OpenPandora: put Pandora on your desktop

OpenPandora is an open source local client the delivers the Pandora online music service right to your desktop. It allows you to interact with Pandora from the main program dialog or from the tray icon.

If you’ve been abducted by aliens for the past decade and are not familiar with it, Pandora is a music recommendation engine and internet radio service based on the Music Genome Project (more on this here).

In essence it allows you to build your own radio station(s); all you have to do is provide an “inspiration”, so to speak, by specifying an artist or even a song that you would like your radio station to be similar or related to.

You can then “refine” your radio station by rating the tracks that Pandora serves you, giving them a thumbs up, a thumbs down, or being neutral and not giving a rating them.


I will mention that this review coincides with the release of the official Pandora desktop client. I had to make a decision on whether to review “Pandora Desktop” or OpenPandora; I’m, probably swimming against the tide but I and chose to review this one (the reasons for this are mentioned below). Here are more notes on this program:

  • The interface: looks exactly like the Pandora website (and Pandora desktop), and at that it looks great. It also provides a user experience identical to that of the Pandora website, so much so as to suggest that the code must have been available to third party developers as I cannot imagine this is simply a recreation.
  • openpandora in the system tray screenshotPandora in the system tray: OpenPandora puts many Pandora controls into the system tray, such as rating, pausing, and skipping songs. It also can popup a balloon notification whenever there’s a song change and will display song info if you mouse over the icon. I’ve also seen screenshots that seemed to depict the song artwork being displayed near the system icon on the program home page, but couldn’t find this option in the version I looked at.
  • Submitting song info to other services: specifically Last.fm, Windows Messenger, Xfire, and Skype. Last.fm integration in particular is a very interesting (and brilliant) idea in my opinion. OpenPandora will log into your Last.fm account and submit the song that you were listening to according to the following criteria (from the website) “after the track is completed and it was at least 2 minutes long; and if the track was skipped or uncompleted due to station change or marked as “I don’t
    like it” and played at least 2 minutes”. Unfortunately you cannot customize or change these criteria, and I will assume that they make sense even as I do not fully understand the thinking behind this same.
  • Lyrics: this option in theory performs an online search for the lyrics of the currently playing song on an external site; however when I tested it the site was not working properly. It would be nice if they allowed the user to customize the source of the lyrics search.
  • Memory usage: because this is an app that runs with Microsoft .NET, an accurate memory usage might be difficult to come by. It seems to consume as low as 12 megs when minimized to the tray and up to 60 when maximized. Thus this information is probably not useful.
  • Other options: control using global hotkeys, “mini” player, copy song details to clipboard, keep on top of other windows.

The points below illustrate some of the things that you can do with Pandora (and that you can do from within the OpenPandra client).

  • What you the user can do: aside from creating radio stations and rating songs, Pandora provides the ability to quickly find a song or artist, to bookmark songs or artists you encounter, to quickly get information on the artist being played (as well as listening to samples of their other music), to create new radio stations from the song or artist being played (or moving the song to another station you’ve created) and the option to quickly buy the music on Amazon or Itunes. There are a number of “social networking” functions that you can do as well (see below).
  • Sharing stations: what do you do with a cool station that you’ve created? Share it with a friend of course. You can also find other listeners that have similar interests (and yes, you can do all of this from the OpenPandora interface).
  • Quickmix: gives you the ability to listen to a any (or all) of your stations that you created rather than just one; all you have to do to place a check beside the ones you are interested in.
  • What you cannot do with Pandora: in theory you cannot log into Pandora outside the United States for copyright reasons, but it is possible to work around this (see this article). For some reason you have to listen to a song in its entirety or not at all (you cannot skip to the middle). You also can’t go back and listen to a song once you have moved forward.
  • Downloading songs: I was able to do this with Orbit Downloader’s Grab++ module. The songs are in FLV format and are significantly lower in volume once downloaded than what you hear in Pandora (which must somehow amplify them). They are also smaller than a typical 128 kbit MP3 and although I did not extract as MP3’s (FLV Extract will do this) I am guessing that they are lower in quality than the 128kbit minimum standard for near CD-quality. My advice: listen to this as online radio and find your downloads elsewhere.

The verdict: I love both the Pandora music service and OpenPandora and recommend this desktop client wholeheartedly. However, with the release of the official Pandora desktop client you have the option to use that one instead. Here are the reasons why I opted for OpenPandora:

  • Prerequisites: Pandora desktop requires Adobe Air while OpenPandora requires the much more prevalent .NET Framework.
  • Memory usage: even as it is hard to know OpenPandora’s real memory usage, Pandora Desktop with Adobe Air shoots up to well over 100 megs on my machine.
  • The look and feel: although they look so much alike as to be hard to distinguish at times, OpenPandora feels much more like a desktop app, in my opinion. Pandora Desktop sometimes feels like just another instance of the browser.
  • Communicating with Last.Fm (and other services): I find this, which OpenPandora provides, quite interesting. I am hoping they expand on it.
  • Open source: another point in favor of OpenPandora.

Version Tested: 0.6.8

Compatibility: Windows XP, Vista. Requires Microsoft .NET Framework.

Go to the program home page to download the latest version (approx 723K).


 
 
 
Samer Kurdi

Samer Kurdi

Has been reviewing software since 2006 when he started Freewaregenius.com
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  • Chad

    Sadly, due to licensing constraints, Pandora can no longer allow access for listeners located outside of the U.S.

  • Dimension-X

    12 MB for this is not low. And 60 MB maximized is definitely bloated. And the option to instantly buy songs via link makes me wonder who’s behind this. No rewind. No skip. Come on, that sucks. Looks rather like a social networking plaything with low playback quality. Well anyway, I can just not figure out why people like stuff like this. But then I also never quite understood why people like the iPod when there are better sounding devices with more options out there. Beats me, really.

  • Samer

    @Chad: for instructions on how you might use it outside the US, check out this link: http://openpandora.blogspot.com/2007/06/complete-guide-for-using-openpandora.html

    @Dimension-X: I’m not sure if you’re criticizing Pandora or the OpenPandora client, but I personally hold both in great esteem.

    The option to buy songs is built into Pandora (just as if you were to use it within your browser). It goes to fund Pandora, not OpenPandora.

    I personally like Pandora because it is a fantastic music recommendation engine based on some nifty technology. It’s also free. In my view Pandora is the best of web radio, and as such is worth the resource expenditure. The playback quality is very good; I suggest you simply try it out at http://www.Pandora.com without having to install anything (though you will have to create an account).

    You can’t rewind or jump to the middle, but of course you CAN skip at will, which I might not have stated clearly in my review. Again this a function of Pandora not OpenPandora. I always thought that the reasons for this might have to do with copyright issues, but somebody please enlighted me if you know the reason.

    As for the Ipod analogy; Pandora, unlike the Ipod, is a free service.

  • Sal Monella

    Pandora is one of the greatest online radio streaming sites around, along with Slacker.com. OpenPandora really makes Pandora more like a service than a website. OpenPandora is nice, but hopefully they will expand on it in the future.

  • CT

    Brilliant!
    I *LOVE* Pandora, and have discovered a lot of great music because of their Free service – Name an Artist or Song you like, it plays other Music with similar Sounds or Style – No-Registration to ‘Test Drive’, the Audio Quality is Good – TRY IT!
    Note – Only a limited number of ‘Skips’ per hour, but seldom am issue!

  • Rogerebert

    I’ve been using this for almost 2 years now. But with stiff competition from slacker, and grooveshark the field is getting thick. Pandora has great variety if you like all types of music but repeats a lot for those with limited taste.

  • http://tech4eleven.com cory

    thanks man. this is exactly what I was looking for and its great! looks just like pandora. and i like that it displays the name of the song at the top left of the window.

  • Pattto

    Hi,
    For who lives out side USA I found a vpn solution for android, iphone, mac, pc to open panadora and many others radios, tv and sites that need a local ip i use it and now i can enter to panadora, hulu+ in any time with out any problem (Sorry, Pandora is not available in this country).
    you can see here (site in french)
    http://mytf1.blogspot.com/
    here the url of the site translated in english:
    http://translate.google.fr/translate?sl=fr&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fmytf1.blogspot.com%2F

    Before
    [IMG]http://i1116.photobucket.com/albums/k576/oneclic/VPN/PandoraproblemcountryliveTVradioSitevpnus.jpg[/IMG]

    After
    [IMG]http://i1116.photobucket.com/albums/k576/oneclic/VPN/PandoraliveTVradioiphoneSitevpnus.jpg[/IMG]

    Im realy satisfy, hope that i have helped

  • disqule

    I found other vpn who resolved the problem of pandora and hulu restrictions and give more than 5 US private ip, cool!!
    http://pandoraoutusa.blogspot.com

  • disqule
  • http://www.tipsome.com Palla Sridhar

    http://www.tipsome.com/23/listen-pandora-usa-without-proxy.html

    Very easy way to listen to pandora outside usa.

  • StellaRoyce

    this app seems abandoned now. i’ve found a better client for pandora here:
    http://pandorian.djnitehawk.com/

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