SAN FRANCISCO (04/20/2000) - If you download music files from the Internet, you know finding tunes is no problem. But what about when you finish downloading?
The recently released RioPort Inc. Audio Manager 3 offers a way to organize your music and even move them to a CD.
As a download, Audio Manager runs on the hefty side, about 3.2MB. The installation process is painless, however, and the program politely asks if you'd like to make it the default audio player for your system.
If you download and register Audio Manager by May 10, you get a license to encode any number of MP3s at no cost. You can also burn up to 25 CDs but will need to pay $10 after you meet that limit if you want to extend the license for unlimited use.
The program opens maximized and sets aside two-thirds of the screen to create play lists that let you build your own musical mixes from CD tracks and downloaded MP3 files. Audio Manager also plays Windows Media Audio and .wav audio files, as well as videos (AVI and QuickTime).
At the top of the screen is a row of tabs that let you jump to different features. They include an internal browser (for finding songs to download) and a tool that lets you convert songs from a CD to WMA or MP3 format. Another button sets the interface to burn CDs from the play lists you create, if you have a burner.
A panel of buttons appear at the bottom right of the screen; with these, you can navigate and play music files from your CD player or hard drive.
The nonstandard interface may take a little getting used to. When you start playing a song, you might be surprised to find a psychedelic vector graphics animation on the right side of the screen, just above the audio playback controls. Consider it a computer-generated music video.
In addition, if you don't like the look of Audio Manager, you can download and apply a new "skin," which completely revamps the colors and buttons to your liking.
Unfortunately, the program places four (!) icons in your system tray, nearly doubling the existing icon clutter on my computer, a Fujitsu laptop.
For the most part, the program acts quite reasonably. And its features for creating song lists are simple to figure out. I even liked the animations that accompany songs.
Preparing for Portability
Audio Manager does a nice job of organizing files so that they can be put on CD. But in some cases the program hiccuped during scans and misunderstood my music files, mixing up the title with the artist in the play list.
If you need a way to sort music files and then output them to a CD-Recordable or portable player, such as Diamond's Rio, Audio Manager will do nicely. If you simply want to play back the songs you download, you have simpler options, including WinAmp, RealPlayer, and Napster.