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Apple has done everything in its power to convince the public that when it comes to music hardware and software there’s only a single choice: the iPod, and iTunes, respectively. And while we do admit that the iPod is an excellent MP3 player, we’re not so enamored with iTunes. That’s why we’re going to show you how you can use Foobar, a popular open source program with a powerful, modular design, to manage your music files, rip CDs, and even manage your iPod.
In this guide we’ll show you how to organize your music with Foobar, as well as how to customize the program, burn CDs, and manage an iPod.
Before anything else, you’ll need to download Foobar, which can be found at www.foobar2000.org, and install it.
Since you’ve probably already got a huge collection of music stored on your PC, in long-forgotten folders and playlists, we’re going to want to start by moving that music into Foobar. There are a couple of ways to go about doing this.
The first time you open Foobar, you’ll be asked to select a UI configuration. Selecting Simple Playlist + Tabs will set you up with a blank white screen, tabbed on the upper left hand corner as ‘default’. This is your starting point, and will eventually contain a list of files to play. Right clicking the ‘default’ tab will allow you to create new tabs, which can be named anything you’d like.
The simplest way to play songs from iTunes is as follows: Open iTunes, and drag a song or album to your desktop. Once there, just grab the files, and drag them into Foobar’s interface. If you don’t want the song to appear under the ‘default’ tab, simply create a new one. This drag and drop system will allow you to play any of your iPod songs in Foobar quite easily. You can create different tabs for different playlists, and populate those tabs with any songs you’d like.
But wait a minute. We know what you’re thinking. “I have a five thousand song library and twenty playlists, I don’t want to sit around all day dragging and dropping individual songs!” Luckily, you won’t have to. To show Foobar where all you music is, click on Library > Configure. In the preferences window that pops up, you’ll see a field for your music folders; click on Add, and select your root music folder. Now, check the Enabled button under Library Viewer Selection Playlist. Now, when you press Ok, Foobar will load all your music from your music folder and you can browse through it using either the Search or Album List options that have become available in the Library menu.
If you want to transfer all of your playlists to Foobar, you’ll have to use a handy little program called ‘iTunes Export.’
You can download iTunes Export at bit.ly/ddNG02, and it works in three simple steps:
First, you select the iTunes library you want to export from. You do this by selecting the iTunes library file, which is a .xml document which acts as a sort of index for all of your music files. Ours, for example, was located at C:\MyDocuments\MyMusic\iTunes\iTunesMusicLibrary.xml
Once you’ve found your library, click next. You’ll now be asked which iTunes playlists you’d like to export. By default, it will export all playlists.
Finally, you’ll be asked to select an output directory for the playlists. Choose one, leave the rest of the settings untouched, and hit ‘finish’ to save your playlists in .m3u format.
Now that you’ve exported your playlists it’s time to load them into Foobar. In Foobar, go to ‘file’ and hit ‘load playlist’. Now, simply find the playlists you created with iTunes Export. Select whichever m3u files you want to import, and click ‘Open’. Foobar will automatically create new tabs for each one of your preset playlists.
One of Foobar’s greatest strengths is its modularity, which allows you to add whatever functionality you want to the program, without bloat. Every person’s ideal Fubar setup is different, but we’ll show you how to get started modifying yours, by showing some modules that will give it more of the look and feel of iTunes.
The first thing we’ll install is a module called Columns UI, which can be found at yuo.be/columns.php.
This user interface module includes customizable columns that alter the look of Foobar, adding iTunes-esque genre, artist and album navigation.
Like other downloadable add-ons for Foobar, UI_tabs will download as a compressed file. We recommend using 7-Zip to unzip the file. Extract the add-on (a .dll file) to Foobar’s components folder, by default located at C:\Program Files\foobar2000\components.
Now that you’ve installed the add-on, re-open Foobar. A new user interface selection dialog will appear, which will give you the option to select ‘Columns UI’. Browse through the different interfaces until you find a look that works for you. Already, Foobar’s UI is looking a lot less bland.