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Windows 7 : Windows Media Player - Learning the Basics (part 1) - Getting Around in Windows Media Player 12 - Navigating Menu Breadcrumbs

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2/11/2014 3:31:00 AM
Windows Media Player (WMP) has grown into a pretty amazing application with multiple personalities. Its talents include playing music and video files from online sources or local drives (including DVDs), playing online radio and TV stations, displaying specialized web pages, organizing your music files (MP3s and WMAs), burning music CDs, copying and syncing to portable MP3 players, and providing a conduit to online media shopping sites. Windows 7 includes an updated version of WMP that sports a refreshed user interface, additional features, and some much-welcomed interoperability. WMP 12 has divided Now Playing and Library views into separate interfaces.

1. Media Types Compatible with WMP

WMP can play the file types shown in Table 1.

Table 8.1. Windows Media Player–Supported File Types
File TypeFilename Extension(s)
Music CD (CD audio).cda
Intel Indeo video.ivf
Audio Interchange File Format (digitized sound).aif, .aifc, .aiff
Windows Media (audio and video).asf, .asx, .wax, .wm, .wma, .wmd, .wmv, .wvx, .wmp, .wmx, .wpl
Windows Media Center video.dvr-ms
Windows video and audio.avi, .wav
QuickTime content.mov, .qt
Windows Media Player skins.wmz, .wms
MPEG (Motion Picture Experts Group) video.mpeg, .mpg, .m1v, .mp2, .mpa, .mpe, .mp2v, .mp2, .mp4
AU (UNIX audio).au, .snd
MP3 (digital audio).mp3, .m3u
MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface).mid, .midi, .rmi
DVD video.vob
Advanced Audio Coding.aac
Formats not supported: RealNetworks (.ra, .rm, .ram), iTunes (.m4p, .acc).

[*] Only QuickTime files version 2.0 or earlier can be played in WMP. Later versions of QuickTime require the proprietary Apple QuickTime Player.

DVD Playback in Windows 7

Windows 7 versions that include Media Center have native DVD playback capability. If your version of Windows 7 does not contain Media Center and you want to play back DVD video and .mp2v files, you must first install a hardware or software DVD decoder on your system. (If you insert a DVD and it doesn’t run, it’s likely you need an appropriate video coder/decoder, or codec, or the DVD has copyrighted content playback restrictions.) WMP 12 attempts to automatically detect required codecs and provides a download location where applicable.

Installing a decoder is typically a simple software update you can download from the Web. To get a DVD decoder, search the Web for WinDVD or Power DVD. The decoder will cost you a few bucks, probably around $10. (Although current boxed editions of both players are around $50–$60.)


2. Getting Around in Windows Media Player 12

WMP 12 has a redesigned user interface, as shown in Figure 1, to make it easier for you to manage and enjoy your digital media. The classic menus still exist (hidden by default) but navigational tabs have been replaced by simplified breadcrumb navigation, making managing and viewing your digital media easier than ever. The Now Playing drop-down button is still there, but it’s now relocated in the bottom-right corner of the Library view. Now Playing now operates in a separate control window.

Figure 1. The redesigned Windows Media Player user interface is much easier to use.

Navigating Menu Breadcrumbs

The breadcrumbs in WMP 12, shown in Figure 2, provide a way to quickly focus on the task you want to perform by giving you efficient access to lower-level categories (for example, Library > Playlists, or Library > Music > Artist).

Figure 2. New redesigned breadcrumbs in Media Player 12.

The breadcrumb navigation trail is accessible from the top of the WMP 12 window (the Address bar) and provides instant access to and easy browsing of your stored media. Just under the breadcrumb navigation is a new toolbar that enables you to perform the following tasks:

  • Library— Use this feature to organize and locate your favorite media types you’ve downloaded or created. As you download and create music, WMP automatically generates album and artist information for audio and video content. You also can view content by type and by genre.

    Tip

    Many visualizations are available online for use with WMP 12. A personal favorite of mine called PixelTrip can be obtained from the WMP website at www.wmplugins.com/ItemDetail.aspx?ItemID=881. Another excellent visualization is provided by Brian Spangler and is called TwistedPixel. You can download it from his website for free at www.visolu.com/TwistedPixel.


  • No Disc— The title of this category defaults to No Disc if no media disc is in your CD or DVD-ROM drive; otherwise, it assumes the name of the volume stored in that drive.

Tip

When you copy music, WMP can prevent copied tracks from being played on any other computer to limit distribution and enforce media usage rights for copyright-protected music. If you want to disable this feature so that you can move copied music from one PC to another, choose Organize, Options and select the Rip Music tab. Then uncheck the Copy Protect Music check box under Rip Settings.


WMP 12 groups and relocates options for Play, Burn, and Sync to a separate window pane off to the right side, with tabs for each as follows:

  • Play— Drag and drop items to create a playlist and save or clear playlist entries. WMP 12 also makes audio and video playback easier on remote devices with the Play To icon (placed to the right of Clear List and next to List Options), which remains gray until you connect a media player device. The List options button reveals settings to hide, sort, and save lists, as well as skipped playlist entry options, and help topic access.

  • Burn— After you download or convert music tracks to WMA format, use this feature to transfer your music mix to writable CDs (CD-R or CD-RW media).

  • Sync— After you download or convert music tracks to WMA format, use this feature to transfer your music mix to portable audio players designated “Compatible with Windows 7.”

Tip

Be sure you fill your CD with all the music you want to play; unlike conventional CD-mastering programs or Windows 7’s Copy to CD feature in other parts of the OS, WMP’s Copy to CD feature closes the CD (so it no longer can accept data) after you copy your selected music to it, even if you use only a small portion of the CD. Why? Standalone CD players are designed to handle single-session CDs and won’t work if you add music later. If you want to create a CD for playback on your computer, use Windows Explorer’s Copy to CD feature instead, which will allow you to copy music over several sessions.


Isolated at the bottom-left corner is a button labeled Media Guide. This option enables you to purchase media online or select from a variety of online content.

The menus below each button provide quick access to settings and options relevant to the task of that tab. For instance, as shown in Figure 3, the arrow below the Organize button provides the options for managing libraries, sorting media selections, layout options, and quick access to the Options dialog.

Figure 3. New tab menus for accessing options in Windows Media Player 12.

Tip

To show the classic menus, right-click an empty area of the taskbar or an empty area around the playback controls and select Show Menu Bar or press Ctrl+M.

 
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