That's The Way I Wanna Rok 'N Roll (20.04.2007)
The next generation of the Amarok player is coming along nicely. New features are being tested and experimented with. The biggest challenge for the development team is probably the high amount of work needed for proper Qt4 porting. In many cases it means a complete rewrite more than simple porting. However, the developers are quite confident that Amarok 2.0 will be ready for October, to coincide with the release of KDE 4.0. What can we expect from the Amarok 2.0? Many new features, improvements, and optimizations. Be also prepared for some unpopular features to be removed, like Player window or XMMS visualizations. But don't worry, there will be lots of new and interesting features to play with. Lets see some interesting ideas which show up on the horizon.
Context browser is one of the coolest features in Amarok. It shows various pieces of information related to the currently played song, such as the cover art, suggested songs, related bands, and more. At the time of Amarok 1.0 the idea was innovative and technology (HTML/CSS) was adequate. As times moved on, and rich “Web 2.0” services began to show up, the current solution seemed more and more limited. With the change to Qt4, the new context delivery system is underway, and it's called “Context View”. It's a widget based on powerful QGraphicsView, and its purpose is to replace Context Browser and provide much more possibilities. Its final set of features is not decided yet, but developers are experimenting with SVG graphics, OpenGL rendering, and other neat technologies.
Lucas Di Cioccio is a French student, partly involved in the free music website boxson.net. He applied this year for the following Summer Of Code project. His plan was to integrate new music stores or online-music content providers through a standard web API for music sites. Unfortunately, his proposal was rejected, but he is still willing to finish the idea in his free time. His task is not exactly easy, as he has to design a relevant and flexible API, implement it in Amarok, and then convince some online music providers to use it. Fruits of his work might not actually end up in 2.0 release, but will surely be one step further to generic music store support in Amarok.
There are other areas of development which gain much activity, but have not yet produced usable features, like track bookmarks or multiple collections support. Also a nice side effect of using Phonon engine, besides playing video files, is the full support for KIO protocols, like ftp or fish.
Screenshot of a recent Amarok build
Thanks to Google's Summer of Code, two projects were assigned to Amarok, and they are:
- Web Services Integration by Leo Franchi
- Playlist Redesign by Ian Monroe
Their descriptions sound extremely promising, and they guarantee very exciting times for Amarok and its users. See more details on the Amarok website.
Stable branch of Amarok continues to live on. The next release is planned in 2-4 weeks, and if you're running stable, don't forget to update. Besides numerous optimizations and fixes, the next release will contain updated SQlite database backend, which has proved to perform much faster.
Amarok's development continues at a very fast pace, but there is still need for more manpower. One of the areas which particularly lack workforce is the art department. At this critical period of development many parts of Amarok are being redesigned, and considering the number of new and exciting technologies sitting inside, artists have a great opportunity to create a new, refreshing user experience.
Much work is needed also in the stable branch in the form of the beta testing. The next stable release is coming along, but final date depends on the amount of testing which it gets. If you have some time, please consider getting stable version from the SVN, and reporting bugs and regressions.
Search capabilities of Amarok are truly amazing. Still, searching for a song requires stopping your current work, switching to Amarok window and making a search. Program called Katapult provides another solution. Katapult is a generic searcher and content launcher - it can launch programs, open documents or bookmarks, check spelling of a word and do any other search related task for which you can find an adequate plugin (catalog). Just tap [Alt] + [Space], and start searching. Katapult will instantly return any matching result, no matter if it is a program, document or calculation result.
One of the available catalogs is an "Amarok catalog", which gives Katapult's access to your whole collection database. So, no more breaking your workflow in order to jump to a specific song in the middle of the work. Just press [Alt] + [Space], type the song's name, hit [Enter], and Amarok will instantly play it. After some time spent with Katapult, you'll either hate it for occupying an easy-to-accidentally-hit shortcut (which is easy-to-change too), or consider it to be one of your favorite tools. :)