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.
Note that there are many options for enhancing the look of Foobar that go far beyond adding interface elements. A the highest level, skins can be added to dramatically alter the look and feel of Foobar. However, skinning your player is a bit more complicated than adding a simple module. Creating an awesome-looking player is a topic of discussion in countless online communities, and those experienced with Foobar’s scripting language have come away with some amazing results.
Skins are available all over the web, but many of them require various prerequisite modules for proper use.
Below are some plugins we have found that are commonly required before installing skins: foo_ui_columns.dll - Used in this tutorial.
foo_ui_panels.dll - Gives Foobar floating windows rather than columns. Definate must-have for new skins.
foo_cwb_hooks.dll - Allows global title formatting.
foo_uie_powerpanels.dll -Creates a seperate 'Seek' panel and 'Volume' panel
foo_uie_quicksearch.dll -Allows you to search for a playlist of your choice
foo_uie_lyrics - Panel used to show downloaded lyrics
Here are some amazing examples of amazing-looking Foobar skins:
If you want to see more, visit customize.org/foobar and check out tons of great interfaces, each with links to download the base skin and a list of modules used. Pay attention to the prerequisites though; the majority of these skins won't work without them!
Next we’ll walk through the process of ripping MP3s from a CD using Foobar. First off, pop your album into your optical drive. In Foobar, scroll over to ‘File’ and select ‘Open Audio CD’. A pop-up menu will appear asking you to select a drive. Make your selection and hit ‘Rip’.
This will bring you to the ‘Rip Audio CD’ tab, where you can choose which songs you would like to rip from your album. All of the songs will be checked by default, so unselect any songs you don’t want to save. You can also change the artist name and album title, as well as fill in any other relevant information, including disc number, genre, and date. When you’re done, hit ‘Rip’.
Next, you’ll see the Converter Setup tab. There are a couple of interesting and customizable options listed in this tab, but most of them can remain untouched. The ‘Output Format’ tab will allow you to choose what type of media file you would like to export the songs as. Foobar will default to .WAV files, but you can choose any output you’d like. Assuming you’d like to rip to MP3, you’ll have to have the LAME encoder installed on your machine. You can learn more about LAME at lame.sourceforge.net/.
A second important field in the Converter Setup window is labeled Output Path. This allows you to select the location on your computer where the finished files will be saved. When you’re done, hit Ok.
When Foobar is done ripping your album, a Converter Output screen will pop up, which will allow you to access your ripped files directly.
We all know how easy it is to synch an iPod (Apple product) with iTunes (Apple software). But there are plenty of open-source programs that allow you to do the same thing, without having to subject yourself to Apple-authored software. Foobar is a great example of this, though a couple of steps need to be taken before you can sync it to your iPod.
First, you’ll need to download an iPod manager plugin known as ‘Foo_Dop’. Foo_Dop allows you to not only transfer your music, but to organize your play lists and albums, and synch them to your iPod with little effort.
You can download Foo_Dop at yuo.be/wiki/dop:start. Once again, installation is as simple as extracting the foo_dop.dll file to your Foobar components directory, and restarting Foobar. Plug your iPod into the computer.
If you’re using either an iPhone or iPod touch, you will need to open the iPod Manager setting in the properties window, and check the box that reads ‘Enable Mobile Devices Support.’
With Foo_dop installed, you can simply click File > iPod >Load Library, and voila! The entire contents of your iPod is now displayed right there on the screen. Now, the changes you make to your library, whether you’re deleting songs or creating new play lists, will be transferred over to your iPod. This makes it extremely easy to manage and organize your tracks and playlists.