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SMPlayer: A high quality wrapper

By Federico Kereki on September 11, 2008 (7:00:00 PM)

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Loosely speaking, in software terms, a wrapper is something that provides an alternate interface to another object. SMPlayer is an advanced multimedia player wrapped around MPlayer that provides a friendlier and more powerful front end to the underlying application. SMPlayer can play practically anything -- you can watch DVDs and VCDs, stream videos from a URL, or play audio CDs or MP3s.

SMPlayer version 0.6.2 was released last month, and is licensed under the GPLv2. It is written using the Qt libraries (as most of KDE is; this practically ensures good integration with the KDE desktop) and thus can be used not only under Linux, but with Windows too.

Before you install it you must have installed MPlayer, but MPlayer is included or available for just about all distributions. Also, be sure to have the libqt4 libraries, as the latest version of SMPlayer uses Qt 4.4.1. You will probably be able to install SMPlayer using the standard package application of your distribution; in my case, I use Smart, so a simple sudo smart install smplayer did the trick. You can check the downloads page for some distribution-specific versions, or download the latest development version (careful; it might be unstable!) and compile it on your own by following the instructions in the included install.txt file.

Usage

The first time you run SMPlayer you must specify the drives it should use for CDs and DVDs; you can change this later if you like by going to Options -> Preferences -> Drives. SMPlayer can be used in most European and several Asian languages. In the same Preferences window, click the Interface option to select Autodetect (to have SMPlayer select which language to use based on on your environment) or specify your preferred language. Finally, go to the Advanced option and select your monitor aspect ratio; in my case, at 1400x900, it is 16:10.

The application offers several options related to its appearance, including changing its default icons. You can set up an on-screen display showing time information. You can also opt for a smaller "mini GUI," but you will have to restart SMPlayer in order to see the change.

SMPlayer offers many more configuration options. Among other things, you can change all the keyboard and mouse shortcuts. For example, if you have a mouse wheel, you can use it to go forward and backward in a movie, or as a volume control, or to change the zoom factor, or even to speed up or slow down playback. There are more than 150 possible keyboard shortcuts you can assign.

You can also directly specify MPlayer options, and thus get access to further capabilities of that player. Other video and audio options (and onscreen equalizers) allow you to tweak SMPlayer for optimum performance with your box.

SMPlayer is no performance hog. I read elsewhere reports that MPlayer can require a lot of CPU resources when playing full-screen movies, but in my case, on a 1.8GHz dual-core Pentium CPU running openSUSE 10.3, usage was around 10% tops. I compared it to Kaffeine, my usual option for video, and results were similar.

One of the most touted features of SMPlayer is that it can resume playback at the exact point you stopped it, even after you restart the program. Another original feature is the ability to define a playlist, so SMPlayer can show a list of videos one after another. You can reorder items if you like, and even shuffle them at random. A "repeat" feature allows for viewing loops.

SMPlayer offers great flexibility in dealing with subtitles. Not only it can deal with just about every format out there, it also allows plenty of configuration. At the Preferences window you can select the font, color, and scale for the text, and also whether to use the SSA/ASS library for better rendering. (Check out the online tips for more on subtitle styles. You can get to these tips and others on topics such as toolbar configuration and using the audio equalizer by going to Help -> Tips.) When playing a movie, you can change subtitles on the fly, opt for closed captioning, move the subtitles up and down, change their size, and advance or delay them should they happen to be badly synchronized. Finally, if you haven't got the subtitles, there's an option for looking them up in www.subtitles.org, or for uploading your subtitles to that site.

I usually opt for Kaffeine for viewing videos, but SMPlayer is an impressive application that offers users many options. It's not hard to imagine switching over and using it exclusively.

Federico Kereki is an Uruguayan systems engineer with more than 20 years' experience developing systems, doing consulting work, and teaching at universities.

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on SMPlayer: A high quality wrapper

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SMPlayer: A high quality wrapper

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 67.85.245.207] on September 12, 2008 01:48 AM
Decent review. I recently discovered SMPlayer as well, and have been using it basically exclusively now instead of the usual suspects (Kaffeine, Kmplayer).

One thing I didn't understand about the review, however, is "Another original feature is the ability to define a playlist". I don't get how this is an original feature. Is there some special functionality to SMPlayer's playlist feature that I haven't been making full use of?? Most if not all media players I've used have similar playlist features. Not trying to be difficult, just trying to see if there's a cool feature I'm missing out on!

Thanks for the review.

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SMPlayer: A high quality wrapper

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 137.229.71.149] on September 12, 2008 03:58 AM
I'll stick with kaffeine for now. Smplayer may have more features, but they sound like stuff i don't need to touch. I like how smplayer is kaffeine like though.

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SMPlayer: A high quality wrapper

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 72.201.143.78] on September 12, 2008 03:18 PM
I discovered SMPlayer about 5 or 6 months ago myself. Prior to that I used Kaffeine, but SMPlayer's very well thought out interface convinced me to make the switch. One thing you didn't mention is how well SMPlayer integrates into the Gnome desktop in spite of the fact that it's Qt based.

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Re: SMPlayer: A high quality wrapper

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 216.232.85.237] on September 12, 2008 08:46 PM
Agreed on the Gnome integration.

Since the second I discovered SMplayer, I have used it exclusively. It is exactly what I've always wanted in a media player. The perfect balance of advanced features and an intuitive interface. On top of that, it's MPlayer, so it plays everything well and lets you do simple but powerful things like zoom!

(I know some other players have zoom, but I've always had problems with them)

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SMPlayer: A high quality wrapper

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 75.145.180.221] on September 12, 2008 05:26 PM
ok, the resume feature just might be the killer feature. On a regular basis, I get interrupted, or (more likely), DVD playing crashes or hangs 20 minutes in. After I get the disc clean, I HATE seeking forward to the same spt....

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SMPlayer: A high quality wrapper

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 130.226.169.201] on September 13, 2008 09:27 AM
I was also primarily a kaffeine user, but switching to kde 4, I wanted something with qt4 and kaffeine's development version is definitely not ready for prime timer (dragon player is just too simple). I actually like Smplayer more than I did Kaffeine now and doubt I'll be switching unless the upcoming qt version of VLC proves its worth.

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SMPlayer: A high quality wrapper

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 151.32.66.249] on September 14, 2008 02:58 PM
SMPlayer is much better than Kaffeine for not being tied to KDE libraries dependencies. I wish many developers removed them as well on other programs where they're not absolutely necessary.

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SMPlayer: A high quality wrapper

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 193.22.173.10] on September 15, 2008 08:29 AM
Runs very well hdtv media... Runs high quality media better than vlc .... It seems to be less heavier on the resources....
It might be the best player for windows now....
I use both linux and windows for 8 years now.

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SMPlayer: A high quality wrapper

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.193.165.201] on September 17, 2008 05:08 AM
Had already used mplayer a little in a pinch, but discovered the wonder of smplayer when it came default on my linux eeepc. I love it... have now made some modifications to the underlying mplayer to
make it even more useful for my work (and suffered the pain of trying to build that for windows, too).

One problem: smplayer doesn't say anything to you when mplayer suffers a fatal error trying to open your file, it just acts as if you'd never even tried. You can find a place in the menus to view the mplayer log and see what's wrong, but it really should pop up a (disable-able) notification saying that it has failed, with a button you can push to view the log. Of course maybe that's fixed in the new version which I don't have yet.

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Re: SMPlayer: A high quality wrapper

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 79.152.74.14] on September 17, 2008 11:28 PM
Actually that popup window to notify of mplayer errors was added several months ago (in version 0.6.0rc3)

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SMPlayer: A high quality wrapper

Posted by: on October 02, 2008 01:54 PM
It's rather annoying that you install a program and two appear.

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