Mozilla's Songbird 1.0 RC: Nifty Features But Lots Of Bugs

The Songbird development community is still working hard to seamlessly integrate both iPod and iPhone platforms into its console so that it can allow for synchronization and management of files, songs and playlists. The Songbird user interface now shows an option to sync music between the desktop and iPhone, much the same way that can be done now in Apple's iTunes software. The function, though, doesn't work yet.

But Songbird developers appear to be aiming at a different use model than iTunes. Like Mozilla's Firefox, it's still very heavily focused on the ability to customize through add-on software and it outflanks iTunes—even as a release candidate—in the integration of free Web-based music services and sites like, Mashtape and Hype Machine. An integrated feature, LyricMaster, automatically searches the Web for lyrics to a song at the same time it is playing in the Songbird console, bringing the world one step closer to everybody having their own personal karaoke machine. That's up to you to determine whether that's a good or bad thing, but LyricMaster is pretty cool nonetheless. And don't underestimate the integration with Hype Machine and—it's a feature that iTunes still doesn't provide and, over time, could prove to be a thorn in Apple's side if it doesn't follow Songbird's lead.

Another aspect of Songbird that outdoes competitors: It works with Linux. In fact, earlier prerelease versions of Songbird are easily enough installed on Ubuntu, for example, by downloading and installing a .deb feature that's available on the Ubuntu Web site.

The software, though, is buggy. From song to song, it throws up repeated warnings of incompatibility with Adobe Flash if Google's Chrome browser is also active; trying to move between Hype Machine and isn't intuitive or automatic. For example, if an MP3 is playing in Songbird's console, it keeps playing even as a new song starts in; the MP3 doesn't automatically turn off when the new service starts playing.

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Release notes for the RC version say Songbird now imports files between two and four times faster; it also adds the ability to drag-and-drop images to album art features. Expect features to continue to improve and for Songbird to add new ones frequently.

Developers aren't yet touting Songbird as ready for prime time, which is good, since it's not. But if iPod, iPhone and music management is still a reason that ties a number of users to Windows or Mac platforms and prevents them from switching, wholesale, to Linux, Songbird is now much closer to smashing that wall.