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4  Browsing and playing

4.1 File Browser
4.1.1 File Browser Controls
4.1.2 Context Menu
4.1.3 Virtual Keyboard
4.2 Database
4.2.1 Introduction
4.2.2 Initializing the Database
4.2.3 The Database Menu
4.2.4 Using the Database
4.3 While Playing Screen
4.3.1 WPS Key Controls
4.3.2 Peak Meter
4.3.3 The WPS Context Menu
4.4 Working with Playlists
4.4.1 Playlist terminology
4.4.2 Creating playlists
4.4.3 Adding music to playlists
4.4.4 Modifying playlists
4.4.5 Saving playlists
4.4.6 Loading saved playlists
4.5 Hotkeys

4.1  File Browser


Figure 4.1.: The file browser

Rockbox lets you browse your music in either of two ways. The File Browser lets you navigate through the files and directories on your player, entering directories and executing the default action on each file. To help differentiate files, each file format is displayed with an icon.

The Database Browser, on the other hand, allows you to navigate through the music on your player using categories like album, artist, genre, etc.

You can select whether to browse using the File Browser or the Database Browser by selecting either Files or Database in the Main Menu. If you choose the File Browser, the Show Files setting lets you select what types of files you wish to view. See section 8.2 for more information on the Show Files setting.

Note: The File Browser allows you to manipulate your files in ways that are not available within the Database Browser. Read more about Database in section 4.2. The remainder of this section deals with the File Browser.

4.1.1  File Browser Controls



Minus or Top-Middle/Plus or Bottom-Middle

Go to previous/next item in list. If you are on the first/last entry, the cursor will wrap to the last/first entry.


Go to the parent directory.

Menu or Centre or Middle-Right

Execute the default action on the selected file or enter a directory.

Plus+Menu or Top-Right

If there is an audio file playing, return to the While Playing Screen (WPS) without stopping playback.

Minus+Power or Bottom-Right

Stop audio playback.

Long Menu or Long Centre or Long Middle-Right

Enter the Context Menu.


Enter the Main Menu.


Switch to the Quick Screen (see section 5.12).

4.1.2  Context Menu


Figure 4.2.: The Context Menu

The Context Menu allows you to perform certain operations on files or directories. To access the Context Menu, position the selector over a file or directory and access the context menu with Long Menu or Long Centre or Long Middle-Right.

Note: The Context Menu is a context sensitive menu. If the Context Menu is invoked on a file, it will display options available for files. If the Context Menu is invoked on a directory, it will display options for directories.

The Context Menu contains the following options (unless otherwise noted, each option pertains both to files and directories):

Enters the Playlist Submenu (see section 4.4.3).
Playlist Catalogue.
Enters the Playlist Catalogue Submenu (see section 4.4.2).
This function lets the user modify the name of a file or directory.
Copies the name of the currently selected file or directory to the clipboard and marks it to be ‘cut’.
Copies the name of the currently selected file or directory to the clipboard and marks it to be ‘copied’.
Only visible if a file or directory name is on the clipboard. When selected it will move or copy the clipboard to the current directory.
Deletes the currently selected file. This option applies only to files, and not to directories. Rockbox will ask for confirmation before deleting a file. Press Menu or Top-Right to confirm deletion or any other key to cancel.
Delete Directory.
Deletes the currently selected directory and all of the files and subdirectories it may contain. Deleted directories cannot be recovered. Use this feature with caution!
Set As Backdrop.
Set the selected bmp file as background image. The bitmaps need to meet the conditions explained in section 12.1.6.
Open with.
Runs a viewer plugin on the file. Normally, when a file is selected in Rockbox, Rockbox automatically detects the file type and runs the appropriate plugin. The Open With function can be used to override the default action and select a viewer by hand. For example, this function can be used to view a text file even if the file has a non-standard extension (i.e., the file has an extension of something other than .txt). See section 11.3 for more details on viewers.
Create Directory.
Create a new directory in the current directory on the disk.
Shows properties such as size and the time and date of the last modification for the selected file. If used on a directory, the number of files and subdirectories will be shown, as well as the total size.
Start File Browser Here.
This option allows users to set the currently selected directory as the default start directory for the file browser. This option is not available for files.

Note: If you have Auto-Change Directory and Constrain Auto-Change enabled, the directories returned will be constrained to the directory you have chosen here and those below it. See section 7.11

Add to Shortcuts.
Adds a link to the selected item in the shortcuts.link file. If the file does not already exist it will be created in the root directory. Note that if you create a shortcut to a file, Rockbox will not open it upon selecting, but simply bring you to its location in the File Browser.

4.1.3  Virtual Keyboard


Figure 4.3.: The virtual keyboard

This is the virtual keyboard that is used when entering text in Rockbox, for example when renaming a file or creating a new directory. The virtual keyboard can be easily changed by making a text file with the required layout. More information on how to achieve this can be found on the Rockbox website at LoadableKeyboardLayouts.

Note: When the cursor is on the input line, Centre deletes the preceding character



Middle-Left / Middle-Right

Move the cursor on the virtual keyboard. If you move out of the picker area, you get the previous/next page of characters (if there is more than one).

Top-Middle / Bottom-Middle

Move the cursor on the virtual keyboard. If you move out of the picker area you get to the line edit mode.

Menu or

Flip to the next page of characters (if there is more than one).


Insert the selected keyboard letter at the current line cursor position.

Long Centre

Exit the virtual keyboard and save any changes.


Exit the virtual keyboard without saving any changes.

4.2  Database

4.2.1  Introduction

This chapter describes the Rockbox music database system. Using the information contained in the tags (ID3v1, ID3v2, Vorbis Comments, Apev2, etc.) in your audio files, Rockbox builds and maintains a database of the music files on your player and allows you to browse them by Artist, Album, Genre, Song Name, etc. The criteria the database uses to sort the songs can be completely customised. More information on how to achieve this can be found on the Rockbox website at DataBase.

4.2.2  Initializing the Database

The first time you use the database, Rockbox will scan your disk for audio files. This can take quite a while depending on the number of files on your player. This scan happens in the background, so you can choose to return to the Main Menu and continue to listen to music. If you shut down your player, the scan will continue next time you turn it on. After the scan is finished you may be prompted to restart your player before you can use the database.

Ignoring Directories During Database Initialization

You may have directories on your player whose contents should not be added to the database. Placing a file named database.ignore in a directory will exclude the files in that directory and all its subdirectories from scanning their tags and adding them to the database. This will speed up the database initialization.

If a subdirectory of an ‘ignored’ directory should still be scanned, place a file named database.unignore in it. The files in that directory and its subdirectories will be scanned and added to the database.

4.2.3  The Database Menu

Load To RAM
The database can either be kept on flash storage (to save memory), or loaded into RAM (for fast browsing). Setting this to Yes loads the database to RAM, allowing faster browsing and searching. Setting this option to No keeps the database on the flash storage, meaning slower browsing but it does not use extra RAM and saves some battery on boot up.
Auto Update
If Auto update is set to on, each time the player boots, the database will automatically be updated.
Initialize Now
You can force Rockbox to rescan your disk for tagged files by using the Initialize Now function in the Database Menu.

Warning: Initialize Now removes all database files (removing runtimedb data also) and rebuilds the database from scratch.

Update Now
Update now causes the database to detect new and deleted files

Note: Unlike the Auto Update function, Update Now will update the database regardless of whether the Directory Cache is enabled. Thus, an update using Update now may take a long time.

Unlike Initialize Now, the Update Now function does not remove runtime database information.

Gather Runtime Data
When enabled, rockbox will record how often and how long a track is being played, when it was last played and its rating. This information can be displayed in the WPS and is used in the database browser to, for example, show the most played, unplayed and most recently played tracks.
Export Modifications
This allows for the runtime data to be exported to the file
/.rockbox/database_changelog.txt, which backs up the runtime data in ASCII format. This is needed when database structures change, because new code cannot read old database code. But, all modifications exported to ASCII format should be readable by all database versions.
Import Modifications.
Allows the /.rockbox/database_changelog.txt backup to be conveniently loaded into the database. If Auto Update is enabled this is performed automatically when the database is initialized.

4.2.4  Using the Database

Once the database has been initialized, you can browse your music by Artist, Album, Genre, Song Name, etc. To use the database, go to the Main Menu and select Database.

Note: You may need to increase the value of the Max Entries in File Browser setting (Settings General Settings System Limits) in order to view long lists of tracks in the ID3 database browser.

There is no option to turn off database completely. If you do not want to use it just do not do the initial build of the database and do not load it to RAM.









id tag



id tag



id tag



id tag



id tag



id tag



id tag



id tag



id tag



id tag



id tag



id tag/filename



runtime db



runtime db



runtime db

Pm (play time – min)


runtime db

Ps (play time – sec)


runtime db



runtime db










Lm (track len – min)



Ls (track len – sec)



4.3  While Playing Screen

The While Playing Screen (WPS) displays various pieces of information about the currently playing audio file. The appearance of the WPS can be configured using WPS configuration files. The items shown depend on your configuration – all items can be turned on or off independently. Refer to section D for details on how to change the display of the WPS.

See section 12.2 for details of customising your WPS (While Playing Screen).

4.3.1  WPS Key Controls



Plus or Top-Middle / Minus or Bottom-Middle

Volume up/down.


Go to beginning of track, or if pressed while in the first seconds of a track, go to the previous track.

Long Middle-Left

Rewind in track.


Go to the next track.

Long Middle-Right

Fast forward in track.


Toggle play/pause.

Long Centre

Stop playback.

Minus+Power or Top-Right

Return to the File Browser / Database.

Long Menu or Long Top-Right

Enter WPS Context Menu.

Menu or Top-Left

Enter Main Menu.


Switch to the Quick Screen (see section 5.12).


Activate the Hotkey function (see section 4.5).

or Short Middle-Right + Long Middle-Right

Skip to the next directory.

or Short Middle-Left + Long Middle-Left

Skip to the previous directory.

4.3.2  Peak Meter

The peak meter can be displayed on the While Playing Screen and consists of several indicators.

The bar:
This is the wide horizontal bar. It represents the current volume value.
The peak indicator:
This is a little vertical line at the right end of the bar. It indicates the peak volume value that occurred recently.
The clip indicator:
This is a little black block that is displayed at the very right of the scale when an overflow occurs. It usually does not show up during normal playback unless you play an audio file that is distorted heavily.

Note: Note that the clip detection is not very precise. Clipping might occur without being indicated.

The scale:
Between the indicators of the right and left channel there are little dots. These dots represent important volume values. In linear mode each dot is a 10% mark. In dBFS mode the dots represent the following values (from right to left): 0 dB, -3 dB, -6 dB, -9 dB, -12 dB, -18 dB, -24 dB, -30 dB, -40 dB, -50 dB, -60 dB.

4.3.3  The WPS Context Menu

Like the context menu for the File Browser, the WPS Context Menu allows you quick access to some often used functions.


The Playlist submenu allows you to view, save, search, reshuffle, and display the play time of the current playlist. These and other operations are detailed in section 4.4. To change settings for the Playlist Viewer press Long Menu or Long Centre or Long Middle-Right while viewing the current playlist to bring up the Playlist Viewer Menu. In this menu, you can find the Playlist Viewer Settings.

Playlist Viewer Settings

Show Icons.
This toggles display of the icon for the currently selected playlist entry and the icon for moving a playlist entry
Show Indices.
This toggles display of the line numbering for the playlist
Track Display.
This toggles between filename only and full path for playlist entries

Playlist catalogue
View catalogue.
This lists all playlists that are part of the Playlist catalogue. You can load a new playlist directly from this list.
Add to playlist.
Adds the currently playing file to a playlist. Select the playlist you want the file to be added to and it will get appended to that playlist.
Add to new playlist.
Similar to the previous entry this will add the currently playing track to a playlist. You need to enter a name for the new playlist first.

Sound Settings

This is a shortcut to the Sound Settings Menu, where you can configure volume, bass, treble, and other settings affecting the sound of your music. See section 6 for more information.

Playback Settings

This is a shortcut to the Playback Settings Menu, where you can configure shuffle, repeat, party mode, skip length and other settings affecting the playback of your music.


The menu entry is only shown if Gather Runtime Information is enabled. It allows the assignment of a personal rating value (0 – 10) to a track which can be displayed in the WPS and used in the Database browser. The value wraps at 10.


This allows you to create a bookmark in the currently-playing track.

Show Track Info


Figure 4.4.: The track info viewer

This screen is accessible from the WPS screen, and provides a detailed view of all the identity information about the current track. This info is known as meta data and is stored in audio file formats to keep information on artist, album etc. To access this screen,

Open With...

This Open With function is the same as the Open With function in the file browser’s Context Menu.


Delete the currently playing file. The file will be deleted but the playback of the file will not stop immediately. Instead, the part of the file that has already been buffered (i.e. read into the player’s memory) will be played. This may even be the whole track.


The Pitch Screen allows you to change the rate of playback (i.e. the playback speed and at the same time the pitch) of your player. The rate value can be adjusted between 50% and 200%. 50% means half the normal playback speed and a pitch that is an octave lower than the normal pitch. 200% means double playback speed and a pitch that is an octave higher than the normal pitch.

The rate can be changed in two modes: procentual and semitone. Initially, procentual mode is active.

If you’ve enabled the Timestretch option in Sound Settings and have since rebooted, you can also use timestretch mode. This allows you to change the playback speed without affecting the pitch, and vice versa.

In timestretch mode there are separate displays for pitch and speed, and each can be altered independently. Due to the limitations of the algorithm, speed is limited to be between 35% and 250% of the current pitch value. Pitch must maintain the same ratio as well as remain between 50% and 200%.

The value of the rate, pitch and speed is not persistent, i.e. after the player is turned on it will always be set to 100%. However, the rate, pitch and speed information will be stored in any bookmarks you may create (see section 8.7) and will be restored upon playing back those bookmarks.



Top-Right or Bottom-Right

Toggle pitch changing mode (cycle through all available modes).

Plus or Top-Middle / Minus or Bottom-Middle

Increase / Decrease pitch by 0.1% (in procentual mode) or 0.1 semitone (in semitone mode).

Long Plus or Long Top-Middle / Long Minus or Long Bottom-Middle

Increase / Decrease pitch by 1% (in procentual mode) or a semitone (in semitone mode).

Middle-Left / Middle-Right

Temporarily change pitch by 2% (beatmatch), or modify speed (in timestretch mode).


Reset pitch and speed to 100%.

Power or Top-Left or Bottom-Left

Leave the Pitch Screen.

4.4  Working with Playlists

4.4.1  Playlist terminology

Some common terms that are used in Rockbox when referring to playlists:

A playlist! One of the keys to getting the most out of Rockbox is understanding that Rockbox always considers the song that it is playing to be part of a playlist, and in some situations, Rockbox will create a playlist automatically. For example, if you are playing the contents of a directory, Rockbox will automatically create a playlist containing all songs in it. This means that just about anything that is described in this chapter with respect to playlists also applies to directories.
Dynamic playlist.
A dynamic playlist is a playlist that is created “On the fly.” Any time you insert or queue tracks using the Playlist submenu (see section 4.4.3), you are creating (or adding to) a dynamic playlist.
In Rockbox, to Insert an item into a playlist means putting an item into a playlist and leaving it there, even after it is played. As you will see later in this chapter, Rockbox can Insert into a playlist in several places.
In Rockbox, to Queue a song means to put the song into a playlist and then to remove the song from the playlist once it has been played. The only difference between Insert and Queue is that the Queue option removes the song from the playlist once it has been played, and the Insert option does not.

4.4.2  Creating playlists

Rockbox can create playlists in four different ways.

By selecting (“playing”) a song from the File Browser

Whenever a song is selected from the File Browser with Menu or Centre or Middle-Right, Rockbox will automatically create a playlist containing all of the songs in that directory and start playback with the selected song.

Note: If you already have created a dynamic playlist, playing a new song will erase the current dynamic playlist and create a new one. If you want to add a song to the current playlist rather than erasing the current playlist, see the section below on how to add music to a playlist.

By using Insert and Queue functions

If playback is stopped, the Insert and Queue functions can be used as described in 4.4.3 to create a new playlist instead of adding to an existing one. This will erase any dynamic playlist.

By using the Playlist catalogue

The Playlist catalogue makes it possible to modify and create playlists that are not currently playing. To do this select Playlist catalogue in the Context Menu. There you will have two choices, Add to playlist adds the selected track or directory to an existing playlist and Add to a new playlist creates a new playlist containing the selected track or directory.

Note: All playlists in the Playlist catalogue are stored by default in the /Playlists directory in the root of your player’s disk and playlists stored in other locations are not included in the catalogue. It is however possible to move existing playlists there (see section 4.1.2).

By using the Main Menu

To create a playlist containing all music on your player, you can use the Create Playlist command in the Playlists menu found in the Main Menu. The created playlist will be named root.m3u8 and saved in the root of your player’s disk.

4.4.3  Adding music to playlists

Adding music to a dynamic playlist


Figure 4.5.: The Playlist Submenu

The Playlist Submenu is a submenu in the Context Menu (see section 4.1.2), it allows you to put tracks into a “dynamic playlist”. If there is no music currently playing, Rockbox will create a new dynamic playlist and put the selected track(s) into it. If there is music currently playing, Rockbox will put the selected track(s) into the current playlist. The place in which the newly selected tracks are added to the playlist is determined by the following options:

Add track(s) immediately after any tracks added via the most recent Insert operation. If no tracks have yet been added via an Insert, new tracks will be added immediately after the current playing track. If playback is stopped a new dynamic playlist will get created with the selected tracks.
Insert Next.
Add track(s) immediately after current playing track, no matter what else has been inserted.
Insert Last.
Add track(s) to end of playlist.
Insert Shuffled.
Add track(s) to the playlist in a random order.
Insert Last Shuffled.
Add tracks in a random order to the end of the playlist.
Queue is the same as Insert except queued tracks are deleted immediately from the playlist after they have been played. Also, queued tracks are not saved to the playlist file (see section 5.9).
Queue Next.
Queue track(s) immediately after current playing track.
Queue Last.
Queue track(s) at end of playlist.
Queue Shuffled.
Queue track(s) in a random order.
Queue Last Shuffled.
Queue tracks in a random order at the end of the playlist.
Play Next.
Replaces all but the current playing track with track(s). Current playing track is queued.

The Playlist Submenu can be used to add either single tracks or entire directories to a playlist. If the Playlist Submenu is invoked on a single track, it will put only that track into the playlist. On the other hand, if the Playlist Submenu is invoked on a directory, Rockbox adds all of the tracks in that directory to the playlist.

Note: You can control whether or not Rockbox includes the contents of subdirectories when adding an entire directory to a playlist. Set the Settings General Settings Playlist Recursively Insert Directories setting to Yes if you would like Rockbox to include tracks in subdirectories as well as tracks in the currently-selected directory.

Dynamic playlists are saved so resume will restore them exactly as they were before shutdown.

Note: To view, save, reshuffle, or display the play time of the current dynamic playlist use the Playlist sub menu in the WPS context menu or in the Main Menu.

4.4.4  Modifying playlists


Reshuffling the current playlist is easily done from the Playlist sub menu in the WPS, just select Reshuffle.

Moving and removing tracks

To move or remove a track from the current playlist enter the Playlist Viewer by selecting View Current Playlist in the Playlist submenu in the WPS context menu or the Main Menu. Once in the Playlist Viewer open the context menu on the track you want to move or remove. If you want to move the track, select Move in the context menu and then move the blinking cursor to the place where you want the track to be moved and confirm with Menu or Centre or Middle-Right. To remove a track, simply select Remove in the context menu.

4.4.5  Saving playlists

To save the current playlist either enter the Playlist submenu in the WPS Context Menu (see section 4.3.3) and select Save Current Playlist or enter the Playlist Options menu in the Main Menu and select Save Current Playlist. Either method will bring you to the Virtual Keyboard (see section 4.1.3), enter a filename for your playlist and accept it and you are done.

4.4.6  Loading saved playlists

Through the File Browser

Playlist files, like regular music tracks, can be selected through the File Browser. When loading a playlist from disk it will replace the current dynamic playlist.

Through the Playlist catalogue

The Playlist catalogue offers a shortcut to all playlists in your player’s specified playlist directory. It can be used like the File Browser.

4.5  Hotkeys

Hotkeys are shortcut keys for use in the WPS screen. To use one, press Bottom-Right within the WPS screen. If there is no assignment for a given screen, the hotkey is ignored.

The default assignment for the WPS hotkey is View Playlist.

The hotkey assignments are changed in the Hotkey menu (see section 8.11) under General Settings.