Archive for May, 2006

Windows Media Player 11 Beta – First Thoughts

I’ve been using the Windows Media Player 11 Beta (WMP 11) for a couple of days now as a test really.  My music collection is a little curious as it is a mix of MP3 files, OGG files and AAC files.  I guess over the years I’ve tried different players and they’ve ripped CDs in different formats, hence the variety.    WMP 11 doesn’t actually help play anything other than WMA and MP3 files, however with the addition of a few codecs, I’ve found it is possible to play all my files better than in iTunes.  I say that because while you can squeeze an OGG file into iTunes, it is impossible to use the graphic equalizer to customize the way it sounds!  Fortunately WMP 11 employs the simpler concept of if it plays it, you can manipulate the sound.

Things haven’t been completely rosy though.  The album lookup tool is a real pain at times:

– It can’t find some tracks.  Sometimes this is because someone added a – sign to a name.  Sometimes it is more fundamental:  if the name employs one or two simple words (you/at/in/on etc), it is impossible to find a track.  And I mean impossible.  Even though you can view the track in the Album Details link on another track you cannot select or locate the missing one!

– It is annoying that you have to select each track in turn.  Surely there must be a way to select the album and have it allocate the correct details to the rest of the tracks using the track number or names.  It takes forever to find the XYZ album for each track.

Other annoyances include the music stores functionality.  The URGE store if you select it appears down the side and is hard to get rid of.  I like the iTunes method of disabling all store functions.  One for Microsoft to learn from.

A few of the scroll bars don’t actually work either, but I guess it is a Beta product – in fact it is a very stable Beta.  No crashes to date.

The new user interface is very intuitive and looks pretty too.

Under the hood it looks like you can now create Converter plug-ins which will be very useful for file synchronization to mobile devices if you have your music in different file formats.  This will enable say an OGG converter plug-in to be written by someone that will automatically convert any say OGG files in your play list into a lower bit rate WMV file if you plug in your PDA or mobile phone for synchronizing.

There appears to be a slight performance issue on the visualizations front – mine stutters every so often.  There are also no new visualizations, but perhaps that will change before release.  Personally I don’t use them so what is there is probably fine for everyone, if a little dated.

One annoying thing for me is lack of use of the mouse scroll wheel on the volume control.  This is so basic and is in every player these days… click on the volume or hover over it and scroll up and down to change the volume.  Please add this feature!

The task bar integration looks pretty rubbish.  I just don’t like the black and grey color down there that takes up so much space.  An icon in the notification area as used by Every Other Player ™ would take up a lot less space and fit in color-wize.

Other than that, it plays music ok, so I guess it’s about as good as WMP 10.  Now if they’d just finish it by adding these suggestions then it might be an upgrade worth installing.