus on QMPlay2’s features related to YouTube.

Installing QMPlay2 should be easy. Linux users can download the source or the .run executable file which opens a graphical installation dialog and guides you through the process. On Arch, you can find it in AUR, and Ubuntu users have the option of adding a PPA and getting the package from there:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:samrog131/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install qmplay2

You should have ffmpeg and Qt4 installed for QMPlay2 to work. The package youtube-dl is an optional dependency, but I recommend you install it anyway – it’s available in the main repositories of most distributions. If you’re planning to run QMPlay2 from the terminal, note that the binary name is case-sensitive (you’ll have to type “QMPlay2”, not “qmplay2”).

youtube-tools-qmplay2interface

The interface is based on tabs or modules which you can reorganize by drag-and-drop and disable from the “Widgets” menu. The “Window” menu lets you activate compact and full-screen mode. You can further tweak the appearance in the “Settings -> General settings” tab which lets you toggle covers, show tabs on top, use custom icons and colors and change the application theme (“Style”). The options important for YouTube playback are under the “Modules -> Extensions” tab.

youtube-tools-qmplay2settings

If you’re having trouble streaming, check the “Playing settings” tab where you can increase “Network buffer size”.

Searching for content on YouTube is done in the “YouTube” tab, and you can sort the results by column titles. Tracks can be added to the playlist, enqueued, and opened in the browser. QMPlay2 can import playlist links from YouTube (as well as .pls and .m3u playlists), open direct YouTube links and export user-created playlists. The outstanding feature is the ability to download videos from YouTube. This eliminates the need for additional software alongside QMPlay2. Another neat feature is the fact that you can edit playlists and download videos while a video is playing in the “Video” tab.

youtube-tools-qmplay2search

Both Atraci and QMPlay2 are cross-platform apps and support YouTube searching, playback and playlists. While Atraci plays mostly music, QMPlay2 can play any YouTube video. Atraci doesn’t offer the option to download videos for legal reasons. QMPlay2 has no such reservations and lets you save videos for offline viewing. It also has the advantage of being a more reliable, complete media player solution. In essence, the decision is simple: if you want a lightweight YouTube player with sleek design, use Atraci. If you want an all-around multimedia app with YouTube integration and downloads, choose QMPlay2.

What other desktop YouTube players do you know? Share your experiences in the comments.

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