Mock-up screens for audio player with graphic UI

Present audio player software is based on mp3/vorbis tags (Album/Artist/Genre etc.). These tags are limited to the space available within audio files and are very restrictive. Selecting music from a large collection of audiofiles using text search and these tags is cumbersome. Users will not know or remember details of thousands of music files even if they originally purchased them. The large quantity of songs returned on a search makes it difficult to find the right one. This is particularly true for classical music collections that may contain performances of a single music composition by many artists and orchestra's. Selecting music from a library is much easier if the user is able to reorganize the library based on its own methodology (or lack thereof). Using the graphic user interface tools that are common since the introduction of smartphones and tablets, a user can arrange music using other mechanisms, such as by its position on a virtual shelf, or using self-defined catagories that do not need to be related to the standard tags.

Here are some high-level examples of this graphic UI. For convenience sake I have used the layout of a tablet. In practice, such UI will be part of a server application either controlled directly by the user or via a browser interface (or Teamviewer). Items are represented here by icons, but an alternative approach based on lists with pinned file names is also feasible and may be more appropriate for a browser-based UI.

Organizing the library can be done at any time, but typically is done after the music server has indexed the music folders or when new music has been added.

Opening browser/app screen. Main button is the "open core library list".

The core library screen opens with a graphic (or list) version of all music indexed by the music server. The list can be presented A>Z or Z>A> or using any of the basic mp3/vorbis tags associated with the index. This is typically what we see in all existing music players. In this example the core library screen is presented as folder structure.
In this screen example there are 120 folders, and each folder may consist of several sub-folders. These can be reached by clicking/tapping the top-folder.

The horizontal dots at the bottom indicate that there are five core library screens in this example: good for 600 folders (which may have 10,000 to 20,000 songs).

The Playlist icon allows folders (or albums, or artists, etc.) be dragged and dropped directly from the core library view into a playlist. Items on the library screen may also be selected and moved to the playlist by tapping and a menu option. Multi-gesture will improve selection. The screen may be enlarged/reduced by pinching.

From this core library list, a user can create their personal library categories.

In above example a folder is press&hold, gets highlighted and automatically moves into a user defined category screen.

Any smartphone/tablet user is familiar with this approach for applications, so there is no learning curve to do the same for audio files.

Here is a first item of a new user category screen. There may be many of these screens. A manageable quantity is a dozen to twenty screens which could be connected in a round-robin mechanism (similar to photo albums). With 20-40 items per screen this results in a user formatted library of 200 to 800 albums/folders (4,000 to 20,000 songs). This 'active' user defined library is typically a subset of the core library.
The core library button allows going back to select more items for this user category screen.

Another folder is added by press&hold on the core library screen.

The new category screen now contains two items, from which we can make selections.

Tapping an item will reveal underlying songs or sub-folders.

Individual songs (or sub-folders) can be played, queued or hidden from view. The hidden songs will not be played when the album (or folder, etc.) is dragged to the playlist. This enables the user to get rid of songs on an album that they never liked, without actually deleting them. Deleting of items can only be done from the core library view and requires approval.

Items on the expanded album/folder list can be dragged directly into a playlist.

Once several items have been included in a category it may be useful to give it a name.

In above example a new category screen was created and populated with kids music. Music folders in this category may also exist on other music category screens, so if your kid also enjoys Mozart there could be some of that as well in this custom screen. The UI only points to the audio files in the core library list, so there is no duplication of data.
Music albums or folders may be swiped between category screens with option to Move or Copy.

Folders, albums, and/or songs in a user category screen can be dragged to a playlist.

Items that do not, or no longer, belong to the personal category can be dragged to a remove icon (analogous to the remove icon on a tablet). This means they will no longer be present in this category. The same item may still be present in other category screens and will remain in the core library screen unless it is purposely deleted from the core library.

The huge advantage (for me) is that it allows me to create a category that, for example, includes ten different performances of Debussy preludes so I can easily create new playlists to compare these. It also allows users to create a custom screen for a specific occasion. There still may be hundreds of items on such a user screen from which one or several playlists can be defined.

You can also build a user defined sub-library by creating many dedicated playlists, but having playlists with hundreds of items from which a final selection needs to be made is far more cumbersome than adding an additional user-defined library layer.

Playlists
These can be graphic, with similar layout as a category screen, or they can be lists as we traditionally use in media software. If we plan on using multiple playlists it may be useful to create a "playlist" category screen which can be the starting point for creating new playlists and for managing playlists, such as by moving items up/down in priority, and removing items by swipe command.
The Playlist capabilities are more or less standard and may not require a graphic approach, so I did not create a mock-up for these.

©Gert Nieveld, January 2017