Winamp 5 Beta

Downloaded the Winamp5 beta yesterday, and so far I’m very impressed. Described as Winamp2 + Winamp3, this is the version the most work is being put into. There’s a new look, new windows and new options, but it still retains the essential winamp-ness we’ve all grown to know and love.

The library window is new and particularly well designed. You can view your entire collection, sorted by various categories, and create playlists and reports very easily. Endearingly, it takes account of songs and albums beginning with ‘the’ when sorting alphabetically. The ability to view your entire collection does mean, however, that any problems with the mp3 tags become very apparent, and if you have obsessive compulsive tendencies, like me, you have to go through fixing them all 🙂

Visually, the new skin looks great and is actually easy to read and use, unlike most of the alternative skins I’ve ever found online. Purists will probably dislike the presence of drop down menus at the top of each window. Previous versions have avoided this, but in all honesty it makes things easier. Right-clicking to open files / hitting the teeny button was always a bit of a pain, and the menus make it a breeze. They’re well integrated into the colour scheme, too.

Performance-wise, it plays all mp3s perfectly, and has coped with every video file I’ve thrown at it. Video scales without pause, and is nicely integrated into the main window, although a separate video window is possible. The visualizations are as…psychedelic as ever (if anyone ever finds one that actually looks good while reacting to more than really obvious drum-beats, let me know) and are integrated in the same way as the video. There seems to be an option to purchase ‘Winamp Pro’ to enable the built-in CD-Ripping and burning at maximum speed; thankfully it’s not in your face whenever you start the program, as that would be really annoying.

It being an beta, there are naturally a few bugs. I’ve already necessitated a reinstall by trying to browse for songs on a cd-drive with no cd inserted, which resulted in the program crashing on launch. The main window sometimes doesn’t appear when the program starts, and forward/rewind playback controls don’t work properly for videos as yet. However, it’s been fairly stable when I haven’t been deliberately trying to break it, which is more than could be said for my experiences with Winamp3, and shows a lot of promise. I’m going to continue using it as my main music player, unless some major bug comes along.

Winamp5 has one particular “feature” which brings back memories. Back in 2001 I was in my first couple of weeks at Classic Rock Legends in Stratford, and was asked to find out the lengths of the various tracks on a particular cd. Windows Media Player couldn’t do this without crashing at the time, so I installed Winamp, knowing for sure that it showed the track length in the playlist. So there I am, sitting in the corner of a quiet office while three other people work on invoices / copy for press releases etc., when “WINAMP: IT REALLY WHIPS THE LLAMA’S ASS” erupts at 100db. I wonder how many people the world over have been caught out by that 🙂