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JuK is a KDE audio player, designed, unlike Noatun, to manage large collections of compressed music. Inspired by Rhythmbox, iTunes, Zinf, and (to a lesser degree) Windows Media Player, it collects all the audio files in the directories you give it (e.g. /home/rpgeek/music) and builds a 'collection list', from which you can select playlists or just play songs randomly.

The playlist feature is versatile; you can create a playlist simply by selecting a group of files in the collection list and selecting an item from the context menu. Playlists (including the collection list) can be sorted by the artist, title, track number, length, album name, year, or file name, or be in a custom order. There is an option to randomise playlists, and one to loop them, as well as an option to select a file to play next. The program can also automatically generate a playlist with your playing history, similar to a web browser history, although you have to activate the history playlist before it starts logging files.

JuK was originally qtagger, an ID3 tag editing program for Qt. There came a point in qtagger's lifetime where it seemed to becoming more of a player and less of a tagger, so the code was rewritten along those lines and became JuK. Given its heritage, JuK has a very good tagger integrated into the player. A pane showing the characteristics and tag contents of the selected file can be displayed, allowing those characteristics that are editable to be edited. This is where the first feature that distinguishes JuK from the competition appears; one of the editable characteristics is the filename. This makes fixing the filenames of your mp3s as easy as fixing the title information. A further very nice feature is the ability to select multiple files and change tag fields in all of them at once. For example, if your CD ripping program messed up the title of an album, you can select all of the files from that album and change the Album field for all of them at once. It also has a capability to guess album tags, but, having not used it, the accuracy of this feature is unknown to me.

JuK supports both GStreamer and aRts for audio output, with GStreamer being more fragile but faster, and aRts being slower but more compatible. Both methods provide both MP3 and Ogg Vorbis decoding. Starting with the version in KDE 3.3, JuK also integrates with K3b to provide CD burning, although the support is still quite rudimentary.

The interface is simple, with a list of playlists along the left, the main playlist view in the upper right filling most of the window, and, if enabled, the tagger pane in the lower right. A toolbar at the top provides the basic play controls. Newer versions also have a search field at the top of the playlist that can be tremendously useful in a 2000+ entry collection like mine. It docks in the system tray allowing access to the play controls from any virtual desktop, and can also be controlled by other programs through DCOP. KDE 3.2 and up include a panel applet, MediaControl, that uses this to control JuK.

JuK was originally a standalone application, but it was added to the KDE distribution in KDE 3.2. The current release of JuK is 2.1 and is included in KDE 3.3. The last standalone version is version 1.95 (2.0 Beta 1) and it can be found at the JuK homepage at http://developer.kde.org/~wheeler/juk.html


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This writeup is copyright 2003-2004 D.G. Roberge and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence. Details can be found at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/ .

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