Music jukebox and Web browser mash-up Songbird has begun to pull away from the beta gate. In its first release candidate for Windows, Mac, and Linux, the Gecko-powered browser aimed at audio junkies locks down a final list of features.
The improvements over the previous release, version 0.7, make changes both important and minor. Absolutely the most noticeable is that the program runs and feels faster. Responsiveness had been an issue, too, but this release candidate marks a strong improvement in that area as well.
The overall look of Songbird hasn't changed, but a lot of the must-have UI features are finally in place. Keyboard shortcuts have been added, as has a comprehensive list of them accessible from the Help menu. The right-click accessible Context menu and the File menu from the Menubar now allow users to open up the folder location of a track. Column headings properties are now easier to manage, too. New buttons control toggle individual panes, and smart playlists can be used as rules within other smart playlists.
With the exception of that playlist feature, which is unusual for jukebox playlist behavior, these changes make Songbird's interface as familiar-feeling as possible.
Audiophiles should appreciate that Songbird has switched over to Gstreamer as their playback engine across all platforms. This means that Songbird can play MP3, FLAC, and Vorbis files on all platforms, WMA tracks on Windows, and AAC on both Windows and Mac.
Also of note, the last official version of Songbird for PowerPC Macs was v0.6.1. According to the developers, this was done to save on developer resources.
I've been playing around with Songbird for about a year now, and it's great to see this innovative program come as far as it has. Although I'm curious to see how it adapts to being forever tied to Firefox improvements, that's also an ongoing concern for that other multi-use Firefox mash-up, Flock.
Throw in these drastically different Firefox-based browsers with the current browser battle going on between Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, Opera, and Firefox itself, and you're looking at a wide range of quality choices.