Monday, October 25, 2010

A Banshee scream

Back when I started writing articles in this blog, Songbird was one of the applications that I covered. In my opinion, it was the best Audio player available in the GNOME desktop manager. Unfortunately, the Songbird Linux project was cut and since then I had not really found any proper alternative, so I was just settling down with Audacious.

Come Ubuntu 10.10, I had the opportunity to try Banshee 1.8.0, which was getting rave reviews and I have to say I am impressed.


Banshee is not part of the Ubuntu repositories by default, at least not the latest version, so users will need to add the banshee PPA available and then install from there. In addition, there are a couple extensions that I find very much worth installing, so putting together a quick and simple script may help with the whole installation process.

# Install the Banshee PPA
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:banshee-team/ppa

# Update sources, install Banshee and a couple extensions
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get -y install banshee banshee-extension-soundmenu banshee-extension-lyrics
You could always copy and paste these commands separately, but I find it easier to run them as part of a simple script. Should you want to follow the script route, simply copy the code above and paste it into a text document, then save it as To execute it, provide it with execution permissions from file properties or by running the following command:

chmod 774

Once done, the script would be ready for execution.


Banshee includes some neat features, but it lacks others that are part of other Linux audio players. For example, a beats per minute (BPM) scanner allows for full library scanning in the background, which is a very nice thingy for us musicians. On the other hand, it misses the Lyrics applet that is so much a part of Amarok by now, or the Ubuntu system tray integration that is now native in Rhythmbox.

Note that keeping the BPM analyzer on by default will impact the application performance. I recommend you run it once to analyze your library completely, which will take a while, then disable it.

Click on image to enlarge.

Luckily, as can be seen on the screenshot below, Banshee can make up for it through some neat extensions. If you used the script I provided above, you would be adding the panel integration and the lyrics applet features. It should be noted that both features are disabled by default after they are installed, so manual activation is required from Banshee preferences menu.

Click on image to enlarge.

The lyrics extension may perhaps feel a bit "unnatural" if you are used to Songbird or Amarok because it is not part of the default interface, but a popup window instead. This could trip some users, who may wonder where that lyrics applet is. Once the feature is understood, though, it is extremely easy to use, and perhaps even welcome that the interface is not overcrowded by it.

Click on image to enlarge.

The star extension, though, is that integration with the Ubuntu sound menu from the panel system tray. I find this a great piece of functionality because I can close Banshee, keep it running in the background and control it from the sound menu, as opposed to having another system tray icon there that is not consistent with the over all Look&Feel. Below is a picture of how the sound menu integration works.


I am happy to say that I have found a favorite GNOME audio player in Banshee 1.8.0. It is not perfect and still lacks in some areas (the album cover feature is not flexible at all, light years behind what Amarok is offering, for example), but it is definitely great and can pull off some nice tricks of its own.

If you have not tried Banshee 1.8.0 yet, I very much recommend you do.


  1. Whenever I tried Banshee it was so slow to add all my music to the library and it was not the only one of the audio players with the same problem.
    When you have a really large music collection I found that a big part of music players in Linux cannot fit my needs.
    But maybe they improved Banshee a little bit.
    For me the best media player for Gnome and I think for Linux also is Guayadeque Music Player, maybe you heard of it.
    Maybe you want to test it and post a review? It would be great.

  2. Hi David,

    Not sure how big your music collection is, but Banshee has easily and quickly indexed mine. I do remember having issues with Songbird, though.

    I have not tried Guayadeque, but will surely give it a go some time.


  3. Try clementine!

    it's based on amarok pre-KDE4! I love it.

  4. +1 for Clementine, it's a port of Amarok 1.4.x series. Cross platform too (OS X, Windows, GNU/Linux).

  5. Clementine Rocks! At least it does on my desktop.

  6. If you want a minimalist player similar to foobar2000 on Windows, have a look at DeaDBeef.

  7. So, I tried it again because of curiosity.
    No way!
    My collection is larger than 200 gb, at the beginning the program was not able to work properly and I recieved a note of Banshee, very strange, "Please put your music into the home folder", whats that? My music is on an external hard drive and thats the way I want it to be and not what the player wants.
    Again this is where Linux has really problems, with a music collection like mine, you can forget all the players. But I found mine, its Guayadeque.
    Maybe with more RAM it would be ok with the other ones, it could be related to the hardware specs.
    Its only my experience, so dont blame me. :)

  8. I don't think more RAM will help. I've got 8 gigs of RAM and a Core i3 processor. When Banshee is playing a song and I merely try to SELECT another album from the album panel, it hangs for 5+ seconds. I looked at the system monitor and it was using 165 megs of RAM and eating 100% of the processor. Not acceptable. I like Banshee's features, but I can't use a program this bloated.

  9. Banshee is a DISGRACE of a media player, for the following reasons _at least_:

    (1) There's no way to import media from within Banshee itself, so far as I'm aware. I can "Open Location," but that won't let me open an entire directory. The only way I've identified that I can load music files into Banshee is to drag and drop from either ROX-Filer or Nautilus, and even then, ONLY to the "New Playlist" that pops up under Music. I can NOT drag files to append to existing playlists, either from within Banshee or from Nautilus.

    (2) When I do manage to import a song or collection of songs, I am completely unable to sort through the broken "unknown artist" and "unknown album", leaving me to pick from a flat list. If I wanted that, I could just double-click on the disk icon directly.

    (3) When I ask Banshee to play a single song, it *loves* to just ignore me and switch to shuffle mode immediately after playing the song I selected. No visual cues exist to suggest that it would ever do that (and, indeed, the Shuffle setting clearly reads Off), making this a bona fide bug.

    (4) Editing song properties, so far as I'm aware, can't be done, despite the menu items and dialog boxes ostensibly designed to serve that purpose.

    (5) I cannot just highlight a plurality of songs I want to play and click Play; I have to first add them to a "play queue." Sorry, but that's just straight-up retarded. (Which, after its done playing through, Banshee switches right away to shuffle mode. Uugh!)

    (6) Banshee seems to interact with Gnome-Shell in a peculiar way, causing Gnome-Shell to leak memory profusely. The only way to regain control over my system after some amount of time is to kill gnome-shell and let it reload. I find I have to do this at least once every 15 minutes while playing media through Banshee. No other media player seems to have this effect.

    Although my gripe so far deals specifically with Gnome 3 and Banshee in particular, I should mention that before settling on Linux Mint, I first tried KUbuntu, to see how KDE has changed over the years. For the worse! Never have I crashed a desktop environment -- a WHOLE environment -- in 30 seconds flat. All I did was resize a window, and my X session just died. Wonderful. So, no good KDE 4 news either.

    My experiences with Gnome 3 and KDE 4 lead me to elevate both of these environments and the tools they ship with as poster-children for what's wrong with the software industry today. All anyone cares about are features, features, features, features, features. Nobody gives a damn about usability and actually fixing bugs, especially bugs which are patently obvious to anyone with a relatively modest Linux configuration.

    And don't give me, "Oh, it's open source, so you can go fix it yourself" bullcrap either. Gnome and KDE used to be *solid* (or, rather, a hell of a lot more solid than they are today; especially you, KDE!!), with a demonstrated trend towards increasing stability and features that actually made *sense*. One man can't fix what is clearly a team effort to break otherwise good software.

    What a shame. Such a crying shame. Thankfully, I can rip this stuff out and replace it all with no desktop environment of any kind. Back to brain-dead simple ROX-Filer and Gmplayer for me.

  10. @Samuel: Sorry that your experience is negative in that regard. I have never seen issues with Banshee, I just copy my music to the main library folder and update my collection with ease, don´t need to do anything else.

    Unknown artists can easily be edited so they no longer appear as such (not a Banshee problem, but most likely something wrong with the artist metadata information).

    Anyways, Banshee is still GNOME2 and it may have issues with GNOME3, I don´t know because I haven´t tested it, but it works perfect under Ubuntu 10.10.

    As for Kubuntu, well, I think you simply were unlucky. I use Kubuntu on a daily basis (as well as many other KDE4 distros) and cannot remember ever having a problem with something as standard as resizing a window. I have had issues with applications such as Digikam, which are quite unstable in my opinion, but that´s why I am of the opinion that such application should not be part of KDE. It is unfair that a whole DE is judged by a fancy photograph manager that does not keep the basics straight.

    Anyways, whatever works for you. If you are not happy with Linux stuff, simply move to Windows or Mac. Others like myself are perfectly happy using Linux and have no problems at all.

    Good Luck