A Beta Worth a Look: LIBOX Plays and Organizes Media Files

I'll take the hit. I was loath to review yet another media player/organizer app. Both Windows and the Mac come with pretty darn good ones in Windows Media Player and iTunes, with the latter available on Windows as well. LIBOX (free beta) had me singing another tune. I was expecting stylish, hip, and limited, and what I got was, well... hip, highly original, and with a promise of greatness. It's a photo/audio/video organizer and player multi-device sharing app, as well as part social app. Sadly, bugs spoiled much of the effect and hindered my testing, but it is a beta. I like the approach even if the program didn't prove immediately useful.

Bright and uncluttered, LIBOX's interface is an ode to clean design.
The download is used to download additional setup files. You'll need to sign up for the free LIBOX service to use the program, but it only serves to redirect communications between LIBOX clients. Once you do, there's a short setup procedure during which you import media and can add an online avatar image of your choosing as well as optionally provide an e-mail address (Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, or Windows Live) that LIBOX will use to search for other LIBOX users.

LIBOX's interface is exceptionally clean and logical, though I'm not a huge fan of the color scheme (bright white/light gray with splashes of green). There's no local help file, but ten minutes exploring the online help and the interface and the online help should give you a good idea of how to operate the program. The column of categories and actions to the left of the main screen is good place to start.

Once you dig in, you'll probably have the same feeling I did--that you're looking at what will eventually be a better way to organize, play, and share media. The scope of the program and service is so large that I'll just hit on some of the high points. The first and most unique among several unique LIBOX features is its multi-device nature. The program/service aspires to be platform-agnostic.

If you've logged on to LIBOX open on two machines (local or across the Internet), you'll see the media from both on both--at least in theory. The 1.4.0.8 version I tested had some rather large problems keeping track of files, which would fail to show up, disappear, and sometimes appear long after a folder was added. This was undoubtedly related to trying to sync the two PCs I installed the programs on, but there's no workaround, so it's something the company will need to work out before the beta period ends.

When the files were available, LIBOX impressed me with its audio and video CODEC support. It's all internal and is nearly as broad as VLC's. In addition to the normal audio types handled by WMP and Quicktime, there's support for FLAC, Ogg Vorbis (audio), and up to 96/24-bit wave files. There's no support for APE and Windows lossless did not play. Video format support included h.264 and Quicktime types, but oddly, Theora files did not show up. LIBOX imported jpegs and bitmaps, but no other, less-popular image formats. The program never even hinted at crashing--a rarity in betas for this category.

LIBOX is not ready for prime time, but even so it's worth a look. When the file management and minor interface issues are solved, it might just become your media manager/player/sharing app of choice.

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