Featured Freeware: Songbird

Buggy but getting more stable with each release, still-in-beta Songbird offers one of the most convincing mashups between music discovery, music management, and Web browsing.

Deciding to recommend the cross-platform Songbird as a Featured Freeware required a bit of an internal struggle. On the one hand, it's the lovechild of a boozy Firefox-and-iTunes hookup, from the music jukebox interface to the browsing behavior. What's not to love about that mashup? However close it hops to the edge of its nest, though, the app is still in beta and buggier than an Alaskan summer. When considering that not-significant drawback against the music-management, music-discovery, and Web-browsing features that take wing along with broad MP3 player support, it's hard to deny that Songbird injects some long-missing fun into the online experience.

The left sidebar provides quick links to bookmarks, downloads, your music library in an iTunes-style interface, and several music discovery Web sites to get you started. When you're looking at any Web site with MP3s available for download, Songbird will open a new window at the bottom main browsing pane. Double-click on a song to play it, while links on the right let you purchase the track from Amazon, iTunes, eMusic, and Amie St. They also tell you the format of the track--MP3 or AAC, for example--and provide a blog link for more info.

Recent improvements have included iPod support, the ability to handle music collections larger than 10,000 songs, and more stability for various Firefox and Songbird extensions--including the Cover Flow-esque MediaFlow. Songbird works with ShoutCast Radio, too. It seems as if the major pieces are in place, and all that's left is some serious tweaking to make sure it works. Songbird could really take flight for the music-loving, Web-surfing fanatic in all of us.

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