Apple iTunes Alternative: Songbird

Songbird has all of the primary features, but is 1/4 the size of Apple's iTunes.

September 12th, 2006 at 11:30am — Comments: (5) — By: Jonathan Danylko — Tags: General

About a month ago, I ran across a open source project called Songbird that is similar to Apple iTunes and I've been using it ever since. It is definitely an alternative to Apple's iTunes for your Apple iPod.

I understand Apple has stepped up and created their own Music-topia where everyone can listen to music and now, watch videos and TV shows, but I feel that when downloading an update, I'm loading up my machine with a lot of extra features that I really don't need. This is where Songbird comes in.

Songbird is a downloadable client like Apple iTunes that is built on Firefox's browsing engine, so for those who have the Firefox Browser installed on your machine, it won't take up space. The client integrates the Firefox browser into the main window and interacts with the contents of some web sites and provides music lists for MP3s on a page. Very nice feature!

Another reason I like this player is because of it's size. 8 megs compared to Apple iTunes 35 megs. Wow! Apple iTunes is more than 4 times the size of Songbird.

Songbird features

Now onto the features besides the obvious.

Songbird plays all of the latest formats: MP3, AAC, OGG, FLAC, and WMA. The files can be downloaded and put into categories similar to iTunes whether they are MP3s, podcasts or streams. Although I didn't notice any video footage in Songbird, but if they struck a deal to integrate YouTube into their player, they may be hot on the heels of Apple.

I say that last statement because of the next big thing on Songbird's list is the ability to use extensions with Songbird. The extensions in Songbird will be like the extensions in Firefox. And you know how big Firefox extensions are right now? However, this is currently in the works, but once they expand the extension architecture from Firefox to include Songbird, this is where Songbird will excel. As far as I know, iTunes doesn't have a way to include custom code. If it does, please correct me.

I mentioned this above, but I think it bears repeating. If you visit a web page with a lot of MP3s, look at the bottom panel of Songbird, it reads the page and create an m3u playlist so you can "Play in Place", meaning play all of the MP3s on the page.

Songbird hasn't left out the developers. Along with the Songbird extensions, Songbird provides a JS API so you can play music directly from your site.

Additional features they are working on is the ability to Import CD's and burn them right inside Songbird and transfer songs to your Apple iPod, just like Apple iTunes. Awesome!


Most of the primary features I use in iTunes are found in Songbird, so I'm really wrestling with whether to keep iTunes on my machine while keeping in mind I could use some more hard drive space.

Give the Songbird a try. If there are comments on it, let them know. They have a full community supporting Songbird.

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Jonathan Danylko is a freelance web architect and avid programmer who has been programming for over 20 years. He has developed various systems in numerous industries including e-commerce, biotechnology, real estate, health, insurance, and utility companies.

When asked what he likes doing in his spare time, he answers..."programming."

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  1. excelsior
    February 16th, 2007 at 9:53pm
    Songbird rocks... ! We are in dire need of a SpyTunes alternative.... Maybe it is great for the clueless consumers who love it, but if you are a audiophile, DJ, or producer who has worked with digital music for a long time... it is restrictive and annoying. Support SongBird!
  2. Dennis
    August 30th, 2007 at 7:24am
    "Additional features they are working on is the ability to Import CD's and burn them right inside Songbird and transfer songs to your Apple iPod, just like Apple iTunes. Awesome!"

    since they're working on it and it can't sync with my ipod right now, i'll wait before i download it.
  3. VRD
    January 27th, 2008 at 11:52am
    Seems like the only download is the developer release, and it's 114 MB when you unpack and install. Where did you find the 8 MB version you are talking about?
  4. Tristan
    March 23rd, 2008 at 2:07am
    Dude, this topic was posted september 2006. That 1 is an older version that may be smaller.
  5. June 10th, 2009 at 4:03am
    This article is awesome!

    Personally I am using another iTunes alternative named CopyTrans Manager:

    It's great too!

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