Video players for Linux

Linux offers a wide variety of video players. Here are my observations on those I’ve tried.

There are many different takes on the concept of a video player, so to facilitate this discussion I should try to define a few basic types I’ll be referring to below:

  • Internet TV application: Oriented toward locating, streaming, and sharing (e.g. BitTorrent) online video. Sometimes uses a TV-like “channel” metaphor.
  • Media player: All-in-one player for video, music, streaming audio, and podcasts. Aside from playing video, it aspires to replace your music player, CD player, and DVD player.
  • Personal Video Recorder (PVR): Oriented toward output on a large TV screen, using on-screen display and a remote control.

Those are valid concepts but not what I’m looking for, so I’ll mention them only in passing and instead focus on what I want, which is a full-featured player focused on reproducing locally stored video in any form: on the hard disk, on removable disks, or in VOB/BUP/IFO files extracted from DVDs.

Not that I regularly watch VOB/BUP/IFO files. I prefer to convert them to a more convenient format first; HandBrake is good for this. Nonetheless, I review the VOB/BUP/IFO files in a video player before converting to decide what to convert and what options to use.

Most video players are front ends; the heavy lifting of decoding is usually done by Gstreamer, Mplayer, or Xine, three common multimedia frameworks in Linux. All are good, and the casual user need not worry about backend selection.

Some are written specifically for Gnome or KDE and will drag in lots of dependencies if you don’t already have those environments installed; I have noted those I am aware of. Not being a KDE or Gnome user, I don’t focus on them.

Banshee: Frontend to Gstreamer. Multiplatform all-in-one media player. Requires mono.

Codeine: QT/KDE frontend to Xine. Said to play physical DVDs, but was unable to play a test set of VOB/BUP/IFO files.

Gnome-mplayer: GTK/Gnome frontend to Mplayer. On my installation, a menu item was not added; to launch from a terminal, gnome-mplayer. On my installation, audio worked but video did not; changing from the default xv to x11 in Edit – Preferences – Player – Video Output fixed this. I suspect this was a problem with my box, not with gnome-mplayer. Apparently can navigate the menus of physical DVDs but could not navigate a test set of VOB/BUP/IFO files.

Goggles: GUI for ogle, a DVD player. Claims to have DVD menu support. Only works with physical DVDs, not with VOB/BUP/IFO files. No player controls of any kind are visible.

Gxine: GTK frontend to Xine. My choice for best lightweight player. Also supports audio, including streaming radio. Could not navigate a test set of VOB/BUP/IFO files.

Helix Player: Open source project sponsored by Real Networks. Version I tried is dated 2007; is this project active? Out of the box cannot play .avi files nor could it handle a test set of VOB/BUP/IFO files; clicking through the resulting error messages takes me to an ad for RealPlayer.

Kaffeine: Qt/KDE frontend to Xine.

KMplayer: Qt/KDE frontend to Gstreamer, Mplayer, and Xine (can select desired backend). Out of the box, uses Mplayer and Xine for different files. Can navigate DVD menus and a test set of VOB/BUP/IFO files.

Kplayer: Qt/KDE frontend to Mplayer. Successfully handled a test set of VOB/BUP/IFO files.

Lumiere: GTK/Gnome frontend to Mplayer. Looks lightweight. Out of the box did not work until Edit – Preferences – General – Video Backend was set to Mplayer. Unable to play a test set of VOB/BUP/IFO files.

Miro: Frontend to gstreamer or xine (selectable). Internet TV application. Attractive interface. Unable to play a test set of VOB/BUP/IFO files, and playing physical DVDs is inconvenient.

Mms: PVR (Personal Video Recorder) software, using only on-screen display controls.

Ogle_gui: Frontend to ogle, a DVD player. I had an apparently defective package: the installed .desktop file referenced the executable file /usr/bin/ogle_gui, which was not included in the package.

Osmo4: The project page sounds Windows-centric. The package does not contain a .desktop file and so a menu item was not added. To launch from a terminal, Osmo4 (note mixed case). Silently fails to play AVI files with no error messages to stdout.

oxine: PVR (Personal Video Recorder) software, using only on-screen display controls.

Parole: GTK frontend to Gstreamer and Xfce’s default video player. Attempts to automatically load subtitles, but is unable to manually load them. Cannot handle spaces in filenames in playlists, but can handle spaces in filenames of manually loaded files. Does not have keybindings.

SMPlayer: QT frontend to Mplayer; multiplatform. Can play and navigate the menus of DVDs and VOB/BUP/IFO files. My choice on both Linux and Windows.

Totem: GTK/Gnome frontend to Gstreamer and Gnome’s default video player. Supports playlists and subtitles. Perfectly adequate if you don’t need a lot of features.

VLC: QT, multiplatform. VLC has its own framework built in, so it does not require a separate backend. List of default keybindings (called hotkeys in VLC-speak). It’s great software but as of July 2013 the project suffers from disturbing mishandling of reported vulnerabilities, so I cannot recommend it.

Xine-ui: Frontend to Xine.

Vuze (formerly named Azureus): Java; proprietary. Internet TV application. Frequently criticized for being heavyweight.

See if the problem you observe is also present in the backend framework. For example, one version of SMPlayer had a video display problem in full screen mode. Testing mplayer directly I discovered that the problem was with mplayer, thus saving me from wasting my time testing other mplayer frontends.

6 of the best video players for Linux


About Warren Post

So far: Customer support guy, jungle guide, IT consultant, beach bum, entrepreneur, teacher, diplomat, over-enthusiastic cyclist. Tomorrow: who knows?
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2 Responses to Video players for Linux

  1. Pingback: Configuring and using SMPlayer | A maze of twisty little passages

  2. Pingback: Audio players for Linux | A maze of twisty little passages

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