Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Foobar2000 is the desktop music player of choice for audiophiles, tinkerers and anyone looking for a lightweight, efficient program. We have it listed on our page of the best Windows software for a reason, although it may not be obvious when you first install it. Foobar2000’s default interface is spartan and hides powerful features and nearly infinite customizability.
Cloud streaming services like Spotify and Rdio are becoming more and more popular, but there’s still a place for desktop applications and local music collections. If you still play music stored on your computer, you owe it to yourself to check out Foobar2000.
Quick Layout Setup
After you install Foobar2000 and start it up, you’ll see the Quick Appearance Setup window. Foobar2000 uses your system colors, a simple tabbed playlist pane and a traditional playlist layout by default. Here’s what it looks like:
Now here’s what it looks like after selecting Visualization + Cover Art + Tabs, Blue, and Group by Albums in the Quick Appearance Setup window:
We’re already getting an idea of how much we can customize Foobar2000. See how Foobar2000 now groups each album’s tracks in the playlist pane instead of repeating the same album name on every line? That’s the Group by Albums setting in action.
Feel free to play with the options here; you can reopen the Quick Appearance Setup window at any time by clicking the View menu, pointing to Layout and selecting Quick Setup.
Like other media players, Foobar2000 can watch folders for new music and automatically update its media library. Foobar2000 automatically watches your user account’s music folder by default. If you store your music elsewhere, click the Library menu, select configure and use the Add button to add more music folders.
Foobar2000 comes with two media library viewers — click the Library menu and select Album List to browse the albums in your library or select Search to search for specific music files.
Any of these viewers can be added to your Foobar2000 layout, so you don’t always have to open them from the Library menu.
Advanced Layout Customization
Foobar2000’s layouts aren’t limited to the layouts provided in the Quick Appearance Setup window. You can use its layout-editing mode to assemble your own layout; just click the View menu, point to Layout and select Enable Layout Editing Mode to get started.
Right-click an interface element in layout-editing mode and you’ll see a menu. Select Replace to replace the interface element with another one or select Cut to delete the interface element entirely.
Perform a cut on every interface element, including the vertical and horizontal splitters, if you want to start from scratch.
Just click an empty area and you’ll be prompted to add a new interface element. Add a splitter if you want to divide areas into sections and add multiple interface elements.
Here we’ve added playlist tabs at the top, a vertical splitter down the middle and a horizontal splitter on the left, which gives us two empty spaces on the left and one on the right. We’ve filled them in with an album list at the top left corner, an album art viewer at the bottom left corner and a playlist view on the right.
Click the Enable Layout Editing Mode option in the Layout menu again after you’re done to disable the layout editing mode.
Different music albums and songs have different perceived volumes. If your music player is playing music from different albums, you might have to adjust the volume up and down as louder and quieter songs come on. ReplayGain does this for you — Foobar2000 can automatically scan your songs, determine their volume and change the volume in the background so everything plays at one appropriate volume.
You can choose between two ReplayGain modes from the Playback pane in Foobar2000’s preferences window. Album mode considers entire albums when setting the volume, preserving volume differences between songs on the same album. Track mode just considers a single track, so every song that plays will be about the same volume. Foobar2000 uses album mode by default, ensuring that volume differences between songs on a single album are preserved.
ReplayGain is enabled by default, but it depends on ReplayGain tags embedded in your music files. Many of your songs may not have these tags, but Foobar2000 can scan your files and add them. Assuming your music files are tagged correctly, the easiest way to add the tags is to select all your music in a playlist, right-click the selected files, point to ReplayGain and select “Scan Selection as Albums (by Tags).”
Foobar2000’s excellent support for ReplayGain is one of the reasons audiophiles love it (another one is gapless playback; Foobar2000 automatically plays back music files with no pause in between them if the files support it).
Components, available from Foobar2000’s components download page, are Foobar2000’s plug-ins. Components can extend Foobar2000 with support for new audio formats, add additional media library viewers or replace Foobar2000’s entire user interface.
Install components from the Components pane in Foobar2000’s preferences window after downloading them. Just click the Install button and browse for your downloaded components.
Do you have any favorite components or other tips and tricks for Foobar2000? Let us know in the comments.