Recently, I’ve found myself writing about a few Linux utilities that make converting music and images to different formats. Most of these have given a very basic graphic interface to common commandline utilities, for (in my mind), the best of both worlds. The nautilus-script-audio-converter and nautilus-sound-converter have both allowed me to convert MP3 to WAV or FLAC to MP3 or… whatever the codecs on my system support. And the nautilus-image-converter has done a similar chore with images, allowing me to rotate and resize them without opening up GIMP or another image editing program.
I’ve actually been a big fan of everything I’ve written about in this vein, but the one drawback everything I’ve written about has had is the fact that while one script converts audio and another converts images (and there are scripts out there to convert video as well), I need to install a bunch of little utilities just to get all the jobs done. Thanks to AVConverter, that may be a thing of the past. AVConvert allows me to convert audio, video, images, text and disc images (ISO in particular), all from a single interface. It’s pretty brilliant.
First things first: I’m not actually sure what the official name of this utility is. I’ve come across it on gtk-apps.org, a fantastic place to find new and updated GTK applications. There it’s offered under the heading Audio/Video/Images/Text/ISO Convert. Once installed, however, it’s called AVConvert. And since the second is a lot quicker to type (and easier to remember), that’s what I’m going to call it!
If you’ve ever used a Nautilus script before, you know how handy they can be. The Nautilus scripting abilities make it possible for developers to write helpful little tools that aren’t a part of Nautilus (a general file manager for Linux), but make it easier to work with mundane, daily tasks that would otherwise be a chore. Including converting audio/video/text (etc.), to different formats.
To use AVConvert, simply install it to your Nautilus scripts folder (in Ubuntu that is in /home/user/.gnome2/nautilus-scripts/), as well as the tools and codecs required to run it (a full list can be found on the gtk-apps.org page). When you find an item AVConvert can handle, simply right click it (or a bunch of items), and navigate in the contextual menu to the scripts submenu, and finally to the avconvert option. AVConvert will see what you’ve clicked on, and present you with options. This is to cut back on presenting you with all possible options (who wants to convert MP3 to TXT, for instance, even if it was possible?), so only those that are logical and supported are shown.
Depending on what you want to do, AVConvert will take you through a series of options (what format, any parameters such as bitrate, codec or size), as well as where you want your converted item saved. If there is a possibility you might overwrite your original (if you’re simply resizing an image without converting it, but saving it in the same directory), AVConvert will give you a warning to see if you want to change this, or if overwriting the original is what you want.
Once you’ve finalized your options, AVConvert will show you a progress bar showing an estimated time until the operation is finished. In many cases the process will be quick, but if attempting to convert a large video file for use on a portable device or DVD player, the conversion could take a while. When it’s done, you’ll find the newly-converted items right where you asked for them. One thing I really liked about AVConvert, and almost forgot to mention, was how helpful it was. When I was attempting one of my test conversions, I didn’t have a particular tool installed, so the conversion would have failed completely, but AVConvert told me of the missing tool and I installed it; after that, it worked!
In my testing, the conversion process was flawless. I was able to convert plain text to a web page, MP3 files to WAV, JPG images to PNG and AVI video to MP4, all with the expected results. My only quibble was when converting MP3 files. I attempted to convert four at a time, which worked fine, except after one MP3 finished, there was a 15-20 second lag before the next one started. I thought something had gone wrong, so I began the process again, only to have the next MP3 start up while I was starting over! Not a huge deal (especially if the plan is to start the conversion process and then step away from the computer), but it would have been nice to have been given a visual cue that something was actually happening.
Still, to get all these conversion options from a single script is fantastic. I love the amount of files I can convert and the conversion options each file comes with. The speed seemed good (with such a tiny GUI and using commandline tools that is probably a given, but it still seems speedy, especially after having used GUI tools in the past), and the results were as expected. To be honest, the lag between MP3 files could be something screwy at my end, so I’m not about to write of AVConvert just yet. In fact, I’d say it’s excellent, with just a couple rough edges, and is well worth the time and effort to get used to.