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Amarok 2.2: DISBER GROGTH GROCKS

Remember Amarok 1.4? Remember how awesome it was? Here's a screenshot just in case you don't remember.

Amarok1.4

Does it bring back fond memories of music and comfortable GUI interfaces? It does for me. Those were good times. Keep that picture in mind.

Let's play a game called "Can we make Amarok 2.2 look like Amarok 1.4"? I've heard this as a response to complaints about Amarok 2's GUI: You can make it look like Amarok 1.4 if you want.

So let's try. Ready? Here it is:

Amarok2.2

Does it look the same? Not really. Kind of close. That's as good as I could do though. There are no headers on the columns in the playlist, so you can't tell what half of those things mean. You can't resize the fields (like you could in 1.4). You can't sort them by a simple click of a header (like you could in 1.4); instead you have that strange breadcrumb thing up there. You can't add new fields by right-clicking and picking them from a menu (as you could in 1.4). Not as many songs fit in the playlist in 2.2, but it's pretty close.

Now, here's the good part. How do you get Amarok 2.2 to look this way? By doing THIS!

Amarok2.2

AAHHHHHHH! Too bad Halloween is gone, because I could use that dialog to scare children. The title of this blog post, DISBER GROGTH GROCKS, comes from the mangled and truncated labels in that horizontally-scrolling list of icons. Doesn't it sound like the deranged grunting of a once-proud beast, now fallen into ruin, stumbling zombie-like through the world, a mere shambles of its former self? I think so.

Once in a blue moon, I'll witness the behavior of an application that's so off-the-wall, bat-honking insane that I'm reduced to maniacal laughter. That's not an exaggeration; I literally gape at the computer screen and cackle like a madman, curling reflexively into a fetal position. This was one of those times.

It took me well over a half hour to drag and drop all of those controls into that window in the right order with dividers between them. Thank God for 1920x1200 monitors or the dialog wouldn't even have fit on the screen. (No, it's not resizable.)

Why a half hour? Because I also had to click every single one of those elements and set its width as a percentage using a slider in a sub-dialog. By default every field is an equal width, so that a field with a single digit in it has a mile of whitespace on either side, while song titles are displayed as "C...". And this dialog is the only way to fix it:

Amarok2.2

How did I come up with 25% there? Laborious trial-and-error. Amarok 2.2. takes what was a click-and-drag-to-resize operation in every other application ever written, and turns it into an algebra problem. Twelve fields I had to tweak, one by one. I was probably in and out of that dialog 3 or 4 dozen times.

(I'll spare you what happens when you resize the window in Amarok 2.2. Suffice it to say once you get it looking OK, never touch it again.)

Now, I'm no expert on GUI design. But I'm guessing there's a reason most applications don't do things this way. Columns of data with headers at the top are nice. They're kind of boring, but they're boring like a doorknob. You turn it and the door opens. There isn't much room (or need) for improvement. I don't want to have to solve a logic puzzle to get out of the bathroom every morning, and I don't want to play a video game of line-up-the-widgets and guess-the-percentages just to get a playlist to display some fields of information.

In Amarok 2.2 there's also no button for Repeat/Shuffle, and the Equalizer tells me it disabled itself because I don't have the right version of Phonon, and the collection list is very unresponsive (even expanding / collapsing an artist's albums lags), and there are no visualizations, and no themes, and the volume slider is hidden behind a button in the bottom-right there unlike Amarok 1.4's perfectly functional slider, and well you get the picture. But hey, you can browse Flickr in Amarok now. Finally!

Amarok 2.2 is what I'd now call "just barely usable", which is actually an improvement from previous versions, but that's not saying much. I've used it for over a month, only because 1.4 can no longer even scan a collection on my computer, Last.fm is broken, and I got a notice today that Gentoo is deprecating KDE3 entirely. Amarok 1.4 is the new XMMS; Qt3 is the new GTK1. Some people will cling to them, somehow barely keeping them running on their systems, until bitrot and neglect force them to fade away into history, whether there's a good replacement around or not.

I was a huge cheerleader for Amarok 1.4; it was a flagship KDE / Linux GUI app. Now I don't know what to say. Final grade, Amarok 2.2: D+. It avoided an F because I can get sound to come out of it, and it didn't erase my hard drive.

(Anyone out there reading this, if you port Amarok 1.4 to Qt4 intact, I will pay you. Seriously. I will pay you money.)

November 05, 2009 @ 5:14 PM PST
Cateogory: Linux
Tags: KDE, Amarok

18 Comments

stlhrt
Quoth stlhrt on November 05, 2009 @ 7:18 PM PST

yeah... I was a huge fan of amarok 1.4 but after 2 came out I had to switch as it became useless... foobar2000 on wine? ;)

numerodix
Quoth numerodix on November 05, 2009 @ 7:48 PM PST

I guess this is the price you pay for being a so called power user. I'm still running 1.4 over here.

bolenti
Quoth bolenti on November 05, 2009 @ 8:56 PM PST

What are the software capabilities in the version 1.4 that are missing in the version 2.2 apart from the UI?

DarkoP
Quoth DarkoP on November 05, 2009 @ 10:14 PM PST

I'm still using good ol' 1.4 :)

Nikolaj Hald Nielsen
Quoth Nikolaj Hald Nielsen on November 05, 2009 @ 11:23 PM PST

To be honest, emulating the Amarok 1.4 playlist is not a very high priority for us. But given the flexibility of the Playlist in the latter Amarok 2 releases, it can emulate it well enough for some people. For you it is likely not going to cut it though and likely Amarok 1.4 or another similar player is a better alternative.

We decided to take Amarok in a new direction knowing full and well that some people would prefer the old version. Being free software, we also knew that it would be kept alive as long as people enjoy using it.

You do highlight an interesting issue with the playlist layout editor when you add enough tokens. That is definitely something we need to fix, but interestingly enough not something anyone had actually run into (and told us about) before now.

Also, now that you have taken the time to create that layout, you can find the xml file for it in ~/.kde/share/apps/amarok/playlist_layouts and share it with others if you feel like it (I am still pondering whether integrating the "Get Hot New Stuff" system to allow upload, sharing and download of playlist layouts directly from within Amarok is overkill or not...)

One of your issues, the ability to resize "columns" directly is already added to Amarok 2.2.1 which will be out in a week or so if all goes as planned.

Lastly, while not a straight Qt4 port of Amarok, there is a project that aims to recreate Amarok using PyQt4. That might interest you: http://regomodo.github.com/amaroq/#news

John Bell
Quoth John Bell on November 06, 2009 @ 2:16 AM PST

I loved Amarok 1.4, the "different direction" Amarok 2 is taking seems to be "Anything but listing songs, maybe getting kickbacks from companies, anything but listening to the users". The devs can, or course, do whatever they want, I want song/album management.

I've switched to Songbird with the Now Playing List add-on. It's faster dealing with my music collection (a few hundred gig) than Amarok ever was. It does however allow column sorting, rearranging, etc., and doesn't force you to watch a screenful of lyrics or flickr or whatever, just songs, and play lists!

Ricardo from Brazil
Quoth Ricardo from Brazil on November 06, 2009 @ 2:42 AM PST

Hey DarkoP me too! =)

I still use 1.4 in Debian release Etch!

Batiste
Quoth Batiste on November 06, 2009 @ 3:11 AM PST

Amarok devs: please do a few things and do them well... The UI interface with the latest version is way too confusing, too much features...

Please choose a simple, well functioning set of features and implement ... just that...

One tool for one purpose!

katie
Quoth katie on November 06, 2009 @ 7:29 AM PST

Thanks for the tips on emulating this old build!

I am so upset with the current build of amarok, that I have given up music completely ...

Tim Cube
Quoth Tim Cube on November 06, 2009 @ 8:13 AM PST

This, children, is why you never speak to "usability experts".

Gen2ly
Quoth Gen2ly on November 07, 2009 @ 3:23 AM PST

Keep hoping that Amarok 2 will look into this unfortunately the developer community of Amarok seems real in-the-box (nice though a developer replied). Haven't ever used 1.4 but maybe should try and get it to, looks like a music player I could use on a day to day basis.

Hazor
Quoth Hazor on November 07, 2009 @ 11:13 AM PST

"(Anyone out there reading this, if you port Amarok 1.4 to Qt4 intact, I will pay you. Seriously. I will pay you money.)"

I will pay you money, give you hugs, and bake you cookies.

Ben
Quoth Ben on November 08, 2009 @ 1:38 PM PST

It's frustrating that once there is a sweet application on KDE that lots of people like, the developers go and "reinvent" it. Granted they are probably doing this on their own time, but wouldn't they feel a lot better if they made a shiny new amarok AND made all the previous users want to upgrade to it?

When I finally upgrade from Kubuntu 8.04 to 9.10/10.04 I think I will get started on either (1) porting amarok 1.4 to Qt4 or (2) Adding a playlist widget like 1.4 to Amarok2. I think (1) will be easier...anyone have any ideas?

John
Quoth John on November 09, 2009 @ 3:54 AM PST

Brian: Any chance you can do what Nikolaj suggested and post the XML file? I too am an Amarok 1.4 fan and would prefer a layout like that but without having to do all that typing. ;)

Yaro
Quoth Yaro on December 06, 2009 @ 4:50 AM PST

It would have been more helpful if this was a HOWTO instead of a whine about how hard it is to work with Amarok 2. Please, tell me HOW you did this, not HOW HARD it is to do this.

I do agree that it sucks that they broke Amarok when it went 2.0.There are many features of 1.4 I truly miss in Amarok 2: The really good playlist... the miniplayer... a full queue system (They really crippled that one in Amarok 2.), AN EQUALIZER (Now we're back down to having virtually NO media players in Linux with an equalizer again!) And I really miss the layout, too.

It also took them a long time to actually make it stable after the release. Pulling a KDE dev team and saying "Oh, the RTM release wasn't REALLY the RTM release." Apparently missing the entire purpose of a release candidate. KDE 4 took until 4.3 to get good because apparently 4.0 through 4.2 were apparently meant to be release candidates.

I guess the Amarok/KDE devs never heard the phrase "if it isn't broken, DON'T FIX IT!" There was NOTHING wrong with Amarok 1.4. Why'd they break it down for Amarok 2?

However, they're unwillingness to listen to users isn't as bad as the PIDGIN dev unwillingness to listen to users. My god. Any and all feature requests are practically sent to /dev/null with those guys.

Brian
Quoth Brian on December 06, 2009 @ 5:03 AM PST

@Yaro There's not much to explain for how to do it. Drag and drop items in that horrible dialog window and tweak it via trial and error until it looks OK. How to make it look OK will be completely dependent on your font size and Qt theme and the width of the window and the average length of your song titles and artist names, among other things.

That's kind of my point. If there was a simple HOWTO for making Amarok 2 look and function like Amarok 1 I would have nothing to complain about. But there isn't.

I rm'd my Amarok configs shortly after writing this (because you almost HAVE to, because so much crap breaks and changes between Amarok releases), so I can't share it, unfortunately.

Peter
Quoth Peter on December 10, 2009 @ 12:33 AM PST

Not surprisingly, I did a similar thing to make Amarok 2.2 look like 1.4. I also ran into the problem of 1.4 not scanning my collection any more, and I worked with the source code a bit to try and find a problem with no luck. If someone wants to give me a hand let me know. That would be appreciated.

Since I've been basically forced to use v2.2 now, I've been using it for a few weeks. One major annoyance I've run into is using dynamic playlists. I like the new dynamic playlist setup, but if a song comes to mind that I want to hear, I have to go back to my music library and search. Then if I want to refresh the list of songs I have to go back to the playlist screen. I miss the button that would appear when "Random Mix" was on.

And only recently have songs been being added to my playlist as I wanted. Before this, when I would add a song it would append it to the bottom of my playlist, no matter where I dragged it to. If, after I added it, I dragged it below the current song, it wouldn't even play next. And if I double clicked on the song when it was on the bottom of the list, it would shift the list up 10 songs, losing anything that would have been played, and found 10 new songs.

One more thing that I definitely miss is when you clear a playlist while a song is playing, and create a new one with that song in it, that song would be highlighted as the current song. This is not so in 2.2.

I would definitely be on board if a project was started to port v1.4. I would of course have a lot to learn about Qt4, but I would seriously hate to see one of my favorite music players lost.

kerberis
Quoth kerberis on March 01, 2010 @ 6:20 AM PST

I switched to Songbird (later with the Now Playing add-on) as soon as this Amarok 2 nonsense started. Recently I've been frustrated with Songbird and wanted something with the absolutely perfect intuitive, flexible functionality of Amarok 1.4. So I gave 2.2 a try (granted, I tried it on my Windows machine). Big mistake. I immediately ran into the same problem you had. I didn't spend the time trying to get all my columns back because I was busy trying to figure out managing my playlists. When I imported a playlist from Songbird, Amarok saw fit to rewrite the title info on every single mp3's ID3 tag. Wow. Not only could I not manipulate the playlist the way I wanted -- the way I used to be able to -- but I had to repair the ID3 tags of every mp3 in the playlist. I'll be trying to get 1.4 working again the next time I get ambitious about listening to music the way I want.