I have recently become a huge fan of Songbird, a free multi-platform media player based on Mozilla’s XULRunner.

If you are anything like me, you may be asking yourself what makes Songbird special or worth your time. Why not just keep using iTunes, VLC, or Windows Media Player? Here are my reasons for choosing Songbird over the competition:

  • It runs on my Windows 7 and Ubuntu 9.10 computers with the exact same interface and feature set.
  • Highly configurable playlists. For example, I can make a dynamic playlist that only shows songs that: have been rated 3 or more stars, haven’t been skipped more than 5 times, are at least 3.5 minutes long, and were produced between 1990 and 2000.
  • With a minor tweak, Songbird will save my song ratings in the MP3 file itself. This means I can put a song in my Dropbox, rate it at work, and by the time I get home the rating will be there, too.
  • Speaking of tweaks, Songbird is as tweakable and configurable as Firefox. You can get extensions, themes, adjust internal settings that most people don’t care about, change how the title bar works.
  • Has an internal web browser that knows when you’re on a page with music. This means you can quickly and easily download free music from places like and have your new songs instantly imported into your music library.
  • Also because it has an internal web browser, I can open Slacker or Pandora in Songbird and save myself having an extra tab in Firefox. (Bonus: If Flash starts acting up in Ubuntu, I just have to restart Songbird and not my whole browser)

Okay, so now you are all stoked about Songbird. You want to load it up in Ubuntu 9.10 and get grooving to your awesome Vanilla Ice collection. “Oh no,” you say to yourself, “Songbird isn’t in the Ubuntu repository!” That is where GetDeb comes in.

GetDeb is a third-party, unofficial repository of Ubuntu packages. It allows you to get updated software for Ubuntu sooner than waiting for it to make it through the official channels, and saves you hours of trying to get random software to compile from source. I love it so much that Corban Works has become a €5/month supporter.

Installation of GetDeb is easy and well-documented. If you aren’t a current GetDeb user, please follow the installation instructions.

Once GetDeb is installed, pull up the terminal and type:

sudo apt-get install songbird

That’s it! You now have Songbird!

Unless you are using Windows. Or a Mac. Or Fedora. Or some other OS. If you are one of those people, you’ll have to go to Songbird’s site and download it straight from them.

I recommend a few addons to make your experience better (these work on any OS!):

  • Adblock Plus: Blocks ads while using the browser part of Songbird.
  • Amazon Fetcher: Automatically downloads album art from Amazon.
  • Birdtitle: Lets you configure what shows up in Songbird’s title bar (so you can, for example, have the artist and song title instead of “Songbird”).
  • ubuntu-notifyOSD: Ties in with Ubuntu’s notifyOSD library so you can see little bubbles in the corner of your screen whenever you change songs.
  • MMKeys (32-bit) / MMKeys (64-bit): Makes the multimedia keys on your keyboard work. If you didn’t explicitly download the 64-bit version of Ubuntu, then you are probably using the 32-bit version. But don’t worry: if you install the wrong one it won’t break anything, it just won’t work.

If you want Songbird to save your ratings in your MP3 files, then you need to make one more tweak:

  1. Open a browser tab in Songbird, then go to about:config
  2. Click the I’ll be careful, I promise! button
  3. In the filter box, enter songbird.metadata.ratings.enableWriting
  4. Double-click false to change it to true
  5. Close the tab

Oh, almost forgot! If you want Flash to work in Songbird on Ubuntu 9.10, you can run this command in terminal:

sudo cp /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins/* /usr/share/Songbird/plugins/

Do you have a Songbird tip I missed? Please leave it in the comments!

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