First Impressions: Winamp 5.5 Beta

Although iTunes can be usually found on most computers, the former music player heavyweight, Winamp, is aiming to regain a bit of it’s user share back, with their latest version of Winamp which marks the departure from it’s segmented interface, and makes way for a darker and more unified interface.

Besides having a completely new skin called “Bento”, Winamp 5.5 also finally adds support for album artwork and new music browsing methods, which are very similar to iTunes’ or Windows Media Player’s media browser, although it’s still nowhere as simple as iTunes’ interface.

You can see a screenshot of the new Bento interface by clicking on the thumbnail below.

From what I saw in Winamp’s forum topic announcing this latest beta, the interface is quite customizable, although from the small tweaks I chose, the method to do so is not as obvious as it could be. And in my opinion, I hope that the new interface is tweaked before the final release.

For example, next to the search box, there are 3 buttons, one to toggle album artwork, one to choose te “Panes” and one to customize them. But the only Pane that is customized from choosing any of the selections is the right one.

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I was always a fan of the classic Winamp’s look, due to it’s simplicity and drag-and-drop functionality. Certainly it wasn’t as efficient as having all the media synchronized, as it happens with most modern media players, but it was simple and quick enough for the time, and since the program didn’t consume much memory or processing ability, it was the ideal at the time.

The modern Winamp is obviously not as light as the classic one, but when compared to iTunes or Windows Media player, one has to admire that the program only consumes 19 megs of RAM, which is less than half the RAM that iTunes consumes with the same music library.

Bottom line: Nullsoft has finally decided to update Winamp’s interface to better suit what their competitor’s offer, but in my opinion, they should have taken the opportunity to give their media library a much needed revamp.

But that doesn’t mean that the program is bad. In terms of stability and memory consumption, Winamp is still one of the finest media programs for Windows, and has inspired countless other companies to create media programs that try mimic it’s interface. If other companies are imitating them, they must be doing something right.

If you want to try out the new Winamp while it’s in beta, you can do so by visiting the forum topic linked above, or going to AOL’s download page.

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