I was browsing a blog the other day and one of the developers of a Linux distribution was taking recommendations for what programs should be the default, if changes were to be made from the previous release. One of the requests was that the media player be replaced, possibly with a program called Bangarang. The distribution in question was planning a KDE release, and since I’m using KDE at the moment, I decided to take a look at Bangarang, since it’s a program I’d never heard of until this mention.
Bangarang, for those who aren’t familiar with it, is a slick media player that supports audio and video, as well as streaming audio. It’s kind of a cross between a simple player with no library capabilities and something like iTunes or Banshee (to use a Linux example), which is designed to help the user manage a large music collection. Now, Bangarang is a lot closer to a simple music player than a library manager at the moment, but I think the potential, maybe even the framework, is there.
To use Bangarang to play a single song or video, simply choose Open With Bangarang, if it isn’t already set as your default player. Bangarang will open and you’ll be able to view or listen to your media. If you’re playing a song, you’ll get a nice display with song info and album art with a glossy drop shadow. It looks nice. If you want to view a string of videos or an album’s worth of songs from a folder, you’ll have to do things a little differently. Bangarang isn’t like VLC, which knows to automatically queue all your songs into a playlist. If you highlight ten songs and choose Play With Bangarang, you’ll end up with ten copies of Bangarang, each playing one song, all at once. In order to play multiple items, first open Bangarang, then click the Media Lists option at the bottom. On the next screen, click “Open folder containing audio file(s)” if you want audio, or click the word Video at the bottom of the left sidebar, and click the appropriate link for opening a folder of videos. Bangarang will scan any tags in your music or videos, and organize the folder by artist, album, song and genre. When you now play the music from this folder, you’ll see the same display as before, but along the right side is a link to view the playlist, which allows you to change your mind after you’ve started playing your media and skip ahead or repeat a song. You can also clear the playlist or turn on repeat or shuffle mode from the playlist as well.
My big quibble so far is that there are a lot of clicks involved in playing a folder of music. Heck, even if you’ve already loaded your music, you can’t simply double-click a song to play it. You have to select it and then click the play button, or choose the appropriate action from a contextual menu. A bit more user-friendliness would go a long way with me, because I want to like it. I just find that too often it feels like Bangarang is getting in my way. Add to it the fact that Bangarang isn’t the easiest program in the world to navigate. Too many clicks necessary for my taste, although I suppose it’s an acquired taste, and something I’d get used to after I “unlearned” the way I’ve been using my music players!
Part of it is that I don’t feel Bangarang is giving me enough ways to whittle down the number of songs to look through. You can browse your collection by artist, album, song or genre, but no more. You can’t click on an artist and only see the albums by that artist, as you can in iTunes, Banshee, Rhythmbox and other players. Clicking on the Album filter always shows you all albums, just like clicking on Songs shows you every song. You can click an Artist, but instead of seeing that artist’s albums, you simply see their songs. However, you do have the option to use the search feature, so if you’re looking at an artist’s songs, you can search for a particular album title. That works well, although loading a list of songs when you have a decent number of albums loaded seems to take longer than it should.
But… Bangarang is a young project. And it’s not all bad; it does show promise! In addition to the features mentioned so far, Bangarang lets you rate your music and keep track of how often you’ve played certain items. There are presets for frequently played, recently played and highest rated items, playlists that update themselves automatically, so as with other players it’s easy to listen to what you like.
Bangarang also supports discs. You can play music from a CD or watch a DVD, assuming your system is set up for it. If you insert a CD or DVD into your optical drive, a new menu item will appear in the sidebar, in either the Audio or Video section (whichever is appropriate). Bangarang doesn’t support searching CDDB or freedb, so your discs won’t have album art, song titles or other metadata, but they played fine in my tests.
So, I’m kind of torn. I’m not really a huge fan of Amarok (the default KDE music player), and sometimes I want a little more than something like VLC offers as far as library management. Although tilted a little more toward VLC than Amarok at the moment, Bangarang shows real promise. I don’t know if it’s ready for my needs yet (and to come back around to the beginning of the article, I certainly don’t think it’s ready to be a distribution’s default player), but it’s absolutely a program I’m keeping an eye on. I like the style of it; now I just want a bit more substance. But it’s a good start.