Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen, Your iTunes Killer

As long time readers may know, I've been on a never-ending quest to find a music player that I like, or to put it another way, that I don't actively dislike. I mostly stuck it out with iTunes over the years, having found the alternatives lacking. This hasn't been a problem in Linux where there's much more choice, including the excellent Audacious, but in OS X things are a bit more constricted.

I did switch to Cog more recently, and I think I wrote about it, too. The deal breaker previously was its lack of an equalizer, but since I found how to enact a global equalizer, I switched. Still, though, Cog didn't support radio streaming and I had to rely on Mplayer from the command line or go back to iTunes for that feature.

Was this the end of the road? Was I to be forever denied local playback and internet streaming in one appealing package? Would I ever find audio nirvana?

Well, I have found my nirvana and it is called CMus.

CMus music player

That's right, CMus is a console player. No mouse, just key commands. It plays mp3, ogg vorbis, flac, aac, the works, and also streams internet radio. And for icing on the cake, it's cross platform. On both Linux and OS X, you just use your package manager to install, so if you're on OS X you'd use either Macports or Tigerbrew.

After installing, the easiest way to get started is by pressing 5 for the browser pane and navigating to your Music folder. Press "a" to add the songs to your library and then press 1 to go to your library in tree view (press 2 for your library in list view). Press return to start playing, or use the arrow keys to choose the artist, the spacebar to expand the albums tree, and then tab to switch the active cursor to the album pane.

To add a radio station to your library, type ":" without quotes to activate the command line section, then "add http://..." and press return. It should be the first item in your library, called "<Stream>". Alternately, you can use the browser pane to navigate to any .m3u files on your hard drive and add them with the aforementioned "a".

The resources CMus uses are practically nonexistent. It's also very fast to load libraries and playlists, and speed is the main advantage of console programs such as this. The downside is that they can be hard to master with many key commands to memorize, but music players aren't all that complex when you get down to it. Mostly, you play, stop, pause, skip, and shuffle, etc. After a quick read of the manual, I got the hang of it in about a minute.

I don't think I'll go full-on frugal computing and start using console apps for all my needs, but in case you're inclined to explore that option there are tons of console alternatives to your GUI apps. There's Alpine and Mutt for email, ELinks for web browsing, also Floodgap's more famous software title, TTYtter, as well as LFTP, SLRN, Pianobar, and more. If you use the functionality of any of these often, you should take a look. You might find yourself surprised.


  1. That's excellent !! I've tried some command-line scripts to remote control iTunes via ssh, but was never really satisfied with it . Either too simple, with too few options for the Applescript made ones ; very good but only PPC for iTunes-command; or too complex for me like ViTunes
    The possibility of using just another player via command-line completely passed over my head :)
    Just installed it, works fine. My only problem was with volume control (+ and -) giving me a
    "Error: can't change volume: mixer is not open" message whenever i tried. Found solution here.
    Open ~/.cmus/autosave , and change "set softvol-false" to "true".


    1. Thanks, I didn't catch that. The volume control worked fine on Linux, but on OS X I always changed the volume with other controls.

  2. on Linux there is mpg123 and it is AltiVec accelerated ;)

    1. Yeah, it's on Tigerbrew and Macports, too. If you do a brew search or port search for mpg or mp3 you can find tons of stuff. Cross platform all the way!

  3. Normally I like this blog. But to suggest that a console-based program is an "iTunes Killer" is an indication that something important has derailed. Why use any Mac, PPC or otherwise, if a console-based program is the best you can do when listening to music? Hopefully this is not indicative of a new direction for the blog.

    1. <something important has derailed>I like the speed and ease of use of a console app</something important has derailed>

  4. Some people are threatened by things that are not pointy clicky. This is clearly one of them.

    If these people don't have a mouse they can't accomplish a thing. ie. they have no real computing ability.

    The good news is that you don't work for this primitive anon.