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Slowly but steadily, Mozilla grew into more areas of interest than someone could have previously imagined. Firefox, Thunderbird, Instabird for instant messaging and... Songbird. The latter is a promising audio application some of you might have gotten yourselves accustomed to. The 1.0.0 release launched in the first days of December delivers an impressive arsenal ranging from themes to add-ons.

Just like in Firefox's case, these add-ons extend the application's possibilities beyond the original intent. Here are ten such extensions you might find interesting.

Song status message

Don't let yourself be deceived by the name. LiveTwitter does more than publishing your song preferences to Twitter. It can also display the currently playing song in MSN/Windows Live Messenger, Pidgin, Mercury or any other IM application that can take an input from a plain text file. It lets you customize the text displayed in front of the song name and artist title, but sadly, these two ID tags are the only ones it can display.

Lyrics display

LyricMaster is a must for anyone that keeps his audio player opened all day long. There are two sites from which it can pull lyrics from, namely lyricsplugin.com and lyricwiki.com. One feature this add-on offers is the scanning of the entire library, action which gathers lyrics for all your songs at once. LyricMaster can automatically save the lyrics it grabs or it can prompt you to do so. It also features eight different display styles for the text and background.



iTunes-like cover flow

If you ever wanted to make your Songbird look just like iTunes, grab one of the existing feathers (themes) that look like they were made by Apple and install MediaFlow. The addon offers an animated cover browser for your music library, allowing you to set the number of maximum covers to be displayed and the choice to show or hide their reflection.

Automatic album art

You'll need this one too. The default album cover display in Songbird does not fetch images automatically. But the Last.fm Album Art add-on does. Just publish it in place of the old album display extension and it will grab the images from Last.fm. It works surprisingly well, as it caught album covers for some underground bands I didn't think the Internet has ever heard of.



Song information

When you're running Songbird minimized and on shuffle, you might want to know the name of the song currently booming in your headphones. With Notify Me, a notification system for Songbird, a popup will appear in the lower-right corner of your desktop whenever a song changes. It displays the song title, artist name, song duration and the song rating. Sadly, there nothing to customize about Notify Me. You use it as it is.

Another useful add-on is called mashTape. It offers a compendium of information for the currently playing artist: bio, discography, news, photos and even videos from YouTube and Yahoo! Music. The links to the discography's albums lead to the Amazon.com online store, just in case you decide to buy one of them. News are gathered from all over the web and displayed in a separate tab. You can narrow the displayed search results by choosing a specific site from the plugin's configuration window (MTV Music News or Digg are good choices here). The third tab shows images related to the band and grabbed from Flickr or SmugMug. This doesn't always work as it should because while playing a band called Nile and expecting pictures from concerts, you'll get images from Egypt. Still, with well-known bands like Nine Inch Nails, the search results will be radically different.

mashTape can be further extended with providers that can display news feeds (like the Delicious mashTape Provider) or additional video sources (MTV Music Video mashTape Provider and the excellent Vimeo mashTape Provider).

Similar artists

Every software audio player should have a way to display similar artists. A simple feature like this can make you dig deeper in the genres you like and discover band names you'll later inscribe your t-shirts with. Music Recommendations is simple, yet effective. It displays a short info on the currently playing artist and offers a list of band names that come the closest to his style. If you click the small thumbnails on the left of these names, you'll be taken to the band's Last.fm page.



Audio shares

If you have DAAP shares in your local network you might want to install Daap Client. You can access the share by typing the device's IP in the Songbird address bar using the daap:// protocol. For example, if you run an iTunes server you can use daap://192.168.1.2:3689 to connect to it and access the songs it hosts. The configuration window of the addon can let you specify which ones of the available 28 song columns Songbird will display: name, artist, album, genre, sample rate and so on.

Find that song

SongTapper is interesting. If you ever want to hear a certain song but can't really pinpoint the song's name, you can start tapping it's rhythm from memory. Activate the plugin, click the link it displays and start tapping the melody using your spacebar. When finished, click the link again and you'll be taken to an online list of song names that match your "morse code". Hopefully, what you've been searching for will be listed there.

Instant messaging

The SamePlace extension is known to many from Firefox where it enables one to connect to a variety of instant messaging services directly from the browser's interface. Since Songbird is also the brainchild of Mozilla, the SamePlace add-on is available for the music player. You can configure it to appear in any of the display panes and it works the same as it does in Flock, Thunderbird or Firefox: login through the Account Manager in your GoogleTalk, Jabber, Twitter, AIM, MSN or SamePlace account and start chatting while inspecting your playlist.

But there's more

As you can see, Songbird can evolve into more than an audio player or a web browser. Most add-ons on the Songbird site don't work with the latest version of the audio player and it will take some time for the developers to port them all. Some of these are very useful and it would be a shame not to make them available by the time the final release hits the web.

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Comments about this article
writen by: Ron F. on 2009-02-12 16:52:04
The thing I find irritating about a new "music" player coming along today, such as songbird, is that it seems to worry about putting in lots of fancy bells and whistles, before getting the basics done correctly first. Before I care about whether or not my music player can scrobble, or play scrabble, or do a mashup, whatever, I want some of the basics taken care of first: watch-folders, gapless playback, a decent play queue, ability to rip CDs. How about the simple, but elegant ability to fade a song out when I hit the pause button, and to fade a song in when I resume? Equalization so I can correct for my cheap headphones? Whatever. At this time, songbird is completely irrelevant to me. I will check on it again in another year. -Ron
RE: written by Ron F.:

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