Vuze gets another makeover

Never let it be said that software publishers ignore the demands of their users, at least in the case of BitTorrent client Vuze.

Never let it be said that software publishers ignore the demands of their users, at least in the case of BitTorrent client Vuze.

Back in June, the popular BitTorrent client Azureus underwent some serious reconstructive surgery. The familiar layout of top buttons and a spreadsheet interface was wrapped up in a Web 2.0 package, tied off with a bow of peer ratings and reviews and an emphasis on video content. The old UI was kept but de-emphasized, and the application was renamed Vuze 3.1.

Vuze 4.0 has been redesigned in response to user complaints.

(Credit: CNET Networks)

Although it kept Azureus' blue frog logo, fans were not amused. Vuze 4.0 is a direct attempt to incorporate user concerns and still try to push the app forward, although in a blog post today, Chris on the Vuze blog confirmed that the new silhouetted look of the frog is not going anywhere.

On to the important stuff. The new Vuze follows in the footsteps of iTunes, so if you're new to torrents the learning curve will be less steep than it was in Vuze 3.1. There's a menubar on the top, with a sidebar on the left for managing torrents and videos. Where you might expect album art in the old iTunes 6 layout, you've got a Friends panel for adding people to share your torrents with.

The search bar at the top of the central pane leads the eye directly to the rolled-in playback controls, and feels modern and slick. ShareThis has been built-in, and the former Advanced tab has been renamed My Library. Newbies will appreciate the three-step tabbed tutorial that launches in the main pane, and even experienced torrenters should find it helpful for getting their bearings in an entirely new layout.

There are some other slick touches to the client interface. F7 toggles the sidebar, a useful arrow makes it easy to hide the Friend pane, and using the hotkey combo CTRL+ 2, 3, 4, or 5 reveals a series of otherwise hidden panes. My Tracker, My Classic-Shares, Console, and Statistics are also available under Tools on the menubar. These panes open organically in the main program window or on the sidebar, and have been baked in well. They don't look like afterthoughts or what-the-hecks.

There are several useful new features. First off, Vuze users can now search a multitude of torrent trackers from within the Vuze interface. In addition to the Vuze tracker, users will see results from MiniNova and other independent trackers. Customizable search templates are not available, but you can now set up a private tracker that supports usernames and passwords. Subscriptions have also been revamped, with the ability to share anonymously and the ability to find a file that's part of somebody's torrent, and subscribe to just that file in that torrent.

Memory usage has always been an issue with Vuze and Azureus. The old Azureus clocked in at around 50MB when going full bore, and the new Vuze is around double that. It's still not as slim as some of the other torrent clients out there, but very few offer similar features. If anything, the new Vuze is most similar to open-source Miro, which is more of a multimedia player with torrenting support features.

If you're not into toolbars, watch out during the installation process for the Vuze toolbar and the Ask.com toolbar--both are opt-out. Even with those hang-ups, the new Vuze works well, has a slick design, and should appeal to torrenters who are looking for a bit more panache in their BitTorrent client.

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