Banshee is an open source freeware multimedia manager that will help you organize and centralize your media.
It is loaded with tons of options for sorting, organizing and playing your music and video files, and even has a nifty ‘favorites’ feature that tracks what files you play most often and remembers them for use in shuffles and other playlist options.
There’s never been a shortage of free programs to play multimedia files, and Banshee comes into the game fairly late, but it comes in strong with some great features and a very clean looking interface.
Add to those the fact that it is an open source program, which means that there are levels of customization not available with other kinds of programs, and Banshee makes a good showing. Banshee is multiplatform (Windows, Linux, Mac).
The interface for Banshee is one of the first things that caught my attention. Anytime you’re using a program that is meant to organize and/or display information on multiple files, the interface can be a boon or a bust. Banshee has what I would call a very ‘clean’ looking interface. There’s no crazy color scheme, no wild patterns for the windows, and the layout of the information on your files flows easily and without eye strain. This might sound like something that could be easily overlooked or taken for granted but the experienced mediaphile will find it to be a definite pro for Banshee.
The basic layout consists of a Folders menu along the left side, where you can navigate the different locations and media types on your computer, and the right side of the window shows individual files along with cover art and other detailed information. It also features a nice “Fullscreen” option that will let you bring Banshee to the top of other windows and have it fill the screen, even if you’re only playing audio files without video.
As an organizational tool, Banshee is very solid and well planned. First off, it allows you to import your media (either audio or video) in a variety of different ways. You can import individual files one by one, entire folders full of files at once, and even scan and sync with portable media players, Amazon mp3s, iTunes music files or other types of eMusic. I tried importing some DRM protected files as well as open media, and neither of them caused any kind of problem or error.
Essentially, no matter what your media files are stored on and no matter where you obtained them, Banshee is ready to sort and play them for you. This is really the biggest draw to use Banshee from my point of view. There are plenty of programs to play your media files, and there’s no shortage of programs that organize them, so it only makes sense to put both into one program. Secondly, Banshee also allows you to connect to sites like Last.fm and interact with your account there. Basically, any songs that you access via Last.fm can be played through Banshee and vice versa. This is a nice addition to the program that expands its usefulness beyond locally stored files.
Once you’ve imported your files, sorted them to your heart’s desire and connected to your various online and outside media, Banshee allows you to create and sort playlists of those files. Some programs will only allow one media type in a given playlist but Banshee is one of those superior programs that allows you to mix different file types, sources and locations. Each playlist can be created by hand, adding individual files that you select, or you can create ‘smart’ playlists. These lists are dynamically created by Banshee based on variables that you select. For example, you can create a smart playlist that only contains files from a specific genre of music, or a specific location, even a specific BPM (beats per minute) rate. There are tons of options and variables you can select for creating your smart playlists and once created you still have even more options for sorting and organizing those playlists in whatever way you choose.
In addition to the features mentioned here, Banshee also has most of the more common options like showing album art, tons of options for playback, and five star rating systems. It can help you find and subscribe to podcasts, sync your different devices to a single location, and even offers multiple different shuffle styles. Banshee is a great little program that might just be the media solution you have been looking for. As mentioned, there are tons of programs out there for media management, so Banshee is in good company and while I wouldn’t say Banshee is the best program I have ever seen, it is a solid and viable alternative to the various other programs out there if they don’t fit your needs, desires or preferences. Given the price tag and the fact that it is an open source program (so it can be modified to your heart’s content if you know what you’re doing), Banshee is worth trying out to see if it fits you.
Until next time, my friends.
Download Banshee here