An open source MP3 player may be either a software application or a specialized and often home-built piece of hardware. Choosing the best open source software application involves checking to see which file types and features are supported and evaluating which operating systems or web platforms can be used. Support and stability issues should be considered as well. When selecting an open-source MP3 player project to build from hardware, the features, performance, complexity, and price of each design should be studied.
Any MP3 player software should be able to play MP3 files at the standard fixed bit rates, as well as at nonstandard and variable rates. A more versatile open source MP3 player will be able to handle other file types as well. The ability to play other audio formats is not universally helpful, as many people have only MP3 files in their collections, and all additional features increase the size of a program. Anyone interested in using multiple file formats should check for format support, however.
Cross-platform stability is another important feature to examine when selecting an open source MP3 player. Some programs function well on a single platform but do not perform well or work at all on machines using other operating systems. Compatibility between computers and mobile devices can also be an issue in some circumstances. A player should be evaluated on each platform where it might need to be used, and any player embedded in a website should be viewed through all major browsers and several types of mobile devices to verify compatibility.
The creators of open source software products usually attempt to support and improve their programs. Not all do so, however, and the amount of energy and skill put into support and upkeep varies between programs. Checking the version history and user comments for an open source MP3 player can provide useful information on the development and support of that application. A user planning to modify the source code of a player should also examine the style, structure, and efficiency of that code and select a program written in a language with which he or she is comfortable.
Open source design and construction of MP3 players are possible as well. Anyone planning to begin work on an open source MP3 player project should consider the specific features and compatibility that they want in an MP3 player, especially in terms of input, output, and supported file types. Complexity can be an issue in this sort of project, too. Some players require programming knowledge or specialized tools, and should only be attempted by people with the skill or time needed. The cost of these projects varies significantly as well, especially when the price of tools is included, and this should also be taken into consideration.