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Make Rhythmbox Look Better with this Alternative Toolbar Plugin

The easy way to drastically improve the look of Ubuntu's dated music app

If I asked you to describe Rhythmbox music player in three words, what would you choose?

I’d plump for decent, dependable and dextrous, positives that make it’s every bit deserving of its spot as a default app on the Ubuntu desktop.

But I can’t help but think it looks a little bit dated.

Don’t get me wrong, the stock appearance is far from being terrible. Under a modern GTK3 theme like Arc Rhythmbox doesn’t look that bad at all:

But the moment you switch to Adwaita (the default GNOME theme) or Ambiance (the default Ubuntu theme) a few of its flaws become more apparent:

rhythm box standard look on Ubuntu

Do the top toolbar buttons really need to be that huge? Is that a progress bar on the right or a volume slider? And why don’t lists in the sidebar a) collapse like they do in other music players and b) have some spacing?

These are modest criticisms when you remember that Rhythmbox is 15 years old. And while none of the issues I have with the app affects the core functionality of playing and managing my music.

But there’s no reason why the player can’t look a little more modern.

Rhythmbox Alternative Toolbar Plugin

Enter Rhythmbox alternative toolbar. You’ll have guessed from the name that the Rhythmbox alternative toolbar plugin is — faux shock — an alternative toolbar plugin for Rhythmbox.

The Github pitch for the plugin touts “enhanced play controls and interface for Rhythmbox”. That’s a rather modest description considering the improvements it makes. Modern, minimal, and music-focused is the alliterative menage à trios I think would sell the plugin  better.

A combination of Rhythmbox theme and a Rhythmbox plugin, the alternative toolbar transforms the Rhythmbox music player from an mid-00s iTunes clone into something sleek and unique:

Rhythmbox Alternative Toolbar Overview

No it’s not revolutionary, but it doesn’t need to be.

The neat thing for those of you who use the app on GNOME Shell or Budgie desktop is that it supports Client Side Decoration. This alone helps to reduce the amount of space used by the app.

If Ubuntu decides keep Rhythmbox as part of the Ubuntu 17.10 default apps (and there’s no reason it shouldn’t) I do wonder if adding and enabling the alternative toolbar plugin by default could be one way to get the app to ‘integrate’ nicely into the rest of the GNOME desktop.

Yup, even with Ambiance:

Try it out and let me know what you think.

Install Rhythmbox Alternative Toolbar Plugin on Ubuntu

You don’t need to add a PPA, download an installer, or mess about moving folders to masked directories in a folder somewhere to get this plugin.

The Alternative Toolbar Plugin is available to install from Ubuntu Software on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS and above.

Hit the button below to prompt installation, or search out the package by name in your package manager of choice.

Install Rhythmbox Alternative Toolbar Plugin from Ubuntu Software

Once the plugin is installed you will need to open Rhythmbox and enable it through the Tools > Plugins and enable the ‘Alternative Toolbar‘ option. You should be prompted to restart the app so that the changes can take effect (if you’re not just fully quit the app and reopen it).

You’ll find a small number of layout and features options in the View menu, including options to display the play queue, show/hide cover art, and toggle the sidebar.