I am always on the look out for nice, pretty and fun software to play my MP3 music with. Recently Lifehacker introduced a companion to the iTunes called SkiniTunes.
You can read about this great software and download it at SkiniTunes web page
Basically, it is a very small skin-able (i.e. the skin can be changed with downloads from the net and many are created by its fans) front end player to iTunes. Note that iTunes is still needed. In fact, when you launch SkiniTunes, it launches iTunes too. They suggested you do some settings in iTunes so that you can minimize iTunes to the system tray. Simply go to iTunes’ preferences->Advanced Tab->Check ‘Show iTunes icon in system tray’->Check ‘Minimize iTunes windw to system tray’. That way, you can concentrate on the SkiniTunes player as the tool to control and play your MP3.
And it is a great tool to do so. I played around a lot with such MP3 software and most of the time, it is such a disappointment to me as such software seldom seemed to work with my Chinese music collections. I think most software are designed without consideration to the Unicode world or the double byte world.
When I tried SkiniTunes, the same thing happened. Don’t get me wrong, it is a GREAT software. In fact, I love it so much as it worked very well with my MSN Live Messenger, can display my lyrics, can control the playlists in my iTunes and of course, display my beautiful album art for each song…….
My Chinese Songs characters turn up in SQUARES in the MINI Player ! So disappointing…
Here’s a few examples:
Here, Jolin’s song title is 倒带 but it is showing up as 倒(square)
Here, the pop group Twins’ song title 我很想爱他 and album title 八十块环游世界 have some of the characters showing up as SQUARES
My favourite Leslie’s full name 张国荣 is showing up wrongly too with 2 SQUARES
I thought perhaps this is the particular skin so I changed the skin but it is the same:
And I also changed it to the much smaller player but it has the same issue too.
I am so sad as it is such a great software. Let’s check out some of my favourite features and you will know why I love it.
You can see the album art in all the screen shots above. There is a logo on the album art but it can be removed if you upgrade to the PRO edition. It is so nice to see the different album art in the mini player as different songs are playing in my PC.
You can also see the lyrics (if you have entered into iTunes or pay for the Pro edition which can download the lyrics automatically). Since I always manually copy my lyrics to my MP3, I get a very nice screen with the lyrics on it. And the good news is that in the lyrics screen, I don’t have the SQUARE issue ! Yes, it is working very well in the lyrics screen. The Chinese characters are perfect. The Lyrics Screen is big and nice and I can sing along with the song 🙂
You can also see information about the track in another DETAILS screen and yes, again it is working very well. No Squares for the same information. Leslie’s full name is showing up nicely.
You can even copy the details to a clipboard and I did that to a notepad. It showed up nicely too. No Squares too. Looks like the issue is isolated to the MINI PLAYER only.
One thing that the software really worked well is its integration with MSN Messenger. The software can show your songs info (Song Title, Singer) in the MSN Tagline (as Now Playing…). That’s pretty standard in many software but it worked well for this one. In addition, it can also show the exact album art cover of the song that is now playing. As each song changes in your PC, your album art cover changes in the pictures of the MSN Messenger ! Your friends in MSN can see the album art of the song you are listening to !! COOOOOOOL !!! And yes, again, the Chinese characters showed up very well in MSN too. No issues.
Because it is a frontend companion to your iTunes, you can also easily change your playlist in iTunes from SkiniTunes. It is so easy to switch from one playlist to another playlist.
In conclusion, it is such a great software. I will gladly pay for the PRO Edition too. But I need the SQUARE boxes issue to be resolved. I will write to the developers and ask them for the solution.
Try the software ! It is worth it especially if you have kept your MP3 properly organized with lyrics, proper tagging and of course beautiful album art !
Update on 22th Apr 2:50 pm => I tested in another Machine (running Vista) and another set of MP3 files and it is working great. I am confused. I need to do some troubleshooting. I have also submitted a log with the support team of SkiniTunes and they got back to me very quickly. I am impressed ! 🙂
Update on 23rd Apr 10:30 pm => Pretty sure this is a Windows XP issue. The same MP3 files play well in my Vista machine but not so (as above) in my Windows XP machine. Support is really good. They are looking at a solution now. BRAVO !!