Use Strophes to Read Lyrics on Your Mac

Music is a great thing. It speaks to the soul and talks about the many troubles and triumphs of daily life. Isn’t it nice having all those websites like lyrics.com to find out what the words to your favorite song are? I’ve always use web-based services like that myself, but apps are giving us some new choices and Strophes is one of the latest you may have heard of.

Developed by Alfredo Devvi Bovi, the app aims to be your new solution for instantly finding lyrics to any song you’re listening to, whether it be in Spotify, Rdio, Radium, or iTunes. You can even search for songs that you don’t have in your library or are listening to in your browser. Let’s see if this is the end-all solution for song lyrics, or if you should keep searching for a better solution.

Finding and Reading Lyrics

The first thing you'll see when opening up Strophes. Click a source to begin.

The first thing you'll see when opening up Strophes. Click a source to begin.

Getting started with Strophes is very easy. All you have to do is open the app, click a source, and start playing any song you want to listen to. If the lyrics are available on the app’s source website – which happens to be the horribly designed mp3lyrics.com (it actually redirects to .org for some reason) – then it will show them automatically. (Obviously, you must be using one of the aforementioned apps to play your media. If you’re not then you can always use the “Search” function located in the top right corner of the app.)

If the lyrics are in the wrong language, then you can click “L” button to translate them to your native tongue, which can be changed in the Preferences menu.

I can’t really say anything good about the source that Strophes uses for lyrics, unfortunately, because there’s a lot of incorrect capitalization and bad spelling in many of them. In addition, the album artwork is not available most of the time, which defeats the purpose of having it in the lyrics screen. The same goes for the artist’s picture in the “Artist” tab.

You can easily share lyrics to Facebook or Twitter using the traditional share button that you’re used to seeing in iOS and Mountain Lion, but I wouldn’t recommend it because, like I said before, the source is pretty bad. Another fun little feature is the ability to control the music source using Strophes. You play, pause, and skip to the next or previous song using them. This probably isn’t needed though since all Macs have dedicated buttons for such a function.

User Interface

The Strophes app alongside its icon.

The Strophes app alongside its icon.

The designers spent some time polishing up Strophes quite a bit, but not enough. While it is beautiful in most areas, the icon not only misses the mark but also looks completely different from the app. It really doesn’t fit such an otherwise well-designed lyrics app with its purple eighth note as a layer on top of the little binder-style notepad. The notepad looks decent by itself, but the music note just kills things.

Other than the repulsive icon, Strophes looks pretty nice. It’s a bit retro in areas with some overly-fancy cursive – in my opinion – in the top bar. It kind of looks as if it’s trying to have a more classic leather-bound feel to it with the torn paper at the top. The skeumorphism actually looks quite nice on the eyes, but the app’s included variant themes – “Golden Twine”, “Cafe Royal”, and “Charcoal” – are far from appealing.

The darker theme, “Charcoal”, is way too dark for the already dark font and secondary color that’s being used. There’s very little contrast and it’s actually kind of hard to read/see the content that resides on the top bar. Another area that needs higher contrast is the “Artist” tab’s links. They’re using a light blue color for the font (#A0BAED to be exactly) and it has almost no contrast with the off-white background texture. An example of this is available here.

On top of that, the “themes” only change the top bar’s appearance and nothing else. It’d be nice to have a night mode or something else for the text below. I honestly don’t see the point of having any customization at all since most of that available to the user isn’t very nice.

There are only three fonts available in Strophes and one of them, Bradley Hand ITC TT, isn’t available at all. You can click it in the preferences menu and the it will become selected, but whatever font you were using before also stays selected and you can’t actually use the Bradley Hand font.

It’s Buggy

The core functionality of Strophes, finding lyrics for the song you’re listening to, works well, but there are some issues throughout the app. Here’s a list of them for you to skim over before taking this app into your consideration:

  • Shortcut for preferences doesn’t work: You can’t press the CMD + , keys to bring up the preferences screen.
  • Preferences and about won’t open: I tried to bring up the app’s preferences screen for a second time in one instance and it won’t even open. The same goes for the about screen. The only way to get it to open again is to uninstall and reinstall the app, which is ridiculous. It renders the customization of the app unusable and I had to reinstall it four times while testing it for this review.
  • Bradley Hand ITC TT font doesn’t work: As I explained in the user interface section, the third font available in Strophes doesn’t work at all. I’ve found no way of enabling it in the current version of the app – it always leaves one of the other fonts checked as seen here.
  • Lots of random crashes: Simple thins like opening some lyrics will sometimes crash the app.
  • Switching to different tabs using the “Window” menu breaks buttons: If you use the “Window” menu to change tabs from the lyrics to search or artist, the little menu that resides in the top right corner of the app will completely disappear. In addition, you get something like this when reentering the app. As you can see, the shadow is messed up.
  • Quitting the source leaves lyrics up: I’m not sure if this is a feature or bug, but when you quit the source app that the music is coming from, the lyrics stay up in Strophes. It should just close the lyrics and bring back up the start screen that has a list of sources.
  • Longer titles don’t show correctly: If you have a track, artist, or album that’s too long to fit in Strophes’ field for them, then whatever doesn’t fit won’t show at all. You can see an example of what I’m talking about in this screenshot.

Hopefully the developer will fix these issues soon because they are hindering a lot of the usability.

Conclusion

Lyrics are nice to have, but Strophes is far from the best way of delivering them to you. I’d only recommend this if the developer fixes the many bugs I’ve managed to discover. Otherwise, $4.99 is way overpriced for an app comprised of such limited functionality and over-abundant bugs. For that price, you could get something like musiXmatch, which is much less buggy and even saves the lyrics to the metadata inside the song you’re listening to in iTunes so you can read them on your iPhone. If you do feel brave, then go ahead and check out Strophes in the Mac App Store.


Summary

If you want to look up lyrics on your Mac with ease, Strophes is a great solution, but it has its share of shortcomings.

5
  • MattS

    As I’m not keen on coughing up $5 for a buggy app, I’m wondering if there are alternative apps that do the same. Because….you know, sometimes I love to sing along but find myself guessing the lyrics instead of actually getting them right.

    • http://papermail.me Jacob Penderworth

      I’d suggest you use a website like http://www.lyrics.com or even Ultimate-Guitar because most apps just aren’t that great.

      • http://www.mp3lyrics.com/ Glenn-Erik Sandbakken

        If you want to find lyrics with a browser online,
        why not use http://www.mp3lyrics.com/
        the source where this app gets the lyrics it uses !

    • Nick

      You can try musiXmatch which is mentioned at the end of the article. It’s better and it also lets you save the lyrics in your iTunes library so you could see them on the iPhone also after you sync your tracks.

  • Michael Solis

    I’ve been using Strophes for about a week now and I love it. I haven’t had any of the problems that the writer has mentioned. Does it find every single lyric, no. But I’ve never used an lyric app that found everything. I’ve never had the app crash, not once. The CMD key thing has never been an issue for me.

    I love the design. It fits right in with all my other apps. The Golden Twine and Cafe Royale themes are all you need. For those who want something a little darker, Charcoal is there for you.

    I truly don’t understand the reviewers stand on this. Maybe he had some incidents with the app but I haven’t had any. I think Strophes is great and I think anyone who wants to enjoy lyrics with there music shouldn’t hesitate in picking up a copy.

    I have used so many apps in my day. Bad ones that reviewers on this site gave 8 and 9′s to. I’m shocked to see that this excellent piece of software get a 5. Many of the reviewers criticisms are nit-picky. How many different fonts are you going to use? Honestly?

    We must remember that Strophes is in its 2nd iteration. It has tons of room to grow. A review like this should be taken with a SERIOUS grain of salt.

  • frank

    I’d go as the article suggest for musiXmatch, world’s largest lyrics DB, they have an awesome iOS app too…and more than all it’s not crappy like strophes the Mac one.
    Plus you can save lyrics on iTunes too.
    Love musiXmatch.

  • Mike Moreau

    Strophes has no license to display the lyrics at all!!! musixmatch has licensed lyrics and the lyrics search is outstanding! I prefer musixmatch definitively

  • http://iynque.com iynque

    I like the UI on iCal. Designers have been very vocal about hating skeuomorphism. I don’t hate it. I enjoy it.

    This, however, is stupid. Along with all the other apps that use leather and stitching even though they don’t have a real-life counterpart with leather and stitching.

    I’m jumping on the bandwagon of skeuomorph-hating. Fix the UI. It’s VERY BAD.

  • Mike

    Out of ten songs found two, for other four only suggested opening some crappy websites. Don’t buy it.

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