Tools for converting multimedia files

QWinFF

The small QWinFF [8] program acts as a graphical front end for FFmpeg and relies on the Qt libraries. The software is available in the repositories of almost all distributions. QWinFF shows an extremely spartan program window after installation and startup. In the window, the large list area shows the files to be converted. Above this area is a buttonbar and a small menubar.

To convert a file to another format, just drag it from a file manager and drop it into the program window. QWinFF then opens a new window in which the file appears in a table view. To select additional content for conversion, press the plus button to the right of the table view and select the other files from the file manager.

Because the table view includes a wizard, you can set all configuration options for the conversion in a few predefined steps. First select the content, and then click on the Next button. A dialog lets you specify the target formats and the output path.

QWinFF is based on FFmpeg, so you will find the entire range of codecs supported by FFmpeg and installed on the system in the Convert to selection field. Caution: QWinFF does not distinguish between audio and video codecs. If you accidentally set the wrong output format, the video or audio track might be disabled.

The software also comes with profiles for common use cases, which you select in the Preset selection box. Use the Edit button to modify a profile if necessary. In the Advanced tab, you then enter individual parameters of the FFmpeg command set directly in an input window.

To set detailed options for the output files, select a file you wish to convert and right-click to open a context menu. The Set Parameters entry takes you to the Conversion Parameters dialog, where you can modify parameters for the video and audio codecs and the image resolution. Checking the box lets you hide the video or audio track completely.

After completing all the settings, press OK to confirm your selection; then press Start to start the conversion. QWinFF processes the files listed in the table one after the other (Figure 8). The conversion does require some hardware resources, but at least the computer remains operable.

Figure 8: QWinFF processing several jobs one after the other.

Conclusions

Thanks to the solid multimedia foundation provided with Linux, you have several reliable options for converting video and audio content. The graphical front ends remove the need to research and memorize command line parameters and provide a useful overview of individual configuration settings.

Users with professional needs who insist on granular settings are best served with HandBrake, but the many HandBrake options add to the learning curve. On the other hand, if you are hoping to start converting files immediately without background knowledge, you are better off with QWinFF or Ciano. Users who value an interface with a state-of-the-art look will probably prefer Curlew and FFQueue.

Keep in mind, however, that all the programs described in this article are resource hungry. Users with older systems that lack hyperthreading and multicore processing will have to wait for their output files.

The Author

Erik Bärwaldt is a self-employed IT admin and technical author living in Scarborough (United Kingdom). He writes for several IT magazines.

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