Open Source Music Players

If your music is on your hard drive, free software can play it.

With digital music becoming more popular, music players have proliferated on the software scene. While many of these players are proprietary–often available at a cost and with the source code closed to modification–a few free, open-source music players are available. While most are ported to a particular operating system, several will work with at least Windows and Linux.

Amarok

Built from the Linux-based KDE system, Amarok is a popular music player that allows you to manage your music collection. You can also download album art and song lyrics, and Amarok tracks your listening habits. Truly a full-featured music player, it is a little heavy on system resources and may not work well on an older computer. In mid-2010, Amarok was ported only to Linux and MacIntosh, but a Windows version was under development.

Songbird

Except for its web browsing functions, Songbird is similar to Amarok. It handles podcasts and online music libraries such as last.fm, and can link up to your portable music player. Like Amarok, it is heavier on system resources. Songbird works with Windows, MacIntosh and Linux, though the Linux version is not officially supported.

aTunes

aTunes is a fully-featured music player that works on all three major platforms. While the program itself is open-source, it uses the closed-source Java Virtual Machine. The program makes an attractive interface, but with its Java base it’s a little slow on older computers. Although aTunes handles most music file formats, it doesn’t work with tracks restricted by digital rights management. It also does not write to iPod.

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VLC

While VLC plays videos, it also works as a lightweight jukebox for your music library. In its music-only format, the interface takes up little room on the screen and relatively few system resources. It comes loaded with several presets for the graphic equalizer. While VLC handles random play well–even if you load an entire directory or partition full of music–you can’t manually queue more than one song at a time. To play a single album, you need to use the search function and type in the album name. VLC works well with Windows, MacIntosh, and Linux.

Windows-based

Media Player Classic and Quick Player are two popular Windows open-source music players. Quick Player sticks to music while Media Player also handles videos.

Linux-based

XMMS is a smaller music player that consumes few CPU cycles. Audacious, similar to XMMS, is another lightweight music player built from the GTK2 toolkit. Like XMMS, it will play sound files and Internet radio, but without the features of an Amarok or Songbird.