Feature Tour - Music
Since the capabilities of boxee are extensive, I won't be able to cover everything in this review. But I'll try to hit all the major features. One of the really nice features is the automatic association of metadata such as album covers or movie posters with your files.
When it works, it's nice. But it's a really hard feature to implement correctly and often depends on how files are named. In Figure 3 below, you can see a menu of my music where many of my albums have been given artwork, but others have not.
Figure 3: Album-art menu
In this case, an obscure album, "Big Band Hit Parade", has been correctly identified. But more mainstream albums such as "Best of The Doors" or an R.E.M album have not. When an album is identified, you can select it and get a nice review such as seen in Figure 4.
Figure 4: Album Info
It's a bit hard to see in this menu, but the social networking aspects of boxee start to show up here. Along the top, there's an option to rate the album or recommend it to the friends that you've associated with your account. You can also get set up a feed to Twitter so that all you "friends" can be notified when you are listening or rating music (or video).
There's also a Wrong Album? button that comes in handy for corrections when boxee makes a wrong guess on your file. For example, I found that many of my "Greatest Hits" albums were incorrectly identified. (The Baja Marimba Band Greatest Hits, What? Where did that come from?)
A bigger problem, however, was with files that weren't identified at all. These files just didn't show up in the menus. If you remember you have them, you can only get to them by using the Browse feature to dig through the filesystem (Figure 5).
Figure 5: Browsing the filesystem
With this release of boxee (0.9.8.4880), there were only three ways to navigate through music: By Album, Artist or just browsing the filesystem. Hopefully, later releases will include other methods that most of us have come to expect such as song title, genre, composer, random, etc. I'd also suggest an "Unknown" grouping for those items that just can't be identified.
When playing back music, you have the choice of various abstract displays and sometimes you can even get lyrics to accompany the song as shown in Figure 6.
Figure 6: Music Playback with lyrics
Basically, if you have it (and it's not DRM protected), boxee will likely play it (see Wikipedia for the list of supported formats). If you prefer to get your music from a Internet streaming source, or from a podcast, boxee has you covered there as well. Figure 7 shows the top-level Internet Music selection screen.
Figure 7: Internet Music
Like the other music feature, you have the ability to rate the streams and recommend them to your associated friends.