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Foobar 2000

For music playback, I prefer Foobar 2000, a feature rich, highly customizable, minimalist music player. Eschewing crap like skinnability for useful features like total customization of the local and global shortcuts (ie system wide shortcuts, even when the program is not foreground), Foobar 2000 is the champion’s choice for music playback. It supports all of the major formats out-of-the-box, has a clean and minimalist UI with two main branches (default and columns), and has a nearly limitless plugin architecture. As for myself, I use the default layout with a heavily modified displayname settings that hearken back to my WinAmp 2 days in the format of:
(Composer) Artist - Album - Track - Title
My display string checks for and conditionally displays each of these fields, so in the case it is missing (as in a downloaded piece of music), the display doesn’t look bad, but intelligently shrinks. For example, if the composer is missing or is the same as the artist, it is omitted along with its parentheses. So instead of looking like
() Screaming Trees - Dust - 01 - Halo of Ashes
It is much more pleasant and looks like:
Screaming Trees - Dust - 01 - Halo of Ashes

Also built into Foobar 2000 are an intuitive single-file ID3 tag editor and a powerful script-based “Masstagger,” a ridiculously useful tool for adding ID3 tags from filenames, changing filenames based on ID3 tags, and other such fancy things. But the kicker comes back to the fact that every command available can have a shortcut. Because I am a WinAmp 2 junkie (may its soul rest in peace), I use the keys z, x, c, and v to control the playback. Z goes back, X starts and pauses the player, C moves forward, and V stops playback. Also like Winamp, I use J to search for a specific song in the playlist.

Since my windows key is so underutilized, I made these same keys global shortcuts, when pressed n combination with my windows keys. So, while doing anything, from word processing to blasting terrorists with an Colt in Counter-Strike, I can start, stop, and navigate through my music without leaving the foreground window. Finally, I implemented the space bar as “jump to random file in current playlist” and made another global shortcut for Win+space. The result is basically total control over all of my music listening without ever interfacing the always-slower GUI.

And, to bring this post full circle: The UI is a simple rectangle. No rounded-corner nonsense; no bright colors. Just a utility that does exactly what it is supposed to, the way it should be done: unobtrusively, and exactly how I tell it to. I guess this is why “I am Debian.”

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