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Amarok Insider - Issue 13

Rok This Town

Welcome to the 13th (good it's not Friday) issue of Amarok Insider. On this happy day we prepared for you:


Release plans

As you have probably noticed Amarok is currently in "release mode". We have released two alphas and three beta versions in the past few months, with the last beta released two days ago. Take your time and test it thoroughly so we can fix the remaining bugs for the final version which should be ready soon. Yes, you read it right, Amarok 2.0 is knocking at your door (although we may slip an RC or two ;)). If you're interested in helping out, we could use some regression testing.

Final look for 2.0

After many revisions of the Amarok look, we have finally settled on the theme used for version 2.0. Thanks to Nuno Pinheiro and Lee Olson from the Oxygen team for helping with the artwork! Some minor tweaks remain to be done, but the general look won't change for 2.0. Any constructive criticism is appreciated. This is how Beta 3 looks like:



And, just for fun, take a look at how Amarok's interface evolved during its development:




Original splash screen. Sparkled overly enthusiastic reactions.



Beginnings of the UI refactoring. Central area still uses the old html engine.



First version of the proper Context View. Later replaced by Plasma.



Context View now powered by Plasma (but no plasmoids yet). Beginning of the new playlist, features smooth animations, D'n'D, and cover art, but no grouping support. First version of CoverBling - now abandoned CoverFlow spinoff. Last but not least - the new and exciting SVG artwork.



More work on the playlist. Still no plasmoids in Context View though.



New artwork, working plasmoids.



First beta. Amarok rocks.

Want more? Check out RaVI's fine Beta 2 screenshot tour. If you made some cool gallery too, let us know!


With the final version of Amarok 2.0 waiting around the corner, let's take a look at some of it's biggest features.

Context View

Central place of Amarok's window occupies the Context View, a Plasma powered information plane which displays all kind of useful information related to your music, like cover image, lyrics or ratings . Customizing it is a snap, as you can choose what information are you interested in form a wide selection of applets. All applets are grouped in pages, and you can manually assign applets to the pages, or let Amarok manage them for you. By default, Amarok shows one page with track information and albums by same artist:



You can remove either of them by clicking the minus icon in the bottom left corner and selecting the particular applet you'd wish to remove:



Adding applets is just as easy. Click on a plus icon and select the applet:



When there is no enough space for the applet to fit into the current page, Amarok places it the next empty page. You can move between pages by using the arrow buttons or you can zoom out with the zoom button to see all pages at once:



Clicking on any page will focus Amarok back to it.

The Playlist

Playlist widget in previous versions of Amarok with it's strict columns used a lot of horizontal space. In the new version it's replaced with a narrow bar which smartly combines much information yet still preserves space. Tracks from the same album are grouped together, and share cover image.

We have so many nifty plans for the future, you can read some of them on the Leinir's blog.

Brand new PopUp Dropper

Due to the data (collection, web, files) browsers and playlist widget being on the opposite sides of the window, one could presume that dragging the music around will be much harder job than before. But thanks to the wisdom of the Amarok's developers that's not the case. Application detects when the user starts dragging and pops up a full sized menu which offers actions like "append to the end of the playlist" and "load and play now". Dropping the files on one of the menu entries triggers the appropriate action, hence the name "PopUp Dropper". This behaviour is very smooth and unintrusive, and can be completely ignored by dropping the files directly to the playlist. The following video demonstrates the usage of PopUp Dropper in Amarok 2 Beta 2:


Here are some mirrors in case you for some reason prefer high quality ogg file instead of a blurry Youtube.

Web services unmasked

Another part of Amarok where much work has been invested is the Web services integration. Now Amarok can connect to various Web services and access the music from there directly, enriching your music collection greatly. And thanks to the powerful API adding additional services can be done with very little effort. This has been covered in the Insider on previous occasions, but now is a good time to have a look at what will actually make it into the final 2.0.0 release. Lets take a look at services supported by Amarok 2.0 Beta 3:

Ampache Service

It allows you to connect to the Ampache music server and use it like any other service, which includes browsing, searching, cover art display, and of course music playback. This is really cool, as it allows you to have one centralised server holding your perfectly tegged collection, and use Amarok as a frontend remotely, which is, kinda, best of the both worlds.

Jamendo Service

It gives you access to the Jamendo's rich database of independent artists.



Last.fm Service

It's an advanced plugin which allows you to connect to the Last.fm web service. Via it's nifty inerface it offers a full access to the Last.fm's main features including those available for subscribers only. Besides usual ones like scrobbling and streaming it also has some nice little touches like special buttons on the toolbar and context menus.


Browser window. Allows you to select music for streaming.

Configuration window. You can setup your accout here. By submitting played tracks they appear on your Last.fm profile and are part of your statistics and listening habits.

Unfortunately I'm not a subscriber :(

Custom buttons, form left to right: Love track, Ban track, Skip track

Another nice bonus: play similar music stright from your collection browser.


Magnatune.com Service

Magnatune.com is another advanced service which connects to Magnatune.com. It provides access to the entire Magnatune database, including browsing, searching and streaming. Albums can be purchased via SSL secured connection, after which they are available for download within Amarok (or their website). Magnatune is also a second service which provides custom buttons for Amarok, namely "Purchase" and "Find in Service". The first one lets you purchase the album of the track you are currently listening to, and the second one show you the artist that you are listening to in the browser. As an added bonus, any purchase made with Amarok will aid 10% of it's value to the Amarok development (while 50% goes to the artist, and only 40% to Magnatune). Nice. Recently, Magnatune.com started offering 2 different membership subscriptions that lets members either stream without interruptions at the end of each track, or freely download as many albums as they wish without paying for each one. Both membership options are fully supported in Amarok 2. If you for instance enter credentials for a download membership in the Magnatune service settings, the purchase buttons will all change to download buttons and any album can be downloaded without paying. Magntune.com also offers Amarok a 10% commission of the first membership payments if you sign up using Amarok or this link.


Comfortable catalog browser which shows cover art and allows searching.

Configuration dialog. Magnatune members can set up their account here, stream type selection is available for everyone.

Magnatune-specific toolbar buttons: Purchase album, and Go to artist (in context view)

Service info in Context view showing Magnatune.com welcome page

Typical purchase album dialog.


MP3Tunes.com

Thanks to this service you have access to your personal MP3Tunes locker from within Amarok. You can upload songs straight from the collection browser, or let Amarok keep your locker up to date automatically using the Auto Sync feature.

 

OPML and Shoutcast directories

Those two services gives you access to their respective catalogs and let you browse, search and stream online music and subscribe to podcasts.

 

Scripted services

The list of available web services is impressive, isn't it? Well just hold on, because Amarok gives you more. Thanks to the redesigned scripting support and some brand new API hooks, it's possible to create your own service with a simple script! Head on to the Scripting section to read more about this.

A bit about Biased playlists

Amarok is a home of many innovations, and features never seen in media players before. Remember the Wikipedia integration, automatic lyrics display, or the Moodbar? Now welcome the Biased playlists:

"Suppose you're really into music created around the "summer of love" in 1967. Its easy enough it create a filter so you only get music from 1967. We could do that in Amarok 1, but that excludes a lot of music around that period that's just as significant.

Maybe you