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Windows Media Player Basics in Windows Vista

Brian Knittel and Robert Cowart explain how to get the most out of Windows Media Player in Vista.
This chapter is from the book

In this chapter

  • Learning the Basics
  • Getting Music and Video on Your Computer
  • Taking Your Music and Video On the Go
  • Organizing Your Music Collection
  • Updating Media Information and Album Art
  • Tips from the Windows Pros: Playing Audio from Your Portable Device Through Your Car Stereo

Learning the Basics

Windows Media Player 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.

Media Types Compatible with Media Player

Windows Media Player can play the file types shown in Table 8.1.

Table 8.1. Windows Media Player–Supported File Types

File Type

File Name Extension(s)

Music CD (CD audio)


Intel Indeo video


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


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

AU (UNIX audio)

.au, .snd

MP3 (digital audio)

.mp3, .m3u

MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface)

.mid, .midi, .rmi

DVD video


Formats not supported: RealNetworks (.ra, .rm, .ram), iTunes (.m4p, .acc, .mp4)

Getting Around Windows Media Player 11

Media Player 11 has a redesigned user interface, as shown in Figure 8.1, to make it easier for you to manage and enjoy your digital media. The classic menus have been replaced by an organized tab system, making managing and viewing your digital media easier than ever.

Figure 8.1

Figure 8.1 Redesigned user interface.

Navigating Menu Tabs

The tabs in Media Player 11, shown in Figure 8.2, provide a way to quickly focus on the task you want to perform.

Figure 8.2

Figure 8.2 New redesigned tabs in Media Player 11.

These tabs are accessed from the top of the Media Player 11 window and perform the following tasks:

  • Now Playing—When you select online or locally stored content for playback, the Now Playing window displays a list of the content you're playing. An optional Visualizations feature can be used to display album art (when available) or various animated abstractions that change in response to the music.
  • Library—Use this feature to organize and locate your favorite media types you've downloaded or created with Rip. As you download and create music, Media Player automatically creates album and artist information for audio and video content. You also can view content by type and by genre.
  • Rip—Click this button to copy all or selected tracks from your favorite music CDs to the Music folder on your system.
  • 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 PlaysForSure compatible portable audio players.
  • Media Guide/Online Stores—This option enables you to purchase media online or select from a variety of online content.

The arrows below each tab provide quick access to setting and options relevant to the task of that tab. For instance, as shown in Figure 8.3, the arrow below the Now Playing tab provides the options for playback Enhancements as well as the capability to change the current Visualization.

Figure 8.3

Figure 8.3 New tab menus for accessing options in Windows Media Player 11.

Redesigned Browsing and Searching

The navigation of the music library is similar to that in Windows Explorer.

You can browse your media by performing the following steps:

  1. Click the Select a Category button to choose the type of media to browse, as shown in Figure 8.4. Options include Music, Pictures, Video, Recorded TV, and Other Media.
    Figure 8.4

    Figure 8.4 Select a media category.

  2. Choose the desired view for your media. This includes Artist, Album, Songs, Genre, and more.
  3. Narrow the items shown for the chosen view by clicking the arrow on the Address bar, as shown in Figure 8.5.
    Figure 8.5

    Figure 8.5 Narrow the items shown in the view by using the Address bar.

Searching can also be used to narrow the view of a chosen media category. After you have chosen a category as described in Step 1, enter your search term into the search box as shown in Figure 8.6.

Figure 8.6

Figure 8.6 Searching is a fast and easy way to narrow your media views.

Playing Audio and Video in Windows Media Player 11

There are three options for playing audio and video media in Windows Media Player 11. These include audio CDs and video DVDs, media stored on your hard disk, and media accessible over a home network.

Playing an Audio CD or DVD

To play an audio CD or DVD in Windows Media Player 11, follow these steps:

  1. Insert the CD or DVD you want to play into your computer's CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive.
  2. Click the arrow below the Now Playing tab and select the drive that contains the disk you want to play, as shown in Figure 8.7.
    Figure 8.7

    Figure 8.7 Select the CD you want to play from the Now Playing menu.

  3. While a disk is playing, you can use the Play/Pause, Previous, and Next buttons of the playback controls shown in Figure 8.1 to navigate the songs or chapters on the disk, or you can double-click the song or chapter in the List pane to play it immediately.

Playing Media Stored on Your Hard Disk or Network Share

To play an item stored on your hard disk, add it to the library following the instructions in the section "Adding Items from Your Computer to Your Library." After the item is added to the library, you can select the media you want to view by double-clicking it in the Library view. If you want to add an item to the Now Playing list, right-click the item and select Add to Now Playing. Now Playing items can be navigated using the same playback controls described in the previous section.

To play media shared over your home network, see the section labeled "Sharing Media Throughout Your Home."

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