There are plenty of free multimedia converters for Ubuntu available, with command-line champ FFmpeg arguably the most powerful of them all.

But this power comes with a complexity. Using FFMpeg to convert media through the command line can be intimidating and arcane.

Which is why FFMpeg frontends are popular.

Curlew is a slick GTK3 frontend to FFMpeg designed solely for Linux desktops. It lets you quickly transcode and convert media files from one format to another through a simple, straightforward user interface.

In taking advantage of FFMpeg (which has a flurry of command line options) Curlew is both as powerful and as straightforward as you want. The app even has a little toggle to show or hide advanced options, like

Just drag and drop the files you wish to convert on to the app window (or select the files/folder manually through the UI), set your desired output format from the extensive list of options, and hit  convert.

By default Curlew exports your transcoded media into ~/Videos, but you can adjust the destination folder though the application’s advanced settings panel.

This advanced panel also gives you access to a wealth of configuration options, from audio bitrate and video quality, to subtitle embedded, cropping, and file splitting.

The app is not multiprocess; it processes files in the queue one at a time, in turn. You also can’t set different converter settings per file, i.e. if you have AVI export set, all files in the queue will be exported in that format.

There is (helpfully) a button you can press to stop conversion. That way you can add a bunch of files, then hit stop when one is complete, adjust the output settings, hit convert, and so on.

Because the list of output formats is so huge — spanning everything from MP3 to FLV — I appreciate the ability to mark certain presets as ‘favorites’ for faster access in future.

Are these features enough to make Curlew the best video converter for Ubuntu? That’s for you to decide. Curlew is, for my needs at least, a really good fit.

You can download the latest stable release of Curlew, v0.2.4, from the Sourceforge page below.

Download Curlew 0.2.4 from Sourceforge

What is your favourite multimedia converter for Linux? Let us know in the comments below.

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