Rhythmbox Internals

Note: this is currently a dump of the INTERNALS file, and needs to be better wiki-fied and updated for changes in the last year or so.

Rhythmbox Internals

This document will attempt to gather up some of the bits and pieces I've learned while hacking Rhythmbox. Rhythmbox is fairly complex, and while some people would claim it is unnecessarily so, I think writing a good music player is just not as simple as you might think at first. So, let's begin. We'll start from the lower layers of the internal dependency stack, and build up.


This class handles extracting tag information from files, and handling writing tags back to them.


This class basically takes as input a URI, and handles playing it. It has two current implementations - one for GStreamer, and another for Xine. It depends on RBMetadata, since it can advertise tag information only received during playback (such as from internet radio).


This class is kind of an internal database which stores all the tag information acquired from RBMetadata, as well as other things such as the user song ratings and last play times.

Basically, it's a queryable cache. The idea is for it to have pluggable backends; right now it just stores everything in an XML file.

RhythmDB has multiple threads; we'll talk later about thread safety.


The core data type is RhythmDBEntry - this is an abstract pointer which represents either a a local song in the library, or internet radio station.

Dynamic properties

Each RhythmDBEntry has a set of properties associated with it. A property has both an ID and a value. The value can be of many different types; e.g. a string, integer, or float.

These dynamic properties pretty much correspond to the song metadata you can see like song length, duration, location, etc.


As we mentioned before, RhythmDB was designed to have multiple storage backends - for instance, you could store all your music data in a SQL database. However, the current default implementation uses a tree-structured in-memory database.

The tree goes from Genre -> Artist -> Album -> Song. This is what allows it to efficiently implement the browser (filtering by genre, artist, album). When you click on say an artist, Rhythmbox just searches for songs in that subtree. Here's a picture:

                 ________/             |                \__
                /                      |                   \
          Genre1                     Genre2                  Genre3
         /      ---                    |                       ...
        /          \-                  |
       Artist1      Artist2          Artist3
     --   |   ---        ---            --  -----
   -/     |      \-         Album4        \      \---
Album1  Album2   Album3--       --        Album5   Album6---
  |       /  \     ---   \--      \--       \----    ----   \---
  |     -/    \       \-    \-       \-      \   \---    \---   \--
Song1  Song2  Song3   Song4 Song5    Song6   Song7  Song8  Song9  Song10

RhythmDBTree does a lot of work to maintain this tree structure - it can handle you changing just the artist of a song.

There is actually one of these trees for each "type" of RhythmDBEntry. The main type is RHYTHMDB_ENTRY_TYPE_SONG, but there is also RHYTHMDB_ENTRY_TYPE_IRADIO_STATION for Internet Radio stations.


RhythmDBTree can serialize and deserialize all the RhythmDBEntries to a custom XML format. This actually runs in a separate thread when you first start up Rhythmbox.


This is a *very* important class. It holds a sequence of RhythmDBEntries. A RhythmDBQueryModel is used to store the results of a query. It automatically remembers its query, and watches the database for changes.

A RhythmDBQueryModel is the "bridge" between the various RhythmDB database threads and the main GTK+ display.


This class "attaches" to a RhythmDBQueryModel and keeps track of a list of a certain property, such as RHYTHMDB_PROP_ALBUM.


This directory holds a lot of random widgets that Rhythmbox uses. Here are some examples:


This widget provides a view of a RhythmDBQueryModel. It is the main song list you see in all the sources.


Similar to RBEntryView, this widget provides a view of a RhythmDBPropertyModel.


Rhythmbox has an idea of multiple music "sources", like the Library and (Internet) Radio. The RBSource classes are basically the user interface part of the "source" concept.

All of these sources derive from RBSource (sources/rb-source.[ch]), which is an abstract base class. RBSource has a number of methods which the specific sources like the Library implement. For example, one of the simpler ones is:

gboolean rb_source_can_pause (RBSource *player);

So here, a source returns TRUE if it can pause (i.e. pause button should be displayed). Another example is the rb_source_get_status method, which is called to display a status string at the bottom of the window.

The RBShell maintains a list of available RBSources.

The Shell

Finally, the shell is the outer Rhythmbox framework. It controls the playback, menus, preferences, and most of the user interface in general. The core component of the shell is RBShell, in shell/rb-shell.c. It acts as kind of a catch-all for the various bits of glue needed to keep Rhythmbox working together. It "owns" most of the core data structures and the UI.

The shell is broken up into a number of subcomponents.


This widget handles the play/previous/next buttons, and contains various other widgets for the status display and volume. RBShellPlayer is a pretty important class, because it contains a lot of the playback logic. However, it delgates a fair amount of this to:


These classes handle playing back a group of songs in a certain order. They are used by RBShellPlayer.


Is that thingy with the "Hide Browser" button and the search entry.


Is the thing on the bottom with the Shuffle and Repeat buttons and the status output.


manages the user preferences. It is just a dialog box which pops up when you hit Edit->Preferences.


Takes care of any kind of playlist request, such as the "New Playlist" menu item, or drag and drop of an artist (which creates a playlist).

Apps/Rhythmbox/InternalDesign (last edited 2013-11-19 22:47:50 by WilliamJonMcCann)