A Word on Back-ends and Front-ends
Ubuntu offers a wide range of multimedia applications through its Main, Universe, and Multiverse repositories. To help you choose the most suitable music player or video editor, it is useful to differentiate between the media players themselves (or ‘front-ends’) and the playback engines (the ‘back-ends’) they use.
The front-ends are the applications that you interact with on your desktop. Some are tightly integrated with the three desktop environments, GNOME, Xfce, and KDE; others are platform-independent. Whilst some applications, such as MPlayer and XMMS, use their own playback engines, others make use of the two most popular back-ends, the GStreamer and xine frameworks. Some players support both the GStreamer and xine back-ends.
Your choice will thus depend on the right combination of features, performance, choice of media formats, preferred desktop environment, and personal preference.
This page describes the most popular front-ends: media players, music and video editors, podcast and streaming applications. For more information on GStreamer, xine and the (free and non-free) media formats they support, see RestrictedFormats.
This Wiki Page
This page seeks to direct users to software most suited to their needs. It is grouped into three sections: applications used primarily for music, for video, and for editing, as well as a miscellaneous section. While, for example, some apps labeled as “music player” will play video as well, if their primary use is for music playback, they will be classified as such. Feel free to add your favorite media player to the list if you wish.
Rhythmbox is GNOME’s default music player. Inspired by Apple’s iTunes, it is simple to use and meets most needs with playlist support, iPod integration, podcast playback, streaming, et cetera. In addition, users are able to browse the DRM-free music stores Magnatune and Jamendo. For more information, see the Rhythmbox homepage.
Amarok is an extremely popular and feature-filled music management tool and the default player in KDE. For those who want a highly robust application with dozens of options, such as Wikipedia integration for info about artists, songs, and albums; Last.fm AutoScrobbler; lyrics support; iPod connection; and others, Amarok makes a worthy choice. It uses both the xine and GStreamer back-ends. See Amarok’s website to learn more.
Another robust application along the lines of Amarok and Rhythmbox, Banshee shares many of the previously mentioned players’ features. Excellent iPod support, Last.fm streaming, playlists, and album art are a few of its bells and whistles. For a relatively new project, Banshee is very powerful, and another great choice for anyone who wants a strapping quality music player. Visit Banshee’s homepage for more info.
Exaile is a music player similar to Amarok, but written in Python and for GTK+. It incorporates automatic fetching of album art, handling of large libraries, lyrics fetching, artist/album information via Wikipedia, Last.fm submission support, and optional iPod support via a plugin.
In contrast to the apps above, Audacious is a featherweight program designed to play music files and not much else. It supports all popular formats and makes a useful all-purpose media player for someone who listens occasionally to one file at a time. See Audacious’s website if you’re curious.
Like Audacious, Aqualung is a slim application that supports all popular formats without complaint. It has optional playlist support, and runs usefully in the background when its window is closed. If you are looking for a player that will unobtrusively play all of your music, Aqualung is an excellent choice. Aqualung’s homepage includes user guides and other information.
Decibel Audio Player
Decibel resembles Aqualung in many ways, playing all standard formats with a and minimalistic and easy-to-use interface. It includes a useful file browser in the left pane so that you can easily locate and play any music on your system. Playlist support is available, but not too convenient. Unlike Aqualung, Decibel does not include the option of running in the background. More information can be found at the Decibel site.
As GNOME’s default movie player, Totem does its job quite well. It plays all popular formats, as long as the proper codecs are installed, including music, CD’s, and DVD’s. For those who like their players to do everything, Totem isn’t the best choice. Nonetheless, Totem is certainly deserving of its position as GNOME’s movie player; for additional info, see the Totem website.
gxine is a no-nonsense GUI for the xine framework. It plays DVD’s with menu support. Music formats are also supported. gxine also streams a number of live radio stations.
MPlayer is a quite popular movie player, widely considered a jack-of-all-trades, that plays literally dozens of formats. For a go-to application that does nearly everything, you’ll have no trouble selecting MPlayer.
Kaffeine is the default all-purpose multimedia player for KDE. It uses xine as back-end by default, but also works with gstreamer and KPlayer if installed. It supports DVD playback with menus, multiple playlists, a 10-band equalizer, and a CD cover manager. It rips and burns audio CDs to MP3 and Ogg Vorbis, streams audio and video and supports LIRC. For more information, visit the Kaffeine website.
Audio Recording, Editing and Converting
Audacity's acclaim isn’t limited to average Ubuntu users; it was named by PC World as one of the 100 Best Products of 2008 and holds a position in PC Magazine’s Hall of Fame for Best Free Software. Although it’s not laden with enough features for a recording studio, it’s renowned as being powerful yet easy-to-use. Curious? See Audacity’s site.
This minimalistic application, which comes preinstalled with Ubuntu, does precisely what its name suggests. It records sound from a mic into .flac, .ogg or .wav, and not much else.
Ardour is a professional digital audio workstation. Capable of professional sound mixing and mastering. It is not for beginners, but the professional will find it extremely useful. See http://www.ardour.org
UbuntuStudio is a collection of audio, video, and graphical software as well as some internal configuration to make thing run smoother. It is highly recommended for anyone interested in semi-professional audio work. See http://www.ubuntustudio.org
LMMS stands for “Linux Multimedia Studio,” and it’s a fully-featured digital audio workstation (DAW), not for the faint-hearted. If you feel prepared to deal with LMMS’s many features, you may want to see their website for more information.
Unsurprisingly, Sound Converter is, well, a sound converter for the GNOME environment. It reads anything the GStreamer library can read (Ogg Vorbis, AAC, MP3, FLAC, WAV, AVI, MPEG, MOV, M4A, AC3, DTS, ALAC, MPC, Shorten, APE, SID, etc...), and writes WAV, FLAC, MP3, and Ogg Vorbis files. See its homepage for more.
Video Recording, Editing and Converting
Cheese is a simple tool to record movies from the pc webcam. It saves videos with theora codec.
Open Movie Editor
Open Movie Editor is a tool that permits to edit your videos with a certain simplicity and it is a valuable choice to pitivi.
From Jahshaka’s own website, this program is a “serious tool for serious people.” It’s got everything you need to create stellar videos worthy of Hollywood studios. With the ability to work with any format and at any resolution, Jahshaka (and its website) is certainly something to have a look at.
DVD Ripping and Authoring
AcidRip is a popular DVD ripper that gets its job done quickly and efficiently. Check out its homepage for a full list of features.
K3b is a CD/DVD authoring application designed for the K Desktop Environment. It provides a GUI for creating data, mixed-mode and audio CD’s, VCD’s and DVD’s. It copies single and multi-session CD’s, VCD’s, and DVD’s. K3b uses the command line utilities cdrecord, cdrdao, and growisofs for disk burning. For more information, visit the K3b website.
CD, DVD burning
Brasero Disk Burning
Brasero, an efficient and versatile CD/DVD burning application, is certainly worthy of its place as the default burning program for GNOME. It does precisely what it is supposed to do without complaint.
Like Brasero, K3b is a CD/DVD burning application, the difference being that this one is designed for the K Desktop Environment. It provides a GUI for creating data, mixed-mode and audio CD’s, VCD’s and DVD’s. It copies single and multi-session CD’s, VCD’s, and DVD’s. K3b uses the command line utilities cdrecord, cdrdao, and growisofs for disk burning. For more information, visit the K3b website.
VLC (formerly the VideoLAN Client) is a kind of Swiss Army knife of media players. It plays any file you can throw at it, audio or video; plays DVD’s and CD’s; boasts a variety of skins; and much more. To install VLC, just install the following package: vlc.
Streamtuner is a stream directory browser. The idea is simple: Browse through internet streaming directories to locate radio stations or broadcasts you like, bookmark them and play them with your favorite media player. Streamtuner includes support for some of the largest directories and listings of internet radio stations and live broadcasts such as SHOUTcast, Live365, Xiph and basic.ch. With the help of an additional software package called streamripper, you can record your streams or live broadcasts and save them to your hard drive so you can listen to them at a later time. For more information, visit the Streamtuner web page.
Elisa is a sort of Internet browser/media player mixed into one, which is useful if you access a lot of your media over the Web. You can play your own files as well as those found on the ’net. See Elisa’s homepage if you’re curious, or ElisaMediaCenter to learn how to install and run it on Ubuntu.
gtk-recordMyDesktop is a graphical frontend for recordMyDesktop that permits to record desktop sessions (audio and video sream) in ogg files.
XBMC Media Center
XBMC Media Center (formerly XBox Media Center) is a free and open source cross-platform digital media hub and HTPC (Home Theater PC) software with a 10-foot user interface designed to be a media player for the living-room TV using only a remote control as the input device.
Flash Player plugin installation
You will need the Flash plug-in for web browsers to play video files.
To install, open up the Terminal and type:
sudo apt-get install flashplugin-nonfree
After installation, restart Firefox and enjoy the world of moving images.
The free formats page
The restricted formats page
The Common Tasks Chapter of the Ubuntu Desktop Guide