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Author Topic: IDEA: small plugin-toolbar (or similar) audio player in Windows Explorer  (Read 7531 times)

goldencut

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Hi,

I've been searching for the 'perfect' audio player my whole life... sad, eh? Well, maybe there isn't actually ONE that is always perfect, but there are some things I know I like. I have ended up using 1by1 (http://mpesch3.de1.cc/1by1.html) which is almost perfect, but it crashes. I've twiddled with it quite a bit, but to no avail. Also, it duplicates Windows Explorer interface, which is kind of redundant. Foobar is too rigid because of it's roots and heritage, it's 'take it like it is or leave it'.
I've seen many different toolbars and gadgets made for Windows (XP) Explorer that enhance its functionality, but none to play media files straight in explorer window. In my wet dreams there would be a small toolbar (Explorer allows 3rd party toolbars to be added) that shows regular playback buttons - play/pause, prev, next, file name, maybe time elapsed/remained/total, bitrate etc. It could be without any configuration interface - registry keys or .ini file can be manually edited that one time when you set it up, or .reg files could be used. It would play the file that is selected in Explorer when 'play' is pressed, 'next' would play next in that folder etc. One could browse around in Explorer while the player would play files from the folder it was started from, when it reaches the end of the folder it would play next folder (configurable option). It would be nice if it could play files and folders based on sorting criteria that user has selected in Explorer - alphabetically, size, modification date etc. When clicking on playing file name (or extra button) on the toolbar it would take user to the folder where currently playing file resides. All other things, like ID-tag editing, file operations, searching etc can be done with Explorer functionality or existing Explorer add-ons. It could use internal codecs, system codecs (ACM, FFA etc) or codec libraries in specific folder (Bass, mpglib etc); which one to use could be user configurable. It would be simple and perfect. In attached sketch there's the bare minimum of the idea, no explorer tree visible etc but I hope it brings some clarity to my rambling.

PS. In addition to or in place of the player toolbar (if it's too difficult to implement) maybe player controls in Explorer's right-click menu? Many programs put stuff in that menu, why not audio player controls and some info on the track playing there? Take a look at my second sketch.

PS.PS. I've found another, new player that plays from explorer-like interface - Resonic at http://resonic.at/ . But it's alpha quality and although  it looks attractive it's quite slow on older hardware. The interface pretty much duplicates Windows Explorer interface, only it's slower, and adds huge visualisation of waveform which I have no practical use for... And it only sorts folders alphabetically. So the same theme is done again, but also with same mistakes/shortcomings.

BR,
G.
« Last Edit: March 13, 2013, 08:26:53 AM by goldencut, Reason: Added info about Resonic »

y0himba

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I wanted something similar, a small toolbar to control Winamp.  Something that integrates directly into Windows Explorer or the title bar of whatever program I happen to be using...
My Web Site:  http://www.y0himba.net

skwire

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I wanted something similar, a small toolbar to control Winamp.  Something that integrates directly into Windows Explorer or the title bar of whatever program I happen to be using...

http://web.archive.o...ware/WinampBar41.exe

It's old, but it still seems to work fairly well.  YMMV.

goldencut

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ANY feedback would be nice at this point - it's too complicated, it's impossible, it's been done already, it's stupid... anything...
Nobody else would like to just browse through their music collection and play a track when they find a one they like, right there, without starting any snazzy players etc?

Curt

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You are probably looking for a modern version of CustomBar.
Sadly, it was not really updated for the new millennium...

2013-03-15_001249.png

$20 http://www.custombar.net/

Anyway, read http://www.donationc...dex.php?topic=6499.0


« Last Edit: March 14, 2013, 06:23:53 PM by Curt, Reason: order »

skwire

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Welcome to the DonationCoder site, goldencut.

ANY feedback would be nice at this point - it's too complicated, it's impossible, it's been done already, it's stupid... anything...

While I like your idea, what you're asking for is a lot more complicated than you might think.

First of all, anything you write is, technically, outside of Windows Explorer.  This mean that a developer will have to consider all the different versions of Windows Explorer (2000/XP/Vista/W7/W8 + 32/64-bit of each) along with all of their different capabilities, limitations and idiosyncrasies. Furthermore, the shell context menu has its own set of capabilities, limitations and idiosyncrasies to deal with across the different Windows versions as well.  It's a real mess.  

Let's say you decide to do this anyway.  Now you have to deal with the fact that your interface is separate from your playback engine which, in and of itself, isn't a bad thing.  However, in this case, you don't have access to the innards of the interface so you're forced to use an intermediary, i.e. a service, API calls, window messages, etc.  This can be very limiting and very frustrating to work with.  For what it's worth, I've written an audio player called Trout that some folks here at DC have come to like.  I could not imagine trying to write such a player without designing, and having full access to the user interface code, myself.

I hope this made some semblance of sense.  =]
« Last Edit: March 14, 2013, 06:45:08 PM by skwire »

skwire

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You are probably looking for a modern version of CustomBar.
Sadly, it was not really updated for the new millennium...

$20 http://www.custombar.net/
http://www.donationc...dex.php?topic=6499.0
 (see attachment in previous post)

I could easily code a small, independent bar that could control Winamp or any audio player that incorporates the Winamp API.  Trout, AIMP, & Foobar (with a plugin) come to mind.

tomos

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Nobody else would like to just browse through their music collection and play a track when they find a one they like, right there, without starting any snazzy players etc?

I'd love that, but I dont use windows explorer...
Using a small player as the default mp3 file-opener could be an answer. One that'll automatically clear the current playlist and play the double-clicked file (I tried a couple and gave up/got distracted by something else then :-[)

Directory Opus file manager will play an mp3 file in the viewer.
I've never tried it till now tbh so cant really say much about it but seems to work very well:

Screenshot - 2013-03-15 , 00_48_58_ver001.pngIDEA: small plugin-toolbar (or similar) audio player in Windows Explorer
Tom

goldencut

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Thanks for all the feedback and let me address some of the points mentioned.
Most of the audio players I've used have had some form of minimal control interface - for example XMPlay (http://support.xmplay.com/), 1by1 (http://mpesch3.de1.cc/1by1.html), Apollo (http://apollo.capacala.com/), Snackamp (http://snackamp.sourceforge.net/) and Trout by DC's very own Skwire has two! Also the classic, Winamp, had minibar mode; in general, many players out there stay out of your way nicely - old but good STP (http://www.softpedia...STP-MP3-Player.shtml), TrayPLay (http://chime.tv/products/trayplay.shtml) and probably many others I have forgotten.
So there is a lot to choose from and they all do the 'stay-out-of-your-way' thing very well. But they all lack basic things like sorting my collection based on file (modification) date and they duplicate many things Windows Explorer can do maybe even better and users have already accustomed to using. I have accumulated over the years hundreds of gigabytes of music and as the filesystem actually IS a database it seems redundant loading all this info into players database that then also occupies my disk space, the database also needs to be updated and the player still won't recognize when and if I have downloaded some new (free! like http://www.ektoplazm.com/) music. Player interfaces are often not native Windows and they also occupy screen real-estate, memory etc.
So this idea of player integrated (at least by it's control interface) into Windows XP explorer have slowly creeped into my head. It should be no hack, IMO, so no interface-hooking. What got me thinking it was possible was that I have installed some Windows Explorer add-on toolbars, lastly Explorer Breadcrumbs (http://www.howtogeek...umbs-for-windows-xp/) which made me think that there is a legit way to add toolbars to Explorer. This is also explained some here: http://msdn.microsof...82%28v=vs.85%29.aspx , http://msdn.microsof...9.aspx#unknown_73276 , http://msdn.microsof...36%28v=vs.85%29.aspx to mention few. I just can't program (I've tried repeatedly, I blame the genes ;) so I'm not sure how difficult those things, explained there, are, but it seems there is a legit interface to do it in Explorer. Windows XP Explorer, that is, mainly. Because I think XP is still the best, most efficient, stable i.e. usable Windows there is. Also, I tend to get overly attached to some hardware, sometimes, so I need to use older (but still modern) OS's.
Other way to approach it maybe is to use just links/shortcuts and a player that allows itself to be controlled by executing control commands with it's executable. There are programs out there that do it, Mplayer (at least in Linux), maybe also VLC? But they both are overkill for this. Optimal would be a command line or (optionally) hidden-interface audio player that allows itself to be controlled with command line switches and would be able to output Windows shortcut files to files it is playing.
I stop now. Probably TL;DR already...

BR,
G.

tomos

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^reminds me of the struggles I have between filemanagers and dedicated image viewers, both with different weaknesses and strengths...

FWIW I just wanted to say that the Dopus solution will play the file only so long as the file has focus. Obviously one could open a new window and work in that. But not really what you had in mind.

But wondering would this be a stumbling block in explorer as well - IIUC you want it to integrate directly with explorer initially, but you then want it to stick to that folder - and ignore whatever you're now doing in explorer...
Tom

skwire

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Using a small player as the default mp3 file-opener could be an answer.

I use my own Looper for this purpose (shameless plug).

goldencut

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What Dopus does sounds like the typical preview function some Linux file managers do - they play the audio while you hover your pointer over the file. Quite convenient.
But wondering would this be a stumbling block in explorer as well - IIUC you want it to integrate directly with explorer initially, but you then want it to stick to that folder - and ignore whatever you're now doing in explorer...
Aforementioned players 1by1 and Resonic both do this quite elegantly. They keep playing the file while you browse around.

If the player I envisioned had a separate back-end for playback then it would play peacefully the folder or track list it was fed by the front-end as the user would browse around in the explorer, until it would be interrupted by new track list from front-end.

I tried Looper and I really like the simplicity and clarity of its design, but it was clearly made for something else.
But... it made me wonder if it would be possible to write a small BASS-based player that actually had no visible interface (or maybe just a tray icon). It could accept a file or list of files or a folder as a track list and play that until it was executed again with new file (or list or folder) OR with a command line switch to go to previous or next file (-p, -n etc) in the active track list, to pause or to stop (=exit). It should be capable of creating a simple Windows .lnk file which would point to the currently playing file in the file system. It should delete the shortcut file after it stops playing that file. And that would be it - with this small program it would be already possible to do something I envisioned.

BR,
G.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2013, 02:32:15 PM by goldencut, Reason: Tried to clarfiy »

skwire

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@goldencut: Came across this today:

http://www.ilovefree...er-windows-play.html

http://avi-win-tips....windows-play-10.html

Might be worth contacting the developer to see if your wishes can be implemented.

Curt

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@goldencut: Came across this today: http://www.ilovefree...er-windows-play.html

-I never got that mp3 player to do any other thing than to tell me, try mp3 "instead"...

2013-05-10_202913.gif

I would like to know if anyone can make it work.

skwire

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Doh, sorry.  I didn't personally test it.   :-[

app103

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So this idea of player integrated (at least by it's control interface) into Windows XP explorer have slowly creeped into my head. It should be no hack, IMO, so no interface-hooking. What got me thinking it was possible was that I have installed some Windows Explorer add-on toolbars, lastly Explorer Breadcrumbs (http://www.howtogeek...umbs-for-windows-xp/) which made me think that there is a legit way to add toolbars to Explorer. This is also explained some here: http://msdn.microsof...82%28v=vs.85%29.aspx , http://msdn.microsof...9.aspx#unknown_73276 , http://msdn.microsof...36%28v=vs.85%29.aspx to mention few. I just can't program (I've tried repeatedly, I blame the genes ;) so I'm not sure how difficult those things, explained there, are, but it seems there is a legit interface to do it in Explorer. Windows XP Explorer, that is, mainly. Because I think XP is still the best, most efficient, stable i.e. usable Windows there is.

You are talking about Windows COM programming, which isn't as trivial as you may think.

I have done a few toolbars in the past and they weren't even very complicated ones, but except for the IE/Explorer clock, I found myself frequently banging my head against the wall, trying to get things to work, things I thought should have been simple.

And when you consider that there would have to be 2 versions of this toolbar to accommodate all Windows users, both 32-bit and 64-bit, and that I do not possess the means to compile a 64-bit version, never mind test it to make sure it works, and I can't even test to make sure it works on 32-bit Vista/Win7/8,  I think you'll understand why I have decided to retire from the toolbar biz, with no plans to return in the foreseeable future.

And even though I do have the code for a blank toolbar that will integrate well with Explorer on 32-bit XP, and could in theory do one that would only work on XP and older systems (I am sure you'd be ok with that, being that you are still on XP, too), my one and only experience with coding a simple MP3 player was such a complete disaster that I named it GruMP3, due to its ability to make normally happy people, quite grumpy.  :-[

About the only useful advice I could possibly give you that may lead to you finding the toolbar that you seek, would be to suggest you stop looking for one for Explorer and start looking for one for IE (the browser). Often, but not always, the same toolbars that work in IE will also work in Explorer (check under View menu->Toolbars).

But this comes with a warning, one you should not dismiss lightly: Any time you start messing around with IE toolbars written by others, you are engaging in an activity that is comparable to playing in a mine field. But instead of getting your arms, legs, or head blown off, it will be your computer that will likely end up infected with some nasty malware or spyware. Clean toolbars written by ethical coders are few and far between, which is one of the reasons why I took a crack at making toolbars, in the first place. There were things that I wanted, and I am too chicken to go trusting other people's toolbars to try to acquire.