The Many Faces of Kodi on Windows 10

Kodi is an open source media player I have used for a half dozen years, first as XBMC.  It has become notorious recently because, like many open source apps, you can find lots of add-ons and plugins for Kodi.  Some of those – installed on so-called media sticks – enable playing of pirated content.  But it’s just a media player, and I like Kodi because it is really good at playing music on our internal network.  What I’ve only just settled on is which version of Kodi to run on Windows 10.

Why Kodi

In the bad old days, Windows users could use Windows Media Player or any of a number of media players that offered an enhanced experience:  MediaMonkey, Winamp & its llama, VLC, etc.  They’re still around but I always had trouble using them with network-based music.  I’ve ripped my CD collection and complemented it with downloads from Freegal and commercial music stores.  The entire collection sits on a (backed up!) network drive (it’s a non-Internet facing WD external drive).

This means I can play the music from a game console, laptop, phone, tablet, etc., from anywhere in the house.  But Windows apps were always a bit flaky, or slow at indexing a large collection of music.  Kodi, on the other hand, handles a variety of media servers (I have the ability to run an iTunes server as well) and has been an ideal solution.

Now Kodi is growing up and I was determining whether to grow with it.

Version Control

Version 16 (Jasper) has been out for some time.    Version 17 (Krypton) is the current version.  I’ve also used the app version on Android and it runs on just about any OS.  I was surprised to find that there’s even a version in the Windows 10 Store.

The reason I mention versions is that there are choices.  Krypton is a nicer, shinier version but I have stuck with Version 16 because I like how it looks.  Once I have drilled into the music section, it’s very clear how to navigate the screen.  Krypton keeps a side bar open all the time, eating up the space that displays the music – titles, album names, even controls – and it’s not always clear how to move around the program.  I have started to get use to just clicking in the top left corner which often makes the previous screen open.  It’s almost like it was developed for a tablet, but not quite.

Krypton Windows Store version, with open left side bar. You can see navigation on the right but it will shortly disappear behind the visualization.

Jasper isn’t as pretty but it’s easy to use and I’ve got years of comfort with it.  Still, it’s good to keep up with the latest versions so I figured I’d give Krypton a try.

I tried the full Krypton client first and it was fine but it had those interface problems that kept slowing me down.  Then I tried the Windows Store version, which is Krypton but repackaged a bit.  If anything, I found this more difficult to manuever through than the full Krypton.  I realized that when I was listening to a track and couldn’t figure out how to return to the album listing or any other view other than the track itself.  None of the icons on the screen below take you back to the album listing.

The music player eventually switches to song mode and then there’s no obvious way to exit. Like clicking on the screen, or an arrow, or home button.

Back to Jasper

In the end, I uninstalled the full Krypton and Windows Store versions.  It’s more time than I want to invest to figure out how to navigate the applications.  Particularly when Jasper works well enough.

As I reinstalled Jasper and was re-configuring something, I realized that there was a mobile theme that I hadn’t used before.  It’s a nice improvement over the default 16 skin and gives much more of a Krypton feel to the application.  With the new skin – re-touched by Jezz_X – and version 16, I think I’ve found my sweet spot with Kodi.

Kodi Jasper (v16) with re-touched skin by Jezz_X applied, and albums laid out in grid format