Turn Google Drive Into Your Own Music Service with Drive Tunes

Listening to music via a browser normally involves YouTube – and by association the terribly annoying Vevo. If I wanted advertisements before a song I’d turn on the radio. Soundcloud is an alternative but unfortunately caters mostly to the Alternative genre.

The Drive Tunes extension for Chrome however promises a seamless listening experience straight from your Google Drive. As with most things good and Googly – it’s free, it works and isn’t chock full of malware.

On the face of thing’s all is well. But is it usable? Is there even a point to a browser music player? Oh, and does it play nice with Google’s other offerings? The plot thickens.

My laptop screen is a fairly big 17 inches so when I opened up Drive Tunes for the first time I was stuck by the minimalism; huge white spaces and a lack of well, anything. At this point I had no music files in my Google Drive so my screen was inhabited by only a basic ‘player’ along the top, and a sparse menu in the left sidebar.

Features

When I uploaded a couple of Death Cab tracks to test things out the minimalism remained which I liked. Over the past few years we’ve seen media players with all the bells and whistle which go unused and clutter the screen. And take ages to load. I’m looking at you Windows Media Player. I want ‘select song – click play’ to be the main feature.

Drive Tunes organises your music in a simplistic manner

Drive Tunes organises your music in a simplistic manner

A big concern for me was loading times. I have a fairly decent 25Mb/s broadband connection yet using YouTube to play songs I haven’t downloaded yet often elicit teeth grinding seconds of Internet silence as it loads. Thankfully, Drive Tunes loads things up in a flash. I really put it to the test by uploading top quality 320kb/s audio clips. If there was a delay it was a mere nanosecond.

A slight bug I noticed is the play counter to the right of the screen. I’d been using Drive Tunes for a couple of days and it tends to either reset to zero, or double count each play. So If I clicked on a song the count would go up by two instead of one. But tomorrow it’d be back down to zero. It isn’t something I’d really miss if it wasn’t there and it’s a bug way down the scale in severity.

Search function - A Process of Elimination

Search function – A Process of Elimination

The search function is pretty sweet. I was expecting a predictive type deal in the style of Google Search where your songs will appear in a list just below the search box as you type. But because Drive Tunes emphasises the library as the main way to navigate through your collection, typing simply eliminates songs from the main list until you’re left with the track you’re looking for.

The main feature that’s missing however is some kind of desktop integration. Google, and by association third-party developers are really pushing for The Cloud these days . However, whether they like it or not, a significant portion (if not the majority) use torrents to download songs to their local drives. Instead of expecting us to go cold-turkey I think a halfway house between the two extremes with Drive Tunes could have helped bridge the gap. Unfortunately, you’re stuck with what you’ve manually uploaded to your Drive.

A handy workaround however, is to set your torrent client’s output folder to your Google Drive desktop folder (available via the Google Drive desktop app) which will then automatically upload every song you download.

Some additional features I’d like to see (a few of which are promised for the next version) is FLAC support, album art and track information which can be revealed by, for example, right clicking on a song or folder.

Design

My main gripe with Drive Tunes is that it doesn’t offer a ‘built-in’ music player in Google Drive; it requires a separate tab and acts independently of Drive. I think the minimalism it has to offer in its own design could have easily been replicated in a smaller player within Drive. It’s made by a third-part developer so perhaps the issues were about access to the Google Drive API.

Looks-wise, it’s neat and tidy. Basic black on white colour scheme with minimalist features.

You may notice the lack of buttons – just ‘play’ and ‘next’ are available. This is because it’s much quicker to choose from the list by clicking on a song directly than it is to use navigation buttons to choose your song. It also keeps thing to a minimum in terms of the design.

There is a simple Adsense ad in the left hand sidebar styled in keeping with the colour scheme. Let’s hope it stays that way and doesn’t have any anticipation to transform into the next Vevo.

Is it worth it?

Well it’s free, so instantly, yes.

But really you should only bother with this if you meet the following criteria.

  • You have a large collection of music
  • You’re embracing The Cloud
  • You’ve got some gigabytes to spare in your Google Drive.

Being the proud owner of a Chromebook would help too.

Overall this is a simple yet highly usable app that’ll make YouTube your secondary online music source.


Summary

Drive Tunes is a Chrome Extension which launches a minimalist music player for Google Drive. With permission, it collects your songs in Drive and makes them available in your browser for a super-simple, super-fast listening experience.

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