In this article I aim to deal with the following:
If you feel the following article has any lackings, or if you simply want to express your feelings as to how helpful the article would prove in your understanding on the playlist features of Arthax, your feedback is always welcome.
Playlists - are the very basic nature of Arthax. In fact, it was such an essential part of the software, that the name of the software originally was: "Arthax Playlist Creator". As the complexity of the program raised, and the number of features grew, it became natural to rename the software to only Arthax. Anyone who starts using Arthax - or, in fact, most other media player on the market - will more or less immediately get in touch with a playlist. Not only the term, but really get their hands on a playlist. In most cases, without even realizing the fact. The best way to illustrate a playlist, is to look at an everyday example that might be quite familiar to most people. Most of us - if not all - have been in touch with a To-Do list. If for no other reason, at least when we go to the store. You will bring your shopping list, reading something like this:
Arriving to the store, you read the first line on the list (Bread). This indicates for you to go to the bread shelf, and pick a loaf. After that task is done, you have another look at your list. The second entry reads Milk, and you would walk over to the diary section, and get yourself some of that stuff. Again, you take a look on your list, and walk off to the corresponding department of the store, picking one by one of the things listed on your shopping list.
Now back to our playlist. What has all of this shopping got to do with playing music, audio books or any other sound file on your system? A playlist is simply a list, that tells the player (Arthax) what to do at any given position on the list. Hence, when you feed the player with a playlist, it will start out, reading the first entry, or line, of the list. This line will hold the name of a sound file on your system. Arthax will load that sound file, and play it. Having finished the playback of your first song, Arthax will 'have another look at the playlist' - reading the second line of the list. Here the name of a second sound file is listed. Arthax will load, and play, that song. Upon finishing the second song, Arthax will have its third look at the playlist. The name of song number three is listed here, and Arthax will load and play it. Well, fact is, Arthax will keep repeating this process, all until either you press stop, or the list has ended - that is, till the last entry on the list has finished playing.
So, does this mean, that the playlist actually holds a copy of all the files listed? NO, playlists does hold no files, whatsoever. Look at playlists as a shopping list. It doesn't hold any food, does it? Only the names of the groceries that you need to buy, and those, in turn, can be eaten. Same with your playlists, they only hold the names of the files to be played, NOT the files themselves.
Building a playlist in Arthax is really simple. You might already have had your hands on the software for a period of time, and so will have been building - or creating - playlists numerous times. Yet, to get you as familiar with the features of the software as possible, and to let you have the full feeling of creating your own playlists, let's go through the steps needed.
First of all, Please, would you open your Arthax screen. If you have set the software to automatically load at Windows startup, you reach the Arthax screen by simply hitting Shift-Pause, on your keyboard. Otherwise, the software will have placed a shortcut on your desktop, and you could easily load it from here.
There is a few ways, in which you can load sound files into Arthax. They all will do pretty much the same thing: Loading the sound file into the player. The fact there is more than one way of accomplishing the task, is simply due to a matter of user taste - and a few more technically detailed differences (of which this article has no intension of dealing with).
Firstly, you could simply open Windows Explorer, arrow to the file you want to play, and press ENTER. The file will immediately be loaded into Arthax, and start playing.
The other way, which also does spring out from Windows Explorer, is to arrow to the file you want played, and hit the App-key. This key tends to move a bit around on different manufactured keyboards - especially so, on laptops. On a full-sized desktop keyboard, it will typically be located, immediately to the left of your right-hand CTRL-key. Your screen reader might name the app-key things like 'Context Menu'. Pressing this key, will bring up a pull-down menu. Here scroll down - using your arrow-keys - till the term 'Play With Arthax', and hit ENTER.
Using the App-key to load your files, does have a few benefits, over the use of simply hitting ENTER on the file directly. For one thing, pointing your cursor to a folder on your system, and then using the App-key approach, will cause ALL the sound files in that folder, to be loaded into Arthax. This will leave you with a list of file-, or song-names, one song on each line. Already having esTablished your basic understanding on what a Playlist is, and how the player interacts with it, you will already have guessed, that this would cause Arthax to play ALL the sound files of the folder, one by one. Not only will it play the songs in that folder, but will even include whatever songs are to be found in any subfolders of the first folder, and any further subfolders under each of the folders on the second level, ETC. In other words, if you want to load ALL your songs from one artist, you could simply point your cursor to the folder of that artist, then hit the App-key, choosing 'Play with Arthax', and all the songs from that artist will be loaded - no matter which album they are taken from. Of course, this demand you having your sound library sorted in an Artist\Album\Track-structure. At this point, though, we won't deal any more with the matter. Simply just leaving you the knowledge, it is possible, and something you might want to look into, at a later time. Structuring your sound library, will be the basis for another article.
All right, so that was your basic options in Windows Explorer. Now, what if you want to do all the loading of files from within Arthax itself? Is that possible? It certainly is! And, it is very simple.
In the empty Arthax screen, hit the CTRL-L hotkey. You will find yourself in an Open-dialog, similar to the one you know from other Windows-software. Either Enter the full filename directly in the edit box, or, alternatively, hit Shift-Tab, and arrow your way through the folder structure of your system, pointing you to the file you want loaded. When done, Press the ENTER key, and your song is loaded right away into Arthax, and should start playing.
Like in Windows Explorer, you also have the ability to load a whole folder (and its subfolders) with all its contents, directly inside Arthax. This you can do, by hitting the CTRL-D hotkey. Again, an Open-dialog will appear, similar to the one you know from other Windows-based software. And again, either Enter the full pathname of your folder, or hit Shift-Tab, then arrow your way till you point your cursor at the wanted folder. Upon completion of the folder-choosing task, hit ENTER.
Adding a whole folder to Arthax, might take a bit of time. This due to the fact, that Arthax will have to 'scan' through and load, each file in the folder seperately. The exact amount of time it will take, might depend on
You would, in such cases, see an information on your screen telling you the progress of the loading process, in percentage. When the process of loading has finished, your files will start to play.
Well, now, hang on! We were talking about creating a playlist, weren't we? And here we end up talking about how to load songs into Arthax? Yes! And, actually, this is simply one and same case. The very moment you load ONE song into Arthax, you have started out, creating your first playlist. So far, it only holds one entry - much like a sticky note on your desktop would hold only one task for you to do. Loading a second song - and your list starts to form. You now have a playlist of two songs. And so forth. Easy? - - - Oh, really, was that all that was needed??? :)
Now that we have made up a playlist, it is time for us to look at some of the many features that Arthax offers, for maintaining and arranging your list. But, before doing so, I am going to remind you of the Status bar - which can be found at the bottom of the Arthax screen. You'll reach it, by simply hitting the TAB-key. Another press on the Tab-key, and you will find yourself back in the list of songs (your playlist).
The reason for drawing your attention to the Status bar, is that here you will find a lot of useful information, when comes to the progress of your playback of your playlist. Fact is, that it is more of a Status Field, than just a bar. It consists of several lines, and you easily scroll up and down in it, with your Arrow-keys. Firstly, you will see information about the currently playing track - its number in the list, elapsed time of the track, and the total time for this particular track. Secondly, the Status field gives you the same information as to your playlist - Elapsed time, and total time it will take to play the whole playlist. Further scrolling down the list of information in the Status field, will reveal to you, info on bitrate for the song, whether it is played in Mono or Stereo, speed and pitch settings, as well as the current setting of all the ten bands of the equalizer. All of this information might come in handy, in your later projects. Make yourself familiar with the Status field, and you'll soon come to realize what a handy tool it is.
Now, place yourself back in the playlist window. That is, the list of songs you have loaded. Here you have the chance of controlling how the sound should be played back. With your Up and Down arrow-keys, you can skip between the different tracks, or songs. Your screen reader might likely anounce to you, the name of the artist, album, song title; or simply just the filename of the currently playing song - all in accordance with the way the actual file has been tagged. (A later article will deal with file tagging in details.)
As you move up/Down the list, the player will play the song the cursor is pointing at, at any given time. You can, manually, pause and restart the playback. This is done with the Space bar, on your keyboard. If you hit ENTER, the current track will start all over.
What then, if you want to quickly move within a song. You have a few choices.
Right and Left arrow: Will take you 5 seconds forward or backward, respectively.
CTRL-Right or CTRL-Left: Will take you 30 seconds forward, or backward.
ALT-Right or ALT-Left: Is going to take you one minute forward or backward.
CTRL-End: Will take you to the last few seconds of your current track. This could come in handy, for instance, when you want to check if there is a long pause at the end of your track. Upon finishing playback of the current track, the player will automatically move on, and start playing the next entry in your playlist.
Now, suppose you wanted to rearrange your playlist. Let's reckon, you want to interchange song 3, and song 4. Arthax has a lovely easy way of handling this. Put yourself at song 3, and simply hit CTRL-Down arrow; and the two songs will have Shifted position. Further presses on the hotkey, will move your song further down the list, moving the other (prior) songs up one position a time. Similarly, if you realize your song should have been earlier in the list of songs, simply use the CTRL-Up arrow hotkey, till you have placed the song at your wanted position. The feature is handy, for instance, if you are trying to arrange chapters in one of your audiobooks, so that the individual chapters will be played back consequtively.
If you realize, that you have a track in your list, that you don't want any longer - or, which might not really belong there - you could easily remove it from the list. Simply hit the DEL-key of your keyboard, and the song has been erased from the list.
NOTE: the song only will be removed from your list. This command, does NOT affect the file itself. It will still be stored on your hard disk, NAS, or USB pen drive.
If you want the song to be Deleted from your storage media as well, Arthax does offer the CTRL-DEL command.
CAUTION: There will be NO WARNING given, if you are hitting the Ctrl-Del command. The file will immediately be removed from your media, will not be placed in the recycle bin of your system, and will be lost (unless you have specially designed software to restore it).
And finally, you could erase all the entries of your playlist, leaving you with an all blank list. This is performed with Shift-DEL, and only affects the entries on the list. No files will be erased from your storage media.
So far, we only have concentrated on meddling with our playlist, directly in Arthax. Sometimes, that is all we need. When you are expecting people over for a good supper, you might want to prepare in advance, all the music that is to be played in the background that evening. You now have learned the basics of how to create, arrange and control your playlist; so as to make such preparation. In such cases, when the evening is gone, you don't want - or need - your playlist any longer. Simply closing Arthax, will erase the list, and no more mess with it. Don't worry, the files themselves, will not be affected; only your playlist.
Yet, there might come times, when you simply want to store that whole piece of job, you've put into your playlist. For instance, when you finally have arranged all the 80 chapters of your audio book, it will be of highest interest to you, to have the list saved, so that you will be able to quickly have it reloaded at a later time. Under General Settings (which you reach by the hotkey Ctrl-E), you can determine if Arthax should remember the last position. This means, if you have started listening to your audio book, and after 43 minutes have to leave, or simply want to listen to some music for a while, you could just save your playlist. The playlist will then be saved, and Arthax will remember exactly where you left off. Next time you open the playlist, Arthax will immediately jump back to your last position, and restart playback. Useful, ain't it?
But, HOW, do you go about saving your playlist. The quickest way is, to press the hotkey of CTRL-S. This will open a Save-dialog, similar to the one you know from other software on your computer. Here, Enter the name of your playlist, and press ENTER. Your playlist will now have been saved, and your work won't get lost. Again, under the General Settings, you can turn on the automatic saving of your playlist. This way, your playlist will always be automatically saved, so you won't have to remember to resave it, before leaving, or after any changes you might happen to make. If you want always to ensure your playlists will be saved, you could check the checkbox in General Settings, of 'Ask for save playlist when closing Arthax?'. Whenever you are trying to close Arthax, or changing to another playlist, this choice will cause Arthax to ask you, if you want to save your current playlist. Useful, if you tend to forget saving your work.
The Save feature, also can be found under the File menu. Here, you will find another feature called Save As... The difference is, that the Save feature, will always resave to the same name. On the other hand, suppose you have a playlist for all Children's songs in your library. You want them to be saved in a playlist called Childrens Songs. This is what you would do, by the Save feature. And, whenever you have made any changes to the list - i.e added, or rearranged certain tracks - you would resave, by hitting Ctrl-S. One day, though, you have added some audio books to the list, and you now want it to be saved under the name of 'Childrens Songs and Stories'. Instead of having to create a whole new list, then saving it with its new name, you simply can use the Save as... feature, and Enter the new name. Right away, you will have two playlists saved - the old one ('Childrens Songs'), and the new one ('Childrens Songs and Stories').
Still, saving playlists, would have no meaning, unless you could reopen them, at a later time. Arthax does offer you the chance of doing so. Either choose the Open command, found under the File menu; or, even quicker, hit the hotkey of Ctrl-O. A familiar Open-dialog will appear on your screen, leaving you the chance of finding your playlist. When found, press ENTER, and you will be right there; with your playlist on the screen ready for usage. But Arthax's rich set of features doesn't stop there. Under the File menu, you will find two useful features.
The first one is the 'Restore last playlist' feature. Well, it does exactly what it promises. Choosing this one, will load the last active playlist, so you won't have to browse around for it. This feature will prove itself handy, when you for instance had to leave your music list, so as to get some sleep last night. This morning, when restarting your computer, open Arthax, hit Alt-F (to get to the File menu), and scroll down to 'Restore Last playlist'. Then hit ENTER, and enjoy your music from where you left off yesterday.
The other handy thing under the File menu, is the fact that Arthax always keeps track of the four last playlists you have listened to. They are numbered 1 through 4, and can be reached by hitting Alt-F (takes you to the File menu), and the corresponding number. If you - instead of pressing a number - use your arrow keys, to scroll down to the last four playlists, you will see their names; which might just prove beneficial in helping your memory. :-)
The final way, I will deal with, in which you can load a saved playlist, is to find it in Windows Explorer. First you have found the list you want, you might simply press ENTER, and the list should load smoothly into Arthax, and start playing. But, how will you know that this is a playlist, and not anything else? Playlists comes in different formats. This due to different manufacturers way of storing the actual information held in the list. One such format, will have the file extension of .PLS. Another one, and by far the most used, has the extension of .M3U. Both formats are supported by Arthax. When saving your playlist in Arthax, it will standard be saved with the .M3U extension. So, browse your computer, looking out for .m3u-files. These are all playlists, and should load fine into Arthax.
One of the new features of Arthax, is the chance of copying all the files in a playlist, to another destination. Let's say, you have made up a playlist, holding all the songs in your library by a given artist. You want all these songs copied onto your hardware MP3 player. Open the File menu, and choose 'Copy files to'. A dialog will open, and let you choose the destination drive and folder of your copying process - i.e the drive\path of your MP3 player. After choosing your destination, press ENTER.
You now will get two questions. First you are asked, if you want to Delete all files in the destination folder. Useful if you only want the files from your current playlist in the folder. The second question, gives you the chance of adding leading numbers to the filenames. Let's hang on to the example of your audio book. Maybe the different files - each holding a chapter - has been named with the heading of that chapter. So, chapter 1 might have its file named 'How to build a playlist'. the file holding chapter 2, might be named 'Creating a new playlist'. Since Windows, and many hardware players as well, sorts the contents of a folder alphanumerically, the two above mentioned filenames, would cause chapter 2 being played first (since its filename starts with a C), and then chapter 1 would be played (its filename starts with an H). You already have sorted your playlist, so that the chapters will be played in the correct order. And, of course, you want that to be the case on your hardware player as well. Adding the trailing - or leading - numbers to your filenames, will cause chapter 1 to be named '01 How to build a playlist', and chapter 2 will have its file named '02 Creating a new playlist' on your MP3 player.
Your copying process will start, and you can keep track of it on the screen.
Copying files will copy the actual files, and you will be able to play the music on your hardware player, as long as it supports that particular sound format.
You could also use the copy feature, in cases where you want to copy the files onto another drive. For instance, this will prove helpful, when you want to back up files on a USB drive.
If you want to start out with an all fresh playlist - holding no entries - simply press the Ctrl-N hotkey. Or, you could alternatively choose New under the File menu. The new playlist will have no name.
Far as I know, Arthax is the only software on the market, offering the Extended Information feature. It is applicable since version 1.15, and first you get the feeling of it, might simply become your friend in several projects.
Before dealing with the matter itself, though - why don't we have just a tiny glance on how it all came about? All those of us, who has been collecting music, audio books, radio series, Podcasts and sound files for many years, will know the problem. You have two songs, with different volume. The one is hardly audible, the other one will make your speakers burst. This even proves the case on the same album. Several software on the market, do offer the capability of what is called 'volume levelling'. This will attempt to find the average volume for all tracks in your list, and play the whole list at that level. Basically, what the software would do, is to increase the volume on the 'low' songs, and decrease it a bit on the 'high' songs. If you ever have tried such software, you will know, it only manages the job to a given extend. As the features of Arthax grew, there was a call for a way of having Arthax doing even more than just levelling the differences in volume. Not only does audio files tend to vary in volume, but one song might have all too much bass; whilst the next, will be crackling in the higher bands (the treble area). When the equalizer of Arthax was introduced, the chance of adjusting the bands for each song arose. Then there was the fact, that in a given project, you might want the spoken words of an audio book being played back at a higher speed, whilst your music should be played back with another speed (usually normal speed). Same goes with the Pitch setting. All in all, the call was for a way of having Arthax saving all of these settings, individually for each track in the playlist. Technically spoken, not only the name of the song, but also the whole set of parameters or settings, would have to be saved on each line in the list. And, that is exactly what M.E.I. (Arthax Extended Information) does.
To make use of the feature, first you have to create a normal playlist. Then go ahead, saving it - as described above. You are now ready to make your playlist and MEI list. Firstly, go to the File menu, by hitting Alt-F. Scroll down to 'Extended informations', and hit ENTER - or, simply just hit the letter X. MEI now is turned on. When saving the playlist from now on, it will have the extension of .M3U.MEI. I.e, your full playlistname would be 'Childrens Songs.M3U.MEI'.
Place yourself at the top of the list. This is done, by hitting the HOME key of your keyboard. Use the sound adjustment keys (of which you will find a list at the end of this article), to make whatever adjustments you want for your first track. This means Volume, Equalizer, Speed and Pitch. If your track would happen to be a MIDI song, you even can define which soundfont to be used. (MIDI and soundfonts, will be a matter of a later article.) When you are satisfied with the settings for song 1, use the Down-arrow key, to get to song 2. Here make your adjustments. If now, you press Up-arrow key, to get back to song 1, and alter between the two of them, you will be amazed of the fact, Arthax makes all your adjustments on the fly, for every time it changes track. Continue the whole way through your playlist. As per date, if no adjustment is made for a song, all settings will be standard. Therefore, in some cases, the best results will be experienced if you manually make your adjustments on each track. Whenever you have finished the process of setting up your MEI list, you simply hit Ctrl-S, to save it. Next time you open the playlist, and MEI is turned on, all your adjustments will be in effect; in addition to all the benefits of a normal playlist.
Arthax does offer you the chance of repeating either the current song, or the whole playlist - that is, all the songs in the playlist. Repeating one song over and over, might be useful in given situations, when you are trying to learn the lyrics; or if you want to know exactly how to play it on your piano. Point your cursor to the actual track, and hit the letter R, on your keyboard. The track will be repeated eternally, and you can go ahead doing your exercises - to your benefit, and your family's despair. :-)
More often, you might be in the mood for repeating the whole playlist. When you are planning music for your party next weekend, you might not know exactly how long the guests will stay. Neither would you know exactly what time to play this or that kind of music. Making up a playlist of well-mixed songs, from different artists and genres, is a good idea. Make it a couple of hours long, and turn on the 'Repeat All' mode in Arthax. It will play the whole list over and over, till you manually stop it. To turn on the Repeat-All feature, hit Shift-R on your keyboard.
How, then, can you ever stop a repeat cycle - be it of just one track, or the whole list? Well, first of all, do remember that the Space bar of your keyboard will Pause the playback; and could also be used to restart it later on. Secondly, you always have the chance of closing Arthax, and that of course, would end the repeat cycle. But Arthax has yet another feature in its pocket for you. It is the Ctrl-R hotkey, which will turn off ALL repeat modes. Hitting this hotkey, will cause Arthax to continue playing - from the current position to the end of the list; just as normal. Reaching the end of the playlist, with repeat mode off, Arthax will go silent. The Status field will always be your friend, leaving you the info on whether a repeat mode is active or not.
Suppose you want to listen to your currently playing track, but then want Arthax to stop playing when the track has finished. This you can easily do, by hitting the Ctrl-Space hotkey. Arthax will finish playing your track, and stop. To restart it, you simply hit either ENTER, or Space, on your keyboard.
Arthax has a huge number of further features. This article has no intention of being a complete manual for the software. I have tried to wet your appetite, hoping that you will have broken down some of the barriers, leaving you more confident to try out, and realize for yourself, what the software can do for you. Yet, there is one last goodie for you:
Everyone who is old enough to have had her hands on an advanced cassette tape recorder, will miss the feature of cueing. That means, to fast forward, or rewind, whilst you can hear what is being skipped. Or? Will we miss it? - Not with Arthax on your system! Use the four hotkeys of F9, through F12, and see what they can do for you. You might find them perfect for your audio book listening, helpful in your music lessons, and fun for your kids to play with. Well, that last one, is only recommended if you want your kids to sit the rest of the evening making up all kinds of funny sounding stuff. :-)
Finally, I did promise you a list of the different commands, that Arthax does offer you, when comes to adjusting your sound. The list is not complete, but at least will give you an idea of the powers of the software. Experiment by yourself, and don't be afraid to try out the different features, by scrolling the many menus of the Arthax screen.
For the below commands, the following applies: Pressing the character itself,
will decrease the setting. Pressing Shift-key, in combination with the
character, will increase the setting. Pressing Ctrl-key in combination with
the character, will set the setting to standard value; which I have put in
parenthesis after each setting.
p: Pitch (0)
T: Tempo (0)
V: Volume (100)
Pressing Backspace, will set the speed and pitch to zero.
Use the HOME and END keys, to go to the top or bottom entry in your playlist, respectively.
It is my hope, that you will have become a bit more familiar with the many features of Arthax. Further, I do hope, you will find yourself far more acquainted with the term of playlists, and when to use them. It is not absolutely necessary for you to ever bother knowing about playlists, but now that you have made yourself informed on the matter, you likely will find it quite helpful. If you still find, that your knowledge on the matter has any glitches, don't hesitate to drop a message on the mailing list of Arthax, or send your questions to the Mar-Dy-team, at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The reason why Arthax is what it is today, is to a large extend, due to a friendly developing team, that has listened to their users. Many of the features that you find in the software, and which has also been dealt with in this article, have been implemented, due to user requests and suggestions. That is why, you are encouraged to leave your feedback, ideas, suggestions and wishes, with the team. Sometimes airing your thoughts on the mailing list, will give other users a chance of join in with their thoughts - leaving the team the chance of making Arthax meet as many a user's needs as possible.
Article Version 1.0 - Copyright David - 2011-01-20
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