Our operating systems are often times our entertainment centers as well. This chapter helps to reveal the new improvements in the Windows Media Player and the Windows Media Center that enhance your viewing experience within Windows 7. We also discuss games, parental controls, and how to turn features on or off within the operating system.
Windows Media Player 12
Regardless of what type of media player you use (Microsoft or a third-party player), you will appreciate the changes in Windows Media Player 12 (especially if you are coming from XP's Media Player 9 or 10). However, even if you are familiar with Media Player 11, you will still see some unique and surprising new features in 12.
For starters, you will quickly note that there are two modes now. There is a separation between the library management side of the player (called Library view) and the "what's currently playing" mode (called Now Playing view).
The Library view (see Figure 3.1) contains all the organizational elements for your media (such as your playlists and the categorization of your music into Artist, Album, Genre). Here you can set up ratings for music, pictures, or videos. One interesting new aspect of the Library view hierarchy is the ability to view different media types in the tree at the same time.
Figure 3.1 The Library view of Media Player 12.
The Now Playing view (see Figure 3.2) shows the current playlist, visualizations, or videos. There is also a mini-viewer that goes on the taskbar, as well as support for jump lists.
Figure 3.2 The Now Playing view of Media Player 12.
The new Media Player has a streamlined interface that fits in nicely with Windows 7.
Here are some of the features:
- Activity tabs: Activity tabs enable you to quickly select what you need (Play, Burn, Sync).
- Instant search: The search capabilities are once again an important aspect to Windows 7 features. As-you-type searching helps you quickly find your media.
- Network sharing: HomeGroups make sharing your media with others in your group much easier. In addition, Windows Media Player 12 includes support for browsing iTunes media libraries.
- Stacking: Albums that share the same characteristics (Artist, Album, Genre, Year, Rating) are shown in "stacks," providing you with a visual reference that mimics a stack of CDs or records.
- Preview: From within the Library view, you can hover your cursor over a song or video and select Preview to get a 15-second preview.
- Codec updates: Support is now included for H.264 video, AAC audio, Xvid and DivX video, as well as all the supported codecs from Media Player 11 (including MPEG2, WMV, MP3, and so forth).
- Play to: One of the interesting new features is the ability to "play to" other computers in your HomeGroup. So, you might have music on one system, but you can play it on another system that might have your super-cool sound system.
- Remote streaming to Digital Living Network Alliance v1.5 devices: You may have these networked devices with audio/video playback capabilities and will stream it to them. From within the Library view, you can see an option next to Organize called Stream. From here, you can enable the option Allow Internet Access to Home Media and the option Allow Remote Control of My Player.