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Multimedia and Audio Players

Linux is quite literally swamped with multimedia players and dedicated audio players. There are plenty of command-line players out there that work very well when interfaced with web frontends if you ever want to set up a web-accessible jukebox or similar sort of thing. One thing I hate about GUI/Graphic stuff is that it makes for a really poor dedicated jukebox or hidden sound system. But anyways... I'll leave those for another day. Today I'll talk just about desktop players.

As mentioned, there are literally hundreds of the buggers. Rather than go into excruciating detail about all of them, I'll just stick to the most popular dozen or so.

VLC - VideoLAN Client

This is my personal favourite media player hands down. It works on everything (Windows/Mac/Linux) and has all the necessary codecs built in. Developed in France, there are no stupid DMCA style laws over there, so people are free to make media players that can play proprietary codecs like WMV without fear of being sued (honestly, who the fuck in their right mind sues someone over making a free media player??? God I hate America sometimes).

VideoLAN can do neat things like:

- Stream media from a central server to a listening client - Stream media to multiple clients simultaneously (have all your TVs playing the same AVIs from a central computer) - Stream media and break it up into segments (make your own "video wall" with multiple TVs!) - Play back media from any device or file - if you have ISO files that are DVD images, you can play straight from the ISO - no need to burn! - Use VLC as a plugin for Firefox to watch WMV, Quicktime and other formats off the net on any computer (great for Linux and Mac users, or Windows users who hate Media Player) - Stream from any protocol - http, ftp, udp unicast/multicast, whatever! - Full support for post-processing, anti-aliasing, interlace fixup, etc, etc.

VLC can also be used for one-pass transcoding. Output streams can be converted into other codecs, and streams from WebTV or broadcast can be saved to disk as a video file.

Brilliant software. I know a lot of die-hard Windows users who use this instead of Windows Media Player because it really is that good, and dead simple to use.

VLC has recently been ported to handheld devices too. If you're a Palm/iPaq/WinPhone/iPhone/mobile-phone user, keep an eye out to see if it supports your device.


Will literally play ANYTHING under the sun. Movies, audio, even DVB streams from TV/cable/satellite/capture cards. Comes in both command-line form and GUI for GNOME, KDE, TCL or anything you like. There are even dedicated versions for Windows and MacOSX if you are so inclined.

The command-line version is very cool, because you can use it to quickly "transcode" between one file format at another. eg: play your DVD, and set the output to be a file instead of the screen, which is piped through XVID or a similar compression tool. End result is your DVD saved as an XVID or AVI file! Remember that in Linux "everything is a file", so redirecting output from sreen/speakers to a file or even another computer is trivial, and tools like MPlayer suddenly become much more useful than for merely watching videos.


Similar in design to MPlayer, it's another popular video/DVD player with some neat back-end tools to do all sorts of trickery.


The default movie player for GNOME, it's a bit odd in that it's more of a frontend for other movie playing systems. By default it uses GStreamer, but can be plugged into Xine, MPlayer, or other systems. Pretty basic in it's functionality, if you use Ubuntu or other GNOME-based distros, you'll probably have this installed as default. If you find it isn't playing the files you have and don't want to go through the process of manually adding codecs, have a look at VLC as an alternative.


Default audio player for KDE, this has everything you'd expect from a music player. Favourite voting, playback of all music filetypes, organisation and grouping systems. It will also happily sync with any Apple iPod.


GNOME's answer to Amarok. Same features including iPod support.




Three music players I've never used, but are all very popular. Again, all filetypes and iPod support.


A WinAmp clone, XMMS is a great music player with small footprint. More than that, it has an ENORMOUS array of plugins for things like MOD, S3M/Screamtracker, MIDI, and other oldschool sample or instrument/instruction-driven filetypes.

Best of all, heaps of plugins have been written to play music out of old games. Super Nintendo/Famicom plugins, Gameboy plugins, Commodore 64 plugins, etc, etc. Grab your ROMs and use this baby to listen to the music within. As with other Linux programs, change the output device from your speakers to your disk, and you can write WAV files (and later compress them to MP3). An easy way to convert an old SNES ROM into a music CD with your favourite game music!

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