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The Steam Music beta is live

People who signed up for the Steam Music beta received the notification that Valve’s new music-management system is live this past weekend. I was one of those people, and I spent part of my weekend exploring Steam’s new addition.

On opening Steam in its Big Picture mode (or simply booting into your Steam Machine’s primary interface) and clicking on Library, users will be asked whether they want to view their games, or their music. After selecting music, the relevant folders are searched for and albums and songs added to Steam.

The process takes a bit of time, longer if you have a lot of music files, but the end result is your music arranged by album in a format that very closely resembles Big Picture’s Games layout.

Playing songs is as simple as double-clicking them, which brings up the only disappointing element of Steam Music I’ve seen so far: A simple dialogue box that overlays the album art while music plays, showing basic controls (Play, Pause, Next Track, Previous Track, Shuffle and browse music) and a timer. It’s also where you’ll see the tracks you’ve queued up via right-clicking and selecting Add to Queue, and sadly, it’s all more than a little ugly.

See? Ugly.
See? Ugly.

Other gripes are that album art appears to be pulled directly from your music folders as opposed to obtained automatically by Steam, and Steam Music doesn’t appear to do anything about oddly-named tracks or artists it can’t identify, either, like ask for additional information from the user to find the missing details.

Steam Music also doesn’t respond to the media controls on my Microsoft Wireless Multimedia Keyboard, and finding what’s currently playing isn’t possible once you’ve clicked away from the window with the controls. The only way to get back to what’s playing is to play a new song, an action that erases your current playlist.

These gripes are to be expected, of course, since this is just a beta programme.

There is also some good, however: the Steam Music beta brings with it a complete overhaul of the Steam overlay that comes up with you press Shift and Tab while in a game. Now, that interface looks like elements from Steam’s Big Picture mode, and you can see things like your recent achievements and which friends play the game you’re in and of course manage whatever music is playing. That part of Steam’s new features looks very nice, at least.

If you’ve signed up and are using Steam Music and you’d like to give Valve some feedback, the best place to do that is on the Steam Music section of the Steam forum.

These are my first impressions of the service; expect more once the beta ends and Steam Music goes live for everyone.

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