Recently I have had a lot of people asking how to play various media files in Linux. Since most users are migrating over from either Mac or Windows, they are either used to one single application handling their media files or at least knowing exactly what apps handle each media type. When they migrate over all of a sudden there is no Windows Media Player or iTunes. And then comes the bombardment of different applications to choose from! All of this combined makes for some difficult usage.
And so...I thought it would be smart to write about the best tools to play certain media types. Understand that these are the best in my opinion. You might hear differently from every other user.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the best audio and video viewing tools available.
XMMS. Call me a purist but for straight up audio you can not beat XMMS. No you will not be able to manage your iPod with this tool. But for pure music enjoyment, nothing beats it. And if you were a Winamp user you are in luck because it works the same way. There is one hiccup with using XMMS. If you plan on playing MP3 files, like everyone does, you'll have to uninstall the XMMS installed on your distribution (if one was in fact installed), and make sure you install the player xmms-mp3 instead. Once installed you can enjoy: mp3, acc, ape, flac, icecase/shoutcast, ogg, shn, speex, tta, wav, wavpack, wma. XMMS is also themeable for all you desktop hipters ;-).
Of all the music managers, my favorite is Rhythmox. Rhythmbox was inspired by iTunes so, as you can imagine, it integrates well with iPods and other such devices. And although you can not use Rhythmbox with the iTunes store, you can download music from both Magnatune and Jamendo. Rythmbox also supports DAAP sharing which allows you to connect to a centralized server. Rhythmbox uses Gstreamer so it supports a wide range of audio formats.
Banshee is another favorite that manages to one-up Rhythmbox by being the first Linux media manager to integrate with the Android-based G1 phone. Banshee offers all of the features of Rhythmbox minus the ability to download music from a "store". Banshee does, however, include last.fm stream support. The list of audio files Banshee supports is smaller than that of XMMS mp3, acc, ogg, and wav.
Mplayer is not usually the default video player in Linux nor is it the easiest to install or get running. But when you do get it installed and running it works flawlessly. There are some distributions (such as Elive Compiz) that install MPlayeras the default movie player which plays video files and DVDs perfectly.
VLC is typically the favorite "universal" media player. This little gem really can play it all. And the beauty of VLC is that it's cross platform, so if you know VLC in Windows or Mac, you will know it in Linux. VLC supports MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, mp3, ogg, as well as DVDs, VCDs, and streaming. VLC is not nearly the installation nightmare of most other video players. If your distribution does not default to VLC, you might want to give it a try before you resign yourself to the idea that Linux and video do not make good bedfellows.
When all else fails, XINE. XINE is one of the more well done, reliable, versatile of the media players. XINE plays CDs, DVDs, VCDs,? and decodes multimedia files like AVI, MOV, WMV, and MP3. You can also install support for mov and mp4 media as well as real player files. XINE is that media player I install when my current distro doesn't play well with VLC or Mplayer.
Viewing media files doesn't have to be difficult, even in the Linux operating system. Although this list isn't exhaustive, it is the best of the best IMHO. Any of the above players should work well for you.
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