Getting Music and Video on Your Computer
Media Player 11 offers many ways to add media to your media library. These methods include ripping music from CDs to your computer, purchasing media from online stores, and adding media items already stored on your computer to the library.
Ripping Songs from CDs onto Your Computer
The process of copying music from a CD to your computer and converting it to a format that Media Player understands is known as ripping. Songs ripped using Windows Media Player 11 automatically appear in the media library for playing.
To rip music to your computer, complete the following steps:
- Choose the desired format and bit rate for the file by clicking the arrow below the Rip tab, as shown in Figure 8.8. Select the desired options from the Format and Bit Rate commands. For more information on these options, see "Choosing a File Format" and "Choosing a Bit Rate" later in this section.
Figure 8.8 Change Format and Bit Rate in the Rip menu.
- Insert a CD into the CD-ROM drive and click the Rip tab, as shown in Figure 8.9.
Figure 8.9 The Rip tab used for copying from CDs to your computer.
- After the player has started ripping the CD, you may choose to uncheck songs that you do not want Media Player to rip to your computer. You can also stop or start by clicking the Stop Rip or Start Rip buttons that appear in the Rip view.
Choosing a File Format
By default, Windows Media Player 11 uses the Windows Media Audio Format. This format offers a balanced combination between sound quality and file size. Other available formats are
- Windows Media Audio Pro—Ideal for portable devices because of its higher sound quality at low bit rates.
- Windows Media Audio Variable Bit Rate—Results in smaller file size with the same audio quality.
- Windows Media Audio Lossless—Provides the best audio quality with the largest file size.
- MP3—Provides added flexibility with similar audio quality and a slightly larger file size than Windows Media Audio.
- WAV—Another lossless format providing added flexibility with high audio quality and large file size.
Choosing a Bit Rate
The bit rate determines the audio quality and file size of the resulting file. Typically, lower bit rates result in smaller file sizes that have lower audio quality. Alternatively, high bit rates result in high quality audio with very large file sizes.
You should choose a bit rate that balances quality and file size to meet your usage needs. A good bit rate is usually 96Kbps or 128Kbps if you plan to use your audio on portable devices with limited storage. Higher bit rates should be used for audio archiving on your PC where storage space is not an issue. True audiophiles won't be satisfied with MP3s ripped at anything under 192Kbps, however.
Shopping for Music and Video from Online Stores
Online stores provide a quick and easy way to legally download your favorite music or videos. Media Player 11 allows the browsing and purchasing of media from many online stores that are part of the PlaysForSure program. Although many stores are available, I will focus on the Napster service for buying songs and listening to online radio. Before October 2007, there was an online store called Urge, which was a partnership between Microsoft and MTV. It was fully integrated within Media Player and let you buy media directly from Library view, as shown in Figure 8.10. Unfortunately, this alliance ended, and MTV allied with the Rhapsody media service instead of Media Player.
Figure 8.10 The URGE music store was integrated directly into the library. Stores after SP-1 are not.
Choosing an Online Store
The Online Stores tab displays the currently chosen online store, or might read Online Stores or Media Guide in the case that there is no store currently active. To choose an online store, click the arrow below the Online Stores tab, as shown in Figure 8.11, and select the desired store from the list. If you want to use a store not listed in the Online Stores menu, select Browse All Online Stores. Then you can choose Napster or whatever.
Figure 8.11 Use the Online Stores menu to choose your desired store.
Setting Up an Account
Most online stores require a similar setup process of creating a username and password, entering your billing information, and choosing your account type. To set up an account for Napster, follow these steps:
- Find Napster in the Browse Online Stores list, and read the instructions for downloading the Napster plugin for Media Player.
- Select Create New Account in the dialog box that appears, as shown in Figure 8.12.
Figure 8.12 Napster store Sign In dialog box.
Enter your billing information and select an account type.
Common account types are as follows:
- Purchase Only—Standard account type that allows purchasing songs on an individual basis. Songs can usually be played on the computer, burned to a CD, or transferred to a portable device.
- Subscription with Streaming—Subscription account that allows unlimited streaming of all content contained in the store's catalog. You must be connected to the Internet at all times to use this type of account.
- Subscription with Streaming and Download—Subscription account that allows the download of music to your computer for playback when not connected to the Internet.
- Subscription with Streaming, Download, and Sync—Subscription account that allows you to download media and sync it to a PlaysForSure-compatible portable device.
Adding Items from Your Computer to Your Library
By default, Windows Media player 11 searches certain folders on your computer for media files and automatically adds these files to your library. If your media does not appear in the library automatically, it is located in a folder that is not monitored by Media Player. To change the folders that are monitored, perform the following steps: