YouTube jukebox without a browser

Music Box

Article from Issue 168/2014
Author(s):

YouTube offers more than just funny kitten movies; you will also find more than 60 million music videos. With a native YouTube client for Linux, you can use this online jukebox as conveniently as your local music collection.

Although access to many music videos is blocked in some countries, the huge YouTube archive still is an almost inexhaustible, permanently self-replenishing video jukebox. Accessing the service in a browser, though, is not really much fun, despite the fact that YouTube increasingly relies on HTML5 videos. Web movies still push the CPU load right up, consuming huge amounts of memory and wasting bandwidth for those who just want to listen to music. The following applications extract YouTube videos from the website.

Atraci

Atraci [1] combines the ability to play back YouTube movies with appropriate queries for metadata in iTunes, Last.fm, and SoundCloud. The application, which is coded in JavaScript and Node.js, shows images of covers and artists in search results and playlists (Figure 1) in the style of traditional audio players such as Rhythmbox or Amarok. In contrast to the classic music players, however, Atraci does not load its music from your computer's hard disk but takes it directly from YouTube as streamed video.

Figure 1: Atraci focuses on playing music videos hosted on YouTube.

The results are not just of interest for hard-core music fans: Atraci offers a simple, easy-to-use search box that lets you access the more than 60 million tracks on YouTube without having to create an account or wade through commercials. It seems to work mostly within the legal framework of the YouTube API's terms of use. Unlike its predecessor HipHopApp, which has now been removed from the web, Atraci loads both the music and the video clips.

You will find Atraci as a statically compiled binary for 32-bit and 64-bit Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows systems on the project's GitHub page [2]. You only need to download the appropriate archive and unpack it. On Linux, you then need to use a graphical file manager or the

chmod +x Atraci

command to enable execution of the Atraci file in the directory with the same name.

On Ubuntu or Linux Mint, the installation is even easier thanks to the PPA package source provided by the WebUpd8 team repository [3]. Simply use the following commands:

$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:webupd8team/atraci
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install atraci

Users of Arch Linux will find two versions of Atraci in the AUR: atraci-bin [4] only loads the statically compiled file from the web and installs it on your system, whereas atraci-git [5] builds the application from the source code. After setting up Atraci via the PPA or AUR, you can launch it directly from the application menu of the desktop environment.

Atraci welcomes you with the Top Tracks, a selection of currently popular music clips (Figure 1). The Featured Artist section presents an artist, along with the songs that have been uploaded to YouTube. If you select one of the songs, Atraci plays it immediately and displays the corresponding video in the lower left-hand corner. Clicking on the icon with double-headed crossed arrows enlarges the video image to window size.

Next to program logo you will find a Search bar that lets you browse YouTube for artists, albums, and individual songs. Atraci automatically completes matching results and displays icons to represent artists that match your search. For albums, the application displays a folder icon to the left of the matches, and a note appears for each song. By clicking on the two view icons below the window buttons for minimizing and maximizing the applications, you can scale down the thumbnails (Figure 2).

Figure 2: In overview mode, Atraci reduces the thumbnails shown during the search.

To avoid the need to search over and over for your favorite songs, you can use the New playlist sidebar item to create your own playlists for parties or the quieter moments in life. You can gradually fill these lists from the search feature by right-clicking one of the songs and then selecting the Add to … entry from the context menu.

Minitube

Unlike Atraci, Minitube [6] is not limited to use as an audio player but also acts as a universal YouTube client with many features (Figure 3). It thus provides a useful alternative for users who enjoy watching YouTube videos, but whose computers are overtaxed by power hungry YouTube pages. However, interaction with YouTube is limited to one direction: You cannot use Minitube, for example, to add comments to videos.

Figure 3: In contrast to Atraci, Minitube is a universal YouTube client for Linux.

Minitube is in the repositories of all major distributions as an open source application. On the tool's homepage, the developer offers versions for Mac OS X and Windows, as well; however, unlike the Linux version, you need to purchase a license.

The central element in Minitube is the integrated search function. It launches automatically when you start the program; later on, you will find the Search tool below the progress bar in the Search tab. The keyword you enter either searches all YouTube videos or is limited to the channel names. Below the input box, you will see the last terms you used and the last YouTube channels you visited.

Alternatively, you can browse through the various categories in the Browse tab, including Education and Science & Technology, or jump to the channels you marked as interesting under Subscriptions. You can use Video | Subscribe, or press Ctrl+Shift+S to add the channel of the video currently playing to your subscription list.

Minitube does not always automatically play videos in the best possible quality, even if the video is available in 1080p on YouTube. However, on the bottom right in the status bar is a tool that lets you change the video quality. Depending on the video, you can choose resolutions from 360p through 720p and up to 1080p. Pressing Ctrl+D or choosing Video | Download tells Minitube to store videos on your hard drive so that you can view them even without an Internet connection, which is convenient for traveling or commuting.

Musictube

As a desktop web app, Atraci will probably not appeal to all users: For example, it lacks clean integration into the desktop, such as the ability to display information about the songs being played via the desktop's own notification system, or support for multimedia buttons to pause playback or skip a track. The latter are available in Minitube (even though they do not respond well currently because of a bug), but the program lacks the optimizations offered by Atraci as an audio player. If you are looking for both, you will find them in Musictube [7], the commercial sibling of Minitube.

In contrast to Minitube, Musictube is offered only under a proprietary license, including the Linux version. Thus, you cannot simply install Musictube. On Ubuntu, you need to purchase the program for US$  6.99 via the Software Center [8], or after purchasing the program on the developer's homepage, you can download the DEB package manually and install it via your package manager. Arch Linux users will find the application in the AUR [9]; however, you must enter the license key after launching, otherwise the playlist sticks at 50 entries, and the trial period is limited to 20 days after the install.

Just like Atraci, Musictube autocompletes all searches and provides artists and albums that match your keyword in a drop-down list, even before you finish typing it (Figure 4). After you select an artist, Musictube shows you the corresponding albums, followed by the tracks they contain. By tapping on one of the search results in the top right corner, you can add the appropriate selection on the current playlist via the Play icon.

Figure 4: You can use Search to add individual songs or entire albums to your playlist.

While Musictube is playing tracks, you can see the album cover, the lyrics, and similar artists in the Info tab (Figure 5). Under Versions, Musictube shows you any other versions of the current song available on YouTube. At the bottom in the status bar, the program offers a pre-selection by Studio, Cover, and Live. This lets you tell the YouTube player which versions you are looking for. You can alternatively make your choices by pressing the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+T.

Figure 5: In playback mode, Musictube displays information along with the lyrics.

By default, Musictube only plays the music for your desired music videos. By selecting Video | Video, typing Ctrl+T, or pressing the Video button in the footer bar, you can display the video image in thumbnail format. If this is not enough, you can zoom by selecting Video | Large image, typing Ctrl+B, or double-clicking on the video image to display it at the current window size. If you value the image quality, then you can select resolutions up to 1080p below Video  | Resolution.

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