How to Play Ogg Vorbis Files from the Linux Command Line

HeadphonesIf you’re a dedicated user of free and open source software, chances are your dedication goes beyond just software. You probably try to use as many open file formats as you can. Document formats, video formats, and audio formats. Especially audio formats.

In the world of free and open source software, a popular format is Ogg Vorbis. Ogg Vorbis offers comparable audio quality and file compression as MP3, but without all the potential hassles the come from the patents that apply to MP3.

Just about every free and open source desktop media player supports Ogg Vorbis. But what if you want a player that’s a little lighter, or are using a stripped-down Linux distribution on an older, underpowered computer? The obvious answer: turn to the command line.

Using a command line application called ogg123, you can play back your Ogg Vorbis files without a lot of overhead.

Installing ogg123

ogg123 isn’t a standalone application. It’s part of a package called vorbis-tools. vorbis-tools comes pre-installed with a number of Linux distributions. To find out if it’s installed in yours, open a terminal window and type the following command:

which ogg123

If the command returns something like the following (/usr/bin/ogg123 in this example), then you’re ready to go.
Is ogg123 installed?

Otherwise, you need to install vorbis-tools. You can do that using your favorite package manager. If vorbis-tools isn’t available, then you can download and install it manually.

Using ogg123

Open a terminal window and change to the directory containing the files that you want to play. Then type the command ogg123 *.oga. This will play all of the files in the directory, in order.

That’s not very exciting, is it? If you want to shuffle the tracks to play them randomly, then type ogg123 -z *.oga.

Playing an Ogg Vorbis file

If you’ve ripped songs off of a CD, chances are the ripping process created a playlist file (with the extension .m3u). You can use that with ogg123 by typing the command ogg123 -@ playlist.m3u, substituting the actual name of the file for playlist.

To jump to the next track, press CTRL+C on your keyboard.

Note that ogg123 has a number of options. You can view them by typing ogg123 at the command line or viewing this reference.

Dealing with Cover Art

Music files, no matter what their formats, contain a number of tags. These tags include the title of the track, the name of the album, the artist, and the like. One of the tags also points to cover art. When you play the file in a graphical music player, an image of the album’s cover appears in the player.

If an Ogg Vorbis file you’re playing with ogg123 contains the cover art tag, ogg123 will try to render the art. However, you won’t get the image. Instead, you’ll get a stream of numbers and letters, like this:

Trying to render cover art. Not pretty!

There’s no way to suppress this, sorry.

Summing Up

ogg123 is a simple yet effective media player for the Linux command line. It’s easy to use and does a very good job. It has one or two small quirks, but those are easy to ignore. In fact, once you start using ogg123 you might just wind up using it instead of your favorite GUI music player.

Photo credit: celiece

Songbird Media Player: Still Available For Linux

Back in April, the developers of the open-source application Songbird announced that they would be dropping official support for the Linux version of the media player. This was a huge shock to the open-source community. When version 1.7 of Songbird was released, only Windows and Mac versions were available for download.

To my surprise, Sondbird for Linux is still available for download with unofficial support.  This has been made possible by extra work from developers and the software community.

Downloading Songbird for Linux

To download the Linux version of Songbird navigate to the Songbird Developer’s Wiki.  On the Contributed Builds page, select either the 32-bit or 64-bit version and download the tarball.

Once downloaded, extract the files and copy the Songbird folder to anywhere you wish.  I usually put software into /opt but you generally need root access to do that.

To start Songbird you can double-click the file named songbird or execute “sh /path/to/Songbird/songbird” from the terminal.

The main software dependency required by Songbird is gstreamer.  If you’re running Songbird on a mainstream Linux distribution like Fedora or Ubuntu, you shouldn’t have any problems running Songbird as gstreamer should already be installed.

If you have any questions be sure to comment below.

How to Enable Crossfading and Auto Volume Leveling in Windows Media Player 12

One thing I noticed while using the new Windows Media Player 12 (which comes pre-installed with Windows 7) was that the options to enable crossfading and auto volume leveling appeared to be missing.

After doing a little searching, I found that the options were still available but they were now hidden in an unusual location.

Enabling Crossfading and Auto Volume Leveling

To gain access to the audio enhancements that were available in previous versions of Windows Media Player, you need to change Windows Media Player 12 to Now Playing mode or Skin View.  The easiest way to do this is to click the Switch to Now Playing button shown below.

While in Now Playing mode, press the Alt key on your keyboard to display the menu, then select View –> Enhancements.  You will now have access to crossfading and auto volume leveling, as well as play speed, quiet mode, SRS WOW effects, Dolby Digital settings, and video settings.

Update 12/29/10: If you can’t find the Enhancements menu mentioned in the previous paragraph, try right-clicking the Now Playing window and look for the Enhancements menu there.

Songbird: The Firefox of Media Players

Songbird, built by former Winamp, Netscape, and Firefox designers and developers, is fast on it’s way to becoming a large competitor in the media player category.  The free and open source Songbird has been in development since early 2006.

Recently released by the Songbird team is version 1.4.2 of the Songbird media player.  Although Songbird is not widely known, mainstream features are being added with each release.  Still in its infancy, Songbird already has many features to offer to users.

Download and Install

Before you get started, it will be necessary to download and install Songbird.  Songbird is available for Windows, Linux, and OS X.  Visit the Songbird website and download the correct version for your system.

After Songbird has been installed the setup assistant will launch to help you configure Songbird.


You will want to point Songbird to the location of your music files on your computer.  Checking the “Watch this directory for changes” checkbox will ensure that Songbird is notified if any files are changed within the specified directory and will update the library to reflect the changes.


Songbird has the ability to install add-ons just like the Firefox web browser.  Add-ons allow users to add to the functionality and customize Songbird to their own liking.  The process for installing add-ons in Songbird is similar to installing add-ons in Firefox.


When finished with the setup assistant, you will be brought to the welcome screen.



Once you have finish the initial setup of Songbird, you will be brought to the program’s main window.  Songbird is launched by default with a list view of your music library, as shown below.


List view is a very clumsy layout for Songbird.  Depending on the size of your music library, it may be difficult to easily browse through it.  Thankfully Songbird includes another layout, Filter Pane View.  With the Filter Pane View, your music library is broken down by Genere, Artist, and Album, making it extremely easy to navigate through your library.  The Filter Pane View is shown below.


To switch between the layouts, click the appropriate button next to the Songbird search box as shown.



Songbird includes a feature call Feathers.  Also known as skins, Feathers give you the ability to chose a different color scheme for Songbird.  To find other Feathers for Songbird, click View > Feathers > Get More Feathers… and a new tab will open within Songbird showing other Feathers available for download.



Add-ons are a great way to add more features and functionality to any software.  Recently, the number of add-ons available for Songbird has significantly increased.  To view or install add-ons, navigate to Tools > Add-ons… and the window shown below will appear.  Clicking the Get Extensions button will open a tab within Songbird that will allow you to browse the available add-ons.


Some of my favorite add-ons for Songbird include:

  • – Publish your playback history to and listen to Radio through Songbird.
  • mashTape – Adds a bottom pane that displays information about the current artist from many different sources.
  • LyricMaster – Shows lyrics to the currently playing song in the right side pane.
  • CD RIP Support – Required add-on to allow Songbird to rip CDs. (Note: CD ripping is currently only available in Windows.)
  • SHOUTcast Radio – Displays the directory of SHOUTcast Internet radio streams

Portable Device Support

An important feature in Songbird is it’s portable device support.  Since early in it’s development, Songbird has supported syncing to popular devices such as Apple’s iPods and Creative Zen portable devices.  Take a look at the following pages to see if you portable device is supported.

Other Features

Since early in it’s release, Songbird has supported importing an iTunes library.  If switching to Songbird as your primary media player, this can be an important step as you will be able to save your current library and playlists.


Just added in Songbird 1.4.2 is CD ripping support.  Available formats to save ripped CDs include Ogg, FLAC, and WMA.  Saving to MP3 is not supported.  Only the Windows version of Songbird supports CD ripping.  The CD ripping add-on is required.


Added in Songbird version 1.2 is an equalizer.  This great addition allows for users to have more control over sound output.  To open the equalizer navigate to Controls > Equalizer… and the window shown will open.


Although the main view of Songbird is feature filled, it is quite large and can sometimes be in the way.  Songbird has an added Mini Player that will shrink down the program to the most basic functions, shown below.  The Songbird Mini Player is a great way to have Songbird in the foreground so it can be seen, but small enough to be out of sight and easily moved. To access the Mini Player, navigate to View > Mini Player.


Final Thoughts

I’ve been using Songbird as my primary media player since version 0.7 and in that time I’ve seen many improvement in the media player.  The latest release is significantally faster and resource friendly.  I have been seeing around half of the memory usage with Version 1.4.2 than with any previous version.

If you’re looking to try a new, featured filled media player and support open source software at the same time, then I suggest that you give Songbird a try.