WinAMP 5.5

The 5.5 version of Winamp came out today, just in time to celebrate one decade of the music software. On Windows platforms, it has often been a favorite of mine. There were times when it fell from my personal spotlight, but through operability, perseverance, and the focus of the development team on great new feature sets that were not available elsewhere, they often saw me trudging back in their direction.

Way back in the early days of MP3 technology, Winamp was the easiest and best option, and besides that, it was the only decent one out at the time that was free of charge (for the basic verion). Yes, Virginia, Windows Media Player did live in the forest during these dark times, but she would not embrace the MP3 format for a few years, opting to push her own agendas, mainly being standard wav formats, as well as her own wma and wmv. Besides, she was highly inflexible, and very few features to speak of. I can’t think of a time when Winamp wasn’t flexible and friendly. It plays tons of audio and video formats, has visualizations, and completely customizable with plugins, skins, and assortments of software development kits if you REALLY want to tweak it, or can’t find someone else’s plugin that does what you want. and that’s been from the very beginning.

Nullsoft has always distributed a single MP3 file with every install. It plays as soon as you launch the player for the first time, so that you know that it is working, and DJ Mike Llama proclaims, “WINAMP! It really whips the llama’s ass!” The company’s name is sort of a jab at Microsoft. Micro-soft being “soft” as in software, and micro- as in the greek µ, meaning small. Null is the term for “empty or missing”, it was “smaller than micro($oft)”. Nullsoft is noted for inventing awesome things as Winamp, Gnutella, Beep, and SHOUTcast, among others, and these are almost all open source.

Winamp sold out to AOL back in ’99, and really suffered for a while, then a couple of years later, lost more market share with the launch of iTunes.

If you have no idea what mp3, wma, wav, or any of this other stuff is about, or if you are just curious, links to increasingly geeky background info starts off by clicking here, by clicking here, or maybe even by clicking here, and continues until you have completely worn out your browser and search engine, of course! …but I got you started.

So it’s time to light ten candles on the Winamp cake, and then it’s ten lashes for the llama’s ass!

Some of the new features:

  • single, unified window (though old school Photochop and GIMP geeks like me never mind grouping functionality and hiding what you won’t use for a while)
  • dynamic sing recommendations(smells like Pandora?)
  • surround sound support for mp3’s
  • there’s a mass auto tagger (I’ve been using an external program for this for a while. awesome!)
  • Podcast directory and auto-downloader(w00t!)
  • even more portable devices supported(yeah. even ipods.), with seperate sync options for each(for those of us with different sizes and brands of portable players)