Configuring gtkpod for Music Playback

Jack Wallen
Dec 28, 2008
Updated • Jul 8, 2014

In my recent article I illustrated how to connect your iPod to the Linux application gtkpod. Gtkpod is fairly straightforward, but there can be issues. One of the issues is playback of files. And what good is a multimedia application if it can not play back the files it manages?  Configuring gtkpod is actually quite simple to configure for playback. Of course playback will depend upon which application is installed. You can configure gtkpod playback in two ways: By opening another graphical application or by employing a command-line tool. I am going to show you how to configure both.

The first thing you must do is make sure you have the applications installed on your machine. One reader pointed out that gtkpod had trouble with XMMS (which, I admit, is an old-school application). With modern distributions XMMS is not typically installed, yet gtkpod still defaults to XMMS being the default player on some distributions (Ubuntu and Mandriva for example). We'll fix that.

Let's first show how to get gtkpod running with a command line player. We'll use mpg123 because it's one of the more universal players. You can install mpg123 either from command line or from the Add/Remove Software utility. From the command line the installation would be something like:

apt-get install mpg123


yum install mpg123

One mpg123 is installed you can then fire up gtkpod for configuration.

From the Edit menu select Preferences to open up the configuration window.

Gtkpod Preferences Window
Gtkpod Preferences Window

There are two lines to configure:

Command for 'Play now'

Command for 'Enqueue'

Both of these can be configured with the command. As you can see, in the figure above, my Fedora 10 default installation of gtkpod defaults to using XDG. This is an outstanding GUI application for use with gtkpod. But let's make a simple change. Edit that line to read:

mpg123 %s

and click OK. Now go back to gtkpod, right click on a song and select "Play Now". The selected song should start playing. Now here's one issue with using a command line tool for playback: In order to stop playback you have to open a terminal window and issue the killall command. In our example you would issue the command killall -9 mpg123. Or you could wait for the song to complete. If you queue a number of songs for playback then you will definitetly have to issue the killall command to stop playback.

The same configuration holds true for an external GUI application. The good news about using a GUI application is that you can control the playback of the file much better.

Should you want to use XMMS for the playback of files you will most likely either have to delete the current XMMS (if you do not have mp3 support rolled into your current XMMS installation.) Say you are using Fedora. To change XMMS for mp3 support issue the following commands (as root):

rpm -e xmms (Only if XMMS is already installed)

yum install xmms-mp3

Now if you use XMMS as your playback application you would have xmms %s for your playback configuration.

Final Thoughts

Yes it's true, it would be nice if gtkpod had a built in player. However, having a reliable application for syncing an overly-flaky, yet overwhelmingly popular music device far outweighs having to configure the application to use a working playback system.


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  1. Olivier said on August 13, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    Thanks !!
    It works pretty fine. Indeed gtkpod deals well with my iPod Classic 120 Go 6G. It wasn’t the case (after several trials even on different PC and OS) of Floola that several people on internet describe as perfect. gtkpod is light and works out-of-the-box. On Ubuntu there is no more xmms installed nor available, so your help was precious, particularly about mpg123 use;
    I will continue to read your posts :-)

    Enjoy music with Linux + iPod !

  2. jack said on December 29, 2008 at 2:30 am


    i gave Floola a go (was going to write an article about it). with iPods it’s pretty flaky. i’ll check it out with another media player and see if it’s good to go. can i ask what device you are using it with?



  3. Paul. said on December 28, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    And again Jack, thanks for your directions. Your instructions were very helpful, again. Keep up the good work. Percy Mayfield wrote “hit the road Jack. I am writing “hit more road Jack!”
    Its ferry unfortunately that Ray Charles, can no longer sing this for you.

  4. johnboy said on December 28, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    I’d urge you to check out Floola. It works great as well and is cross platform.

    Has anyone found something that plays the iTunes proprietary format?

  5. jack said on December 28, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    both rhythmbox and amarok can be good but i have found them very flaky with iPod support. so much so i have had amarok fubar all of my data on a 5G 30 Gig iPod.
    now using Amarok and/or Ryhthmbox (or Banshee) with my Sansa Fuze is another story. all three apps handle this device perfectly.

  6. Nic Moon said on December 28, 2008 at 5:36 am

    So why not just use rythumbox or amarok as a player?

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