Tomahawk Music Player Takes Listening to a New High
Oct 31, 2013 5:00 AM PT
The trick to designing an all-purpose music player is to make it work the way you want. The Tomahawk Music Player performs that trick very well. It could well be a better listening choice than any other cross-platform music player application. It runs on a variety of Linux distros, Microsoft Windows and the Apple OS platforms. This flexibility is important to me as a user because I work on all three.
Tomahawk is intuitive, with a very uncluttered display. That holds true for its interface on all of its supported platforms.
Another performance factor is its ability to separate the song title from the source. This creates a universal translation layer across music repositories, streaming services and geographic territories.
The latest version is 0.7.0 for all supported Linux distros except Fedora and Debian. For those two distros the current version is 0.6.0.
Tomahawk is a very young Linux music player, but it makes up for its youth with a surprisingly mature level of performance.
It handles local and Internet-based music collections as a single music platform across all three computing platforms. This is a standard that should be met in all modern music players.
Tomahawk seamlessly integrates YouTube, Spotify, Jamendo, Grooveshark, LastFM, OfficialFM and a dozen more. This latest edition makes plugging in Internet music sources easy through a system of third-party resolvers. Just open the Settings panel and click the Services button. Select the corresponding resolver from the list and click the Install>From File button. The same process lets you connect Tomahawk to your social networks.
Look and Feel
Some music players I have liked had a glaring problem with putting too much information into too little display space. That does not happen with Tomahawk.
Its interface has a menu bar you can hide. It is replaced with an icon that opens the tools and settings menus.
A sidebar helps reduce the display clutter. It has to show the local collection, online playlists and radio stations. Playback controls are at the bottom.
What You See
The Queue display expands as you add more titles to play from your collections. You can view the open queue list or keep it closed but see the number of titles waiting to play.
A nice touch is the ability to remove songs or change their order by dragging and dropping them around the list.
Depending on what sidebar labels you select, other expandable windows open in the right side of the player window. For instance, when a title is playing, the display shows the top hits, related artists and a condensed version of the Wikipedia entry for that artist.
Screen Real Estate
Hold the mouse over any item in the sidebar to see a floating option to hide it. The sidebar serves as the functional control panel for what you see in the display window.
For example, the first label is the Dashboard. It shows recent additions to the local catalog, the newest playlists from both local collections and online sources, stations and recently played tracks.
The Super Collection label combines the local libraries of all included online friends also using Tomahawk. This might be the least-used feature, depending on your social status, but if you use it, Top Loved Tracks shows the tracks loved the most by all of your friends. Recently Played Tracks shows the last tracks they've played. I'm not a huge social media fan, so pardon my big yawn here.
More Sidebar Navigation
Charts is somewhat more useful, as it shows the currently best-selling songs on selected services activated by your choice of subscriptions. The New Releases and Search History features are more of those love-it or hate-it options.
Perhaps the most useful part of the sidebar display choices are the My Music and My Collection options. You can hide or show the sublists.
This is where you click to see your local and online music lists. You also can create playlists and radio station lists for regular listening.
Tomahawk's seamless searching feature is very impressive. Just enter your search term in the slender window at the top of the application window. Including filters makes the searching even more efficient.
Tomahawk searches through all of your enabled services. The results list is very expansive and uses columns to show artists, albums, songs, tracks and much more.
Clicking the information icon that appears on hover pops up related details about your listening history for that selection. A Footnote button at the bottom of the information pop-up shows more details about related artists, top hits and more.
You can click on a song or other related album or artist. If that title is not already in your local collection, Tomahawk will connect you to its location on your enabled online music outlets and play it for you.
Installing Tomahawk is about the only part of using it that is a bit of a hassle. It is not routinely available in many distro repositories. If you do luck out and find it included in your distro, it will be several versions out of date.
Instead, go to the developer's website and click the download button. Then check the download page for distro-specific installation instructions.
Tomahawk is available for a wide range of distros, but you must install your flavor through the terminal by adding distro-specific repository commands. So far Tomahawk installs on Linux Mint, Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE, Arch Linux, Chakra, Gentoo and Exherbo. Debian is coming soon.
If you are looking for the next generation of music players, Tomahawk is a good choice. It is still a young effort with lots of areas its developers need to finesse, but that maturity will continue to come with each new release.
Meanwhile, Tomahawk performs well in its current release state. It has some usability quirks that are more annoying than dysfunctional.
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