Listen is an audio player that doesn’t get a lot of press. Part of this stems from its slow development; in fact, the official “stable” version of Listen has not changed since I last reviewed it two years ago. I almost didn’t include it in this review, but then out of curiosity, I looked at the commit logs for its Subversion repository and noticed that the frequency of commits was quite high—Listen is being worked on, but by one developer and without stated timelines or roadmaps.
This is problematic: like Quod Libet, the quality of Listen is quite high, but it quickly falls behind Banshee because the latter has a wide and open development process (it’s got its own “planet” or blog aggregator for developers, for instance).
Listen is an odd combination of most of the UI paradigms we’ve seen so far in this review. Listen’s UI has always bothered me, as it contains a lot of interesting things done just the wrong way. Its insistence on the non-column playlist on the left, a browser on the right, and a sources column stuck directly in the middle strikes me as totally counterintuitive. Nothing has changed radically w.r.t. the UI since version 0.5, as far as I can tell. I believe some of the bugs I mentioned where it was difficult to back out layout changes have been fixed, however, which is important.
The things that Listen does nicely, however, are the small touches: the icons on preferences tabs, for instance, just look nice and give the whole project a polished, professional feel.
Either via core or plugins, Listen has the standard repertoire of capabilities: it’s Python- and GStreamer-based, with last.fm support, podcast/radio-ready, limited tag-editing and information display. It hooks into Jamendo as a music “store,” and that’s the state of its current extensibility.
While I’m pleased to see that Listen is still under active development, I have doubt that it will ever make much headway as long as said development continues as a trickle. It underscores the problem with single-developer projects; Quod Libet is similar, but it—so far as I’m concerned—is guaranteed at least a small marketshare because its library/playlist capabilities are uniquely robust. Listen, while nice, seems more the the same.