Finally, Amarok 2 has been released. The 1.x series were the champions on music management (on BSD and Linux) and playing during KDE 3.x time. Actually, it was preferred on all desktop environments, shells or plain windows managers.


KDE 4 meant (and means) an enormous refactoring of basely all KDE. Amarok developers decided that was the moment for a new GUI (Graphical User Interface). At first users, seemed to be happy about it (they were they beloved Amarok creators), however, as time passed they truly started hating the new interface, some adapted, other are still using Amarok 1.4.x, and the majority, completely migrate to another application.

After that little introduction, let's explore how, the controversial, Amarok 2 is:

Amarok 2
As always, let's begin by how it looks the first time you run it, in this regard Amarok has definitively improved, the old wizard asked too many questions, and some "complicated" ones, like which database backend you wanted

After you picked where you music is stored, Amarok will update the content of your collection automatically.

Amarok 1.4 was praised for it's interface, so let's make a little screenshot comparative, just look at both of them, you're call here:

The sidebar tabs
Those thing at the left side of Amarok. I'm not a supporter for tabs on sides, but it isn't anything critical. I'll cover each one with a good amount of detail

The collection tab

Here you can watch every single music file from your collection. They're ordered by Artist, then album, and finally single songs

The search works as expected


It has an advanced search feature, to access it just click on "advanced"


Or, if you find that dialog to be the poorest design ever by mankind (my god, so much waste space), you just simply write what string you're looking for. As an example, let's say you want to search for artists only, just write "artist" plus ":" at the end ;-)


The internet tab

Amarok 1.4.x offered integration with Magnatune Music Store and decent radio services. However, on version 2 it got a plugin based service, called internet services. In addition to Magnatune, it got Jamendo integration, among other. This feature is absolutely awesome, this is how it looks

Jamendo service: Allows you to download music from this "store". The interface is simple, and the search feature is a given


Find a little bit more about the artist once you add the "service info applet" to the context view, will see more about this plasma containment later

You can stream the songs directly from the internet


Downloading is a breeze


And it's very integrated, since it opens KGet (or your default torrent application I assume) for managing the download


Librivox.org.: To be fair, I hate audiobooks, and I'm yet to find anything I would read (listen?) (mainly philosophy or high quality literature...) on Librivox , but if you like audiobooks you may find some famous books there. It's quite easy to use, instead of browsing a catalog, you just search.


Magnatune.com: Has basely the same features as Jamendo service.


Of course, the only difference is that downloading (not listening) isn't free


Opmldirectory: Lots of podcast, about pretty much everything, really nice :-)


Shoutcast Directory: An enormous list of radio stations, actually, in the service selection, it self-clames to be the biggest of all (and I don't doubt it is).

The playlist tab
The random playlist has 2 values to change how it mixes the music. Based on certain values of the song, nothing advanced, but it's nice. You can save the preset


Normal Playlists


Podcasts

The files tab
To be fair, I don't imagine somebody using it, however, it's designed for finding audio files you want to play, but no add to your collection

The context view

The most controversial feature of Amarok 2. I'm not against it, nor in favor. It has some pretty bad usability problems, I'll mention them as we advance on the article. But if it improves (and I think it will) could become a killer feature . First, how it looks of course

Is that it? No, it's just showing two plasmoids (widgets). And yes, those are plasmoids. Amarok is actually running a Plasma containment inside it. First lets focus on what those button at the bottom do

From left to right. The first one is for adding plasmoids, it has a very rare menu (ugly, on my opinion), but it does the job... In order to browse all plasmoids you have to click the arrows

The second one is obviously for removing plasmoids


The third and fourth are moving between "plasma workspaces". The idea itself isn't bad, that way you can have more plasmoids and information, but the implementation left a lot to be desired, specially since you can't know for sure what's on the next one, this will be adressed on Amarok 2.1 tough :-) since it will be running certain plasmoids by default and will be showing tabs with the content of it

The last one is the ZUI (Zooming User Interface). It sucks big time, and it's useless. Fortunately it has been ditched for Amarok 2.1

Now for the important part, the plasmoids. In the following screenshot I'm using Albums and Current track info
Service widget: Works well, except for the crappy scrollbars that some times appear

The lyric widget: Works well, except for the crappy scrollbars that always appear

Wikipedia widget: Works decently, except for the crappy scrollbars that always appear

One truly cool feature is what Amarok developers implemented to get the rid of the following big problem: The collection was too far from the playlist, making the dragging path too big. Check out their solution :-)


If you go to the more section, you'll get the following options


The Playlist
Another controversial feature. Sincerely, the original idea was better (you could contracted albums), now it's just a playlist with a Yet-Another-Album-Cover being showed (if you go up and check and screenshot of the whole Amarok, you'll see that there are 3 covers arts of the current playing song,and that isn't the worst possible scenario).
Well, well, this is how it looks,those icons on the bottom are self-explanatory (from left to right: clear playlist, show active track, undo, redo, save, export).


The flaw: It shows a lot less items in the same amount of vertical space. Same collection, loaded on Amarok 1.4 and 2. Amarok 2 is almost showing 16, while Amarok 1.4 is showing 24 (a 50% more). But, of course, Amarok 2 playlist is much prettier.

The super, ultra, mega, unimaginable and any other exaggerated adjetive, flaw: If any of your songs belong to the same album... you're toasted... only 11 (vs the same 24)


The not-so-bad situation: If they all belong to the same a album, you get 21.


Other features
Amarok 2 has other small features, they're quite cool actually.


Script Manager: By default it includes a script for fetching lyrics, Librivox.org, Cool Streams (Radio stations) and a Amarok script console


It also support Get How New Stuff! So installing new functionality is extremely easy :-)


Cover Manager: Practically all recent OSS music players download your cover arts, but only Amarok and Exaile have a manager for them. The first being quite superior


You can also browse them by artist


And of course, watch it full size


OSD: It looks well, it could work better, in my eyes it has some issues, for, example, if I put it close to my panel, I expect it to never touch it, but songs with long names or rating will, but I'm being nit-picky here

Configuration Dialog
Amarok configuration has been simplified. It seems to be one of those application that is following the new KDE 4 guidelines (Dolphin like) for configuration dialogs. How is that? Well, they are 100% self-explanatory, easy and uncluttered to follow. Take a look




Personal Criticism

Aside from those I already mentioned, I think there are a few worth marking problem with Amarok 2, at least, on my eyes.

Custom widgets... which don't integrate Not to mention that those are some ENORMOUS buttons, the overlap is soo dumb, I mean, if you want to safe space you should make them smaller not overlapping giant icons...


Lack of a customizable GUI: You can't rearrange any GUI element, forget about changing the order of the sidebar, context view and playlist, or putting the controls on the bottom, or make them smaller, you can't even hide the menubar.

This is a buggy release: Yes, you can use it as your main music player, it won't crash, but it has many little bugs, among them, the most annoying one I think is that you usually have to restart Amarok for this to notice changes. Even basic ones as changing a cover art needs this.

Well, this is all for know. I hope you liked this overview. As a side note, would you like to see more screenshot with reflections (as in all of them, powered by screenie, btw) or you prefer what I did here?

Coming up next:
Kontact (KMail part)



9 comments:

Shane Par-Due said...

What about devices? I couldn't figure out how to use them in 2, but 1.4 was cake!

margrad said...

IMO I think that amarok 2 is to amarok 1.4 as Vista is to XP. I'm just one in the majority that left amarok when it became v2.

:S

Luis Augusto said...

@Shane Par-Due: I didn't have any media device to plugin, so I'm clueless, and to be sincere with you, I don't think it's working at all. But I may be wrong!

@Margrad: I like vista a hell lot more than XP (XD). Amarok 2.0 isn't on the best shape, but some features, like internet services and the scripts are outstanding, I really hope they can address their current problems. Amarok 2.1, for example has a completely re-coded playlist, which can looks as the old, ore the new one ;-)

The context view needs a lot of improvement. But with Qt 4.5 and webkit integration coming with it (and many other things), I think they could save themselves.

yezu said...

I just hope it won't crash as often as it did...

Luis Augusto said...

No, it doesn't crash as it did before.

Tuomas said...

crossfade ?

Zubin said...

Amarok 2's really needs to bring back the old playlist style and features. Other than that, its not so bad... THE PLAYLIST! THE PLAYLIST! THE PLAYLIST! THE PLAYLIST! THE PLAYLIST! THE PLAYLIST! THE PLAYLIST! THE PLAYLIST! THE PLAYLIST!

Thats where the power and popularity was with 1.4.x

dave007 said...

Cool. Linux rulez!!! ;) Good job, guys!

Zaai said...

Yes please fix the playlist.
I was a big fan of Amarok. Now VLC is playing on my desktop...