Music and Web surfing mashup Songbird is out with an impressive number of features that were missing from the last major update. For Windows, Mac, and Linux, version 1.1.1 introduces album art downloading, MTP device support, watch folders, improved sorting, and numerous other performance enhancements and bug fixes.
This version continues to push the more iTunes-esque feel of the jukebox/browser, but that's a change users will just have to get used to. Grabbing context-menu album art worked quickly, although users should remember to highlight an entire album to get the art to apply to all tracks. If you only remember to do that after the fact, select all the tracks and run the album art finder again to apply the art to all of them.
The album art feature doesn't work perfectly, though. Although users can replace album art through a track's metadata pane, if you resize the art window in the main dashboard the art itself won't resize. A minor bug, but slightly annoying.
The MTP device support includes the ability to sync DRM-restricted songs between Songbird and your portable media player. Zunes, Sansas, Zens, and others can now be used in conjunction with Songbird. The entire list of support MTP devices and known issues can be read here.
Using Watch folders to monitor regularly changed folders is one way to monitor for new songs or removed albums, but it also makes managing a third-party podcast catcher significantly easier. Setting this up takes a bit of hunting and pecking, but it turns out that the option lives under Tools/Options/Media Importer; then click on the Watch Folders tab. Note that this is a fairly sophisticated watch folder system, and it will remove from your library what you delete, as well as making additions.
Some of the other changes include replay gain normalization, so if the metadata includes that information, Songbird will now play back the song as you intended. 'Bird-watchers who've been frustated with the unicode and sorting support should find big improvements in handling indefinite and definite articles at the beginning of song, artist, and album names.
There's also support for the 7Digital online music store, which offers high-end MP3s up to 320Kbps. The Mac download size has been reduced by 45 percent, and the memory usage in large libraries has apparently been reduced significantly. I encountered no stability or playback problems running Firefox, Songbird, OpenOffice, Thunderbird, and other programs simultaneously.
If the first two programs you start up are your Web browser and your music jukebox, and not necessarily in that order, Songbird keeps getting better and is worth a look.