Pandora, the crazy popular internet radio webapp, already has a Mac application of its own, but it’s only for subscribers. With a Pandora subscription, you get lots of little perks, and you get those perks in the Mac app, too. However, the official Pandora app isn’t for the rest of us who use Pandora infrequently or who haven’t found the value there to invest in a subscription, yet.
That doesn’t mean we want to be tied to a browser window to listen to Pandora, either. Tiny menubar app Bandito has that all wrapped up, thankfully. Taking Pandora out of the browser and putting it on your desktop, Bandito’s bringing you the best of both worlds.
When you open Bandito, you’ll obviously have to login to Pandora. If you haven’t created a Pandora account yet or need to reset your password, those aren’t things you can do in the Bandito application, and you’ll be directed to a browser to take care of it.
Once you’re back in Bandito, you’ll see all of your stations load, and your most recently created station will start to play. It’s super obvious what the play, forward, and volume controls do, so let’s skip that. The thumbs up and thumbs down you’re used to from Pandora are here to do their same jobs, too.
For those who aren’t Pandora power users, a thumbs down not only skips the current song but lets Pandora know it isn’t your style and you don’t want to hear it anymore. If you give too many songs the axe, Pandora stops skipping them, though, due to their licensing agreements with the labels, and will let you know why your songs aren’t moving forward. You won’t get that notice in Bandito, though, and those not in the know may just wonder why the thumbs down stopped working.
There are a couple of sharing buttons for Facebook and Twitter. While it’s nice and almost expected to have the option, I wish Bandito had gone further, as Tumblr is definitely missed for sharing music to social media. It would have been nice to have the option to share via email and Messages, too, while we’re at it.
Do More Than Just Listen
Clicking the bottom of the window will display all of your playlists, and if you have too many to be contained, scroll up or down to see them all. You can also delete or rename your playlists. Shuffle will create a giant shuffled playlist of sorts from all of your single playlists.
If you want to create a new playlist, just enter a search query in the Start a New Station field. Much like the Pandora webapp, you can really search for anything, but Bandito’s search isn’t as attractive or user-friendly as Pandora’s. There aren’t links to additional information in the search, as in Pandora, so when I was creating stations, I wasn’t always sure I’d gotten exactly what I wanted.
There are a few options in the application preferences, such as a toggle that will display a Growl notification whenever a new track plays. You can also replace the Bandito icon in your menubar with the current song’s album artwork or have the artist and song title display in the menubar. There’s also a few shortcuts to checkout in the preferences if you don’t want to use the mouse to pull up the Bandito window every time you want to thumbs up a song, pause, or move forward. This is super helpful since the keys that normally control iTunes along the top row of your keyboard aren’t going to do a thing for Bandito.
Things to Work On
Whenever you open Bandito, including if you have it set to automatically open on login, it will start playing your most recently created radio station. This autoplay feature isn’t something you can turn off, and you don’t necessarily want Bandito playing something the moment it opens, especially when you have no control over what that something is. Poking around in the forums, others have expressed their exasperation at this “feature” and the devs have promised to work on it for the next release.
The search when creating new stations was lackluster, but to be honest, it’s not that big of a drawback. When it comes down to it, this app is for listening to Pandora on my Mac. If I really need to interact with Pandora in a meaningful way, for instance to create stations, I can just do that in a browser.
My only big caveat when recommending Bandito is that it seemed to freeze if I got too athletic in my clicking. If I chose a radio station, changed my mind, chose another before the first had loaded, and then tried to minimize the window to the menubar in quick succession, Bandito would just sort of give up. I actually had to go into Activity Monitor and quit from there. Which, I’ll grant, is kind of a big deal. After I realized what had caused Bandito’s nervous breakdown, I made sure to give it plenty of time to load between clicks, and I haven’t had an issue since. Not a glowing report, but it works.
Did Bandito Steal the Show?
This isn’t going to be a replacement for Pandora’s webapp. If you’re looking for the social aspects of Pandora, like the affirmation that your friends are digging the same music as you, that’s not here. You can’t learn about the music in Bandito in the same way that you can with Pandora in a browser. And creating stations with Bandito is kind of a pain. There’s also the problem of Bandito freezing if you move more quickly that the application does.
However, it does do something pretty big; it gets Pandora out of the browser, onto your desktop, and into your menubar. Creating stations and finding new music with your friends are sort of fluff and not what Bandito has set out to do. It’s an app for playing your Pandora stations, and that’s exactly what it does. Once it has some of the bugs worked out, Bandito will be something really great. For now, it’s quite good, and definitely worth checking out if you want a way to play Pandora out of your browser without a Pro subscription.