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This package aims to provide a simple audio/music player for Emacs. It should "just work," with little-to-no configuration, have intuitive commands, and be easily extended and customized. (Contrast to setting up EMMS, or having to configure external players like MPD.) A Transient menu, under the command listen, is the primary entry point.

The only external dependency is VLC, which is currently the only player backend that is supported. (Other backends may easily be added; see library listen-vlc for example.) Track metadata is read using EMMS’s native Elisp metadata library, which has been imported into this package.

Queues are provided as the means to play consecutive tracks, and they are shown in a vtable-based view buffer. They are persisted between sessions using the persist library, and they may be bookmarked.

The primary interface to one’s music library is through the filesystem, by selecting a file to play, or by adding files and directories to a queue. Although MPD is not required, support is provided for finding files from a local MPD server’s library using MPD’s metadata searching.

A simple "library" view is provided that shows a list of files organized into a hierarchy by genre, date, artist, album, etc. (This will be made more configurable and useful in the future.)

Note a silly limitation: a track may be present in a queue only once (but who would want to have a track more than once in a playlist).

Table of Contents

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1 Contents

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2 Screenshots


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3 Installation


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Listen.el is published in GNU ELPA as listen, so it may be installed in Emacs with the command M-x package-install RET listen RET. This is the recommended way to install Listen.el, as it will install the current stable release.

The latest development build may be installed from ELPA-devel or from Git (see below).

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The master branch of the Git repository is intended to be usable at all times; only minor bugs are expected to be found in it before a new stable release is made.

To install, it is recommended to use quelpa-use-package, like this (using this helpful command for upgrading versions):

;; Install and load `quelpa-use-package'.
(package-install 'quelpa-use-package)
(require 'quelpa-use-package)

;; Install Listen.
(use-package listen
  :quelpa (listen :fetcher github :repo "alphapapa/listen.el"))

One might also use systems like Elpaca or Straight (which is also used by DOOM), but the author cannot offer support for them.

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4 Configuration

Listen is intended to work with little-to-no configuration. You can set the listen-directory to the location of your music library if it’s not at ~/Music. See M-x customize-group RET listen RET.

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5 Usage

Use the command listen to show the Transient menu. From there, it is–hopefully–self-explanatory. Please feel free to give feedback if it doesn’t seem so. For more information, see the following sections.

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While listen can simply play one track and stop, playing multiple tracks sequentially is provided by queues (what other players may call playlists). A queue is a list of tracks, each of which is backed by a file on disk, and which may have associated metadata (provided by reading the file in Emacs with the listen-info library, or from an external source, like an MPD server).

Queues are automatically persisted to disk in the variable listen-queues.

A new, empty queue may be made with the command listen-queue-new, but it’s usually more convenient to use a command that adds tracks to a queue and enter a new queue name.

A queue’s tracks may be de-duplicated using the command listen-queue-deduplicate. Tracks that appear to have the same metadata (artist, album, and title, compared case-insensitively) are de-duplicated. Also, any tracks no longer backed by a file are removed.

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Adding tracks to a queue

Tracks can be added to a queue from various sources using these commands:

  • Files and directories: listen-queue-add-files. Individual files may be chosen, or a directory may be, which will be searched recursively for tracks, which are added to the selected queue.
  • From an MPD server: listen-queue-add-from-mpd. An MPD search query will be read with completion, and matching tracks are added to the selected queue.
  • From a playlist file: listen-queue-add-from-playlist-file. The playlist file is read, and its tracks are added to the selected queue.

Queue buffer

A queue may be shown in a buffer with the command listen-queue, which shows its tracks in a (vtable)vtable with columns for metadata and filename.

  • Commands

    In the buffer, you can use these commands:

    Listen to tracklisten-queue-play (RET)
    Move point forward/backwardforward-line (n) / previous-line (p)
    Move track forwardlisten-queue-transpose-forward (N)
    Move track backwardlisten-queue-transpose-backward (P)
    Kill tracklisten-queue-kill-track (C-k)
    Yank tracklisten-queue-yank (C-y)
    Show track’s metadatalisten-view-track (m)
    Jump to track’s file in Diredlisten-jump (j)
    Show tracks (at point or selected) in library bufferlisten-library-from-queue (l)
    Run shell command on tracks (at point or selected)listen-queue-shell-command (!)
    Order the queue by column at pointlisten-queue-order-by (o)
    Shuffle the queuelisten-queue-shuffle (s)
    Revert the queue bufferlisten-queue-revert (g)
    Revert queue’s tracks from diskC-u g
    Pause the playerlisten-pause (SPC)
    Show the menulisten-menu (?)
  • Bookmarks

    Queue buffers may be bookmarked with bookmark-set (C-x r m). The bookmark record refers to the queue by name, so if the queue is renamed or discarded, the bookmark will remain.

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Queue list buffer

The queue list buffer may be shown with the command listen-queue-list. In the list buffer, you can use these commands:

Show queue’s bufferlisten-queue (RET)
Move point forward/backwardforward-line (n) / previous-line (p)
Rename a queuelisten-queue-rename (R)
Discard a queuelisten-queue-discard (C-k)
Show queue’s tracks in library bufferlisten-library-from-queue (l)
Revert the queue listlisten-queue-list (g)
Pause the playerlisten-pause (SPC)
Show the menulisten-menu (?)

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To help with exploring and managing a music library, listen provides various "library" features. Tracks can be passed between library and queue buffers and operated on with similar commands and bindings.

listen does not maintain its own database of audio files; they are simply read from the filesystem as needed. But if a local MPD server is available, tracks can be loaded from its database (which does a fine job of indexing audio files and their metadata); this is generally much faster, because it avoids having to read tracks’ metadata with Emacs Lisp or their durations with ffprobe.

listen does not provide features to modify tracks’ metadata, but it provides commands to run shell commands on tracks’ filenames, which works well with external tools like Picard.

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Library buffer

A library buffer provides a hierarchical view of tracks grouped by their metadata using (taxy)Taxy, rendered with (magit-section)Magit Section. Each section can be folded, and it shows the number of tracks in it and its subgroups.

  • Showing a library buffer

    Tracks from various sources can be shown in a library using these commands:

    • Files and directories: listen-library. Individual files may be chosen, or a directory may be, which will be searched recursively for tracks.
    • From an MPD server: listen-library-from-mpd. An MPD search query will be read with completion, and matching tracks are read from the MPD server.
    • From a playlist file: listen-library-from-playlist-file. Tracks are read from the given playlist file.
  • Commands

    In the library buffer, you can use these commands:

    Listen to trackslisten-library-play (RET)
    Add tracks to queuelisten-library-to-queue (a)
    Move point forward/backwardforward-line (n) / previous-line (p)
    Show track’s metadatalisten-library-view-track (m)
    Jump to track’s file in Diredlisten-library-jump (j)
    Run shell command on trackslisten-library-shell-command (!)
    Revert the library bufferlisten-library-revert (g)
    Pause the playerlisten-pause (SPC)
    Show the menulisten-menu (?)
  • Bookmarks

    Library buffers may be bookmarked with bookmark-set (C-x r m). The bookmark record refers to the buffer by the way it was created (e.g. the filename paths, queue name, MPD query, or playlist file the tracks came from), so jumping to the bookmark will show an updated view, as if calling the original command with the same arguments.

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listen currently supports audio playback via the VLC backend. Internally, any number of simultaneous player instances could be controlled, but listen’s UI provides the means to control one at a time.

Controlling the player is mainly done through the main (transient)Transient menu, through the command listen. However, all of the commands provided in it are also available as interactive commands, which could be bound by the user in any keymap (see, e.g. M-x apropos-command RET ^listen- RET).

The player is run in a child process, which is started when playback begins. The listen-quit command terminates the player process.

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The listen-volume command is used to set the current player’s volume. Its argument should be an integer percentage. Some players, e.g. VLC, may allow settings above 100% to boost output beyond normal levels.

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The listen-seek command is used to seek to a position in the current track. Its argument should be a timestamp in MM:SS format, and it may include a - or + prefix to indicate a position relative to the current one.

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Repeat modes

Three repeat modes are provided, controlled by the option listen-queue-repeat-mode, which may have these values:


No repeating. When the last track in the current queue finishes playing, playback stops.


The current queue is repeated when its last track finishes playing.


When the last track in the current queue finishes playing, the queue is shuffled and played again.

The repeat mode is most easily set using the commands in the listen menu.

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The listen-mode minor mode runs a timer which plays the next track in the current queue when a track finishes playing (when playing a queue). It is automatically activated when playing a queue. It also shows the current track in the global-mode-string, which may be displayed in the mode line or tab bar.

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  • Since VLC is used as a backend, MPRIS-based player info and controls "just work", so you can use things like media hotkeys and various widgets to control listen’s playback.
  • Similarly, you might even see an icon in your task switcher indicating that Emacs is playing sound (e.g. with KDE Plasma).

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6 Changelog

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Released without additional changes due to change in ELPA recipe.


  • Currently playing column in queue list buffer.
  • Autoload of listen / listen-menu commands (See Transient issue. Thanks to Jonas Bernoulli.).

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  • Autoload of listen / listen-menu commands.

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  • The listen-queue-list buffer can be bookmarked.
  • Queue buffers showing the currently playing queue indicate so in the mode line.
  • Support for mood metadata tag in MP3 files (added in ID3v2.4; other filetypes need no specific support).


  • Truncate track titles for display using option listen-lighter-title-max-length (because the format-spec specifier used in listen-lighter-format does not add an ellipsis where truncation occurs).


  • Command listen-queue-add-from-mpd.
  • Indication of currently playing queue in queue list.
  • Set metadata slot when reverting track from disk.
  • Don’t highlight current track in non-playing queues.
  • Increase minimum ffprobe timeout for a single track.

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  • Info manual.
  • Option listen-lighter-format now allows customizing the mode line lighter.


  • Command listen-queue switches to existing queue buffers without reverting them.
  • Transient qq command exits the transient.
  • Optimize updating of individual tracks in queue buffer.
  • Improve handling of maximum volume with VLC (allowing boosting over 100%).
  • Library buffer name defaults to given path.
  • Minor improvements to Transient menu.


  • When reverting a queue’s tracks from disk, re-detect the currently playing track by filename.
  • Queue bookmark handler.
  • Open library buffer with point at beginning.
  • In queue buffer, sort track numbers numerically.

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  • In library buffer, show disc number when available.


  • Reverting library buffers shows tracks from the queue or MPD query originally selected.
  • Command listen-queue-add-files no longer plays the queue automatically.
  • Command listen-library-play-or-add renamed to listen-library-play, and it now plays the selected queue when playing multiple tracks.
  • Face listen-album slants italic.
  • In library buffer, prefer album-artist over artist tag when available.
  • Use half the number of CPUs to read track durations, by default.


  • Reading new queue name when no queue is playing.

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  • Viewing queues which aren’t currently playing.

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  • Command listen-queue-list shows a list of queues.
  • Command listen-jump (bound to j in queue and library buffers) jumps to the track at point in a Dired buffer.
  • Command listen-track-view shows a track’s complete metadata in a table view.
  • Mode listen-queue-delay-mode plays a queue with a configurable, random delay between tracks.
  • Option listen-queue-repeat-mode (also settable in listen-menu) allows repeating a queue in-order or shuffled.
  • Option listen-lighter-extra-functions allows displaying extra information in the listen-mode lighter.
  • Option listen-track-end-functions allows running functions when a track finishes playing.
  • Show total queue duration at bottom of track list.
  • Show track ratings in library and queue buffers.


  • All metadata in MP3 and Ogg files is available for display (not only standard tags).
  • For date field in library and queue views, show originalyear or originaldate metadata fields in preference to date (which seems generally more useful, as the date field may contain a full date, and sometimes of a later release).


  • Increase timeout for reading track durations.
  • Command listen-queue-deduplicate first removes any tracks not backed by a file.
  • In queue buffer, mark current track by comparing filename (rather than internal track identity).

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  • Command listen-queue-deduplicate removes duplicate tracks from a queue (by comparing artist, album, and title metadata case-insensitively).
  • Read track durations with ffprobe and show in library and queue views.
  • Bound key ? to open the listen Transient menu in library and queue views.


  • Transposing a track in a queue keeps point on the track.
  • Autoloading of listen command.

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  • Command listen-library-from-mpd shows tracks selected from MPD in a library view.
  • Command listen-library-from-queue shows tracks selected from a queue buffer in a library view.
  • Command listen-library-from-playlist-file shows tracks from an M3U playlist in a library view.
  • Command listen-queue-add-from-playlist-file adds tracks from an M3U playlist file to a queue.


  • Reading tracks from MPD allows multiple selection using completing-read-multiple.
  • Various improvements in robustness.
  • Command listen-queue doesn’t recreate its buffer when already open.
  • Key bindings in listen Transient menu.
  • Function listen-queue-complete accepts argument :allow-new-p to return a new queue if the entered name doesn’t match an existing one.


  • Completing read of tracks from MPD.
  • Unset VLC process’s query-on-exit flag.


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  • Command listen-queue-jump jumps to the currently playing track in the queue.
  • Command listen-queue-shell-command runs a shell command on the tracks selected in the queue.
  • Reverting a queue buffer with universal prefix argument refreshes the tracks’ metadata from disk.


  • The queue could sometimes skip tracks when playing.
  • Improve handling of tracks that are changed during playback (e.g. metadata).
  • Update copyright statements in all libraries.

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Initial release.

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7 Development

Feedback and patches are welcome.

Known issues

  • Queue buffers that are not visible during playback are not updated automatically (i.e. to show the currently playing track). This is due to a limitation of the vtable library (see bug #69837).