The first Amarok 2.4 beta, codenamed “Closer”, was released just a few days ago, on December 7, and it looks very promising. It comes with quite long list of new features, improvements and bug fixes, and among the top highlights are a collection scanner rewritten from scratch, option to transcode tracks when dragging and dropping them to the local collection, support for iPod Touch 3G devices, writing statistics and covers directly in files. These are not all though.
Compiling from source in Debian Squeeze Beta 2 could have been a real pain, but thanks to the apt-get build-dep command (and a few other dependencies) the compilation process went quite smooth. Before proceeding to the review, let me list some of the new features which come with this release:
- transcoding files when copying them to the local collection
- iPod Touch 3G support
- completely rewritten collection scanner
- show/hide menu bar (using Ctrl+M or from the Settings menu)
- map and calendar view for the upcoming events applet
- new applet for guitar and bass tab information
- write cover and statistics directly to files (checkbox accessible in the Configure Collection dialog)
- configurable font size for OSD
- default moodbar style uses system colors
Along with these, this release also comes with a whole bunch of changes and bug fixes. Here’s how it looks by default:
The new applet for guitar and bass tab information:
The upcoming events applet:
Configurable font size for the OSD:
The new transcode feature when copying files to local collection:
Amarok took about 3 minutes to scan a collection of ~6500 Ogg Vorbis songs on my Intel Core 2 1.8 GHz. I don’t know exactly if this is a big improvement or not over the last versions, but it’s definitely not a regression.
This release, although a beta, seems to have improved a lot regarding stability too. I encountered no crashes nor unexpected behavior during the time I tested it. A plus for this one too.
I haven’t tried Amarok in a while (still using the old 1.4), so I don’t know if this is a feature specific to 2.4, but I was very nicely impressed to see that the Previous and Next buttons are now back in the tag editor. Not in the playlist though, only in the local collection tab to the left. This is a feature which I intensely use.
I believe Amarok has got to the point where it offers almost all the features which made it so popular in the 1.4 days, and more. On top of the new ones, here is a (endless?) list of features: Powerful collection manager and playlist (with configurable playlist layouts), file browser, cover manager, cover fetching (local files or from the Internet), powerful scripting support with QtScript, useful applets (like lyrics fetching, upcoming events, Wikipedia info, the already mentioned guitar tab applet, videoclip or photos), main or slim toolbar, replay gain, equalizer, bookmark manager, OSD, Last.fm song submission, fadeout on stop, external MySQL database support, podcasts and Internet services support, ratings, play count statistics, moodbar, system tray integration (with controls on right-click), keyboard shortcuts. No crossfading yet.
The interface can be configured to show or hide the Media Sources view, Context view or Playlist view, which is a great thing since while some liked the original design, others will probably enjoy only a simple playlist view with no other elements to stay in the way.
All in all, this release could just be one of the most exceptional releases in a long time, and it’s only a beta yet.