Audacious 4.0

People are passionate about the kinds of music they enjoy, which is perhaps why there are so many different music players for Linux. From the old school electro minimalism in XMMS to the audiophile prog rock madness of Amarok, there's something for every kind of listener with every kind of taste. Among this plethora is Audacious, a new favorite of ours. New is perhaps the wrong word for a project that's been around for 14 years, but it's the user interface (UI) overhaul in this release that's made the new version so effective. Audacious 4.0 switches its default graphical toolkit from the ancient GTK2 to the (soon to be deprecated) Qt 5, although in defense of the Qt port, moving to the imminent Qt 6 should be painless.

Moving to Qt has made a huge difference to the UI. By default, it's distraction-free and very clean. Drop the files you wish to play into the main window, and they become the play queue. Press play, and you simply have the output, complete with simple spectrogram, album thumbnail, and track description. It looks fantastic and is exactly what we'd consider an ideal UI for listening to music. But this being Qt, it's also easily augmented. Audacious provides many different UI embellishments, from a deluge of visualizers, including a 3D spectrogram and excellent VU meter, to lyrics, song details, and a list of online radio stations. When a new pane is enabled, it can be freely dragged within the main window or broken into a separate floating window. All these options are easily enabled and disabled from the excellent settings panel, from which you can also enable all kinds of audio effects if you need them. It's one of the best interfaces we've seen – simple and easy to navigate while somehow managing to package together as many options as even the most feature-rich music player.

Project Website

If you don't like the new UI in Audacious, you have the option to switch it back to a good old-fashioned XMMS skin.

Screen grabber


If there's one tool you rely on when writing these pages (other than a text editor, of course), it's the tool you use to make screenshots. It's not until you start taking lots of them, under all kinds of circumstances, that you realize there's a big difference between the old Windows equivalent of pressing PrtScn and hoping for the best, and something advanced enough to make your life easier. Specifically, it helps if a screenshot tool is unobtrusive, allows for a timer, saves with a sensible file name, remembers the save directory, works with OpenGL/compositing, and can grab a user-defined section of the screen. It's amazing how many screenshot tools there are, and yet how few can do all of this.

For a long time, my favorite screenshot tool was Plasma's default, Spectacle. It meets all of the above requirements and is a pleasure to use. It's particularly good at completely getting out of the way when you take a screenshot. But it was eventually beaten into second place by something called HotShots for one simple reason – HotShots incorporates an annotation tool. This is the icing on the cake when you need to leave notes and reminders on your screenshots for time-pushed magazine designers. But HotShots, frustratingly, never defaults to saving as PNG images and is way more clunky than Spectacle.

Fortunately, there's another tool that offers the best of both worlds, and it's another Plasma-based screenshot utility. Ksnip has quietly been improving for years, and it's impressive how far it has progressed. Its selection tool is the best we've encountered, with its crosshairs and updating magnified view of the cursor. It will even automatically upload images, either to Imgur or by using your own predefined script. But its best feature is the integrated editor that lets you smoothly draw, highlight, scale, crop, and numerically annotate your screenshots, saving huge amounts of time. You can even load external images and have more than one open at once. The only thing it can't do is take a screenshot of itself!

Project Website

Alongside its automatically numbered annotations, ksnip also lets you open previously saved image files and annotate them in the same way.

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