Many people use their PCs as their primary source of entertainment but it can be frustrating when it comes to setting up your computer to reliably play all types of video and audio. With many different video and audio formats out there, the demand for media players which can play everything straight out of the box has grown enormously. Windows comes with Windows Media Player and many novice users hope to make do with this software. However, Windows Media Player is often absolutely useless by itself the moment you try to open a file of a slightly lesser known format at it.
You can solve the problem of Windows Media Player’s very limited format support by downloading and installing a free codec package such as the Shark007 or K-Lite. These will, theoretically at least, enable all of the media players installed on your computer to play any files supported by your chosen codec package. However, codec packs can be somewhat of a nuisance, particularly for novice users when it comes to installation and configuration. Even then, Windows Media Player and certain other programs may still have problems with certain file types. For example, Windows Media Player cannot even find and add certain file types to the media library without downloading an additional tag extender add-on, even if the program can still play the files in question.
If you want to enjoy your computer’s multimedia potential to its fullest, consider trying one of the following three programs.
VLC Media Player
VLC Media Player is a rather minimalistic program which does not exactly boast the prettiest and most customizable of interfaces. Nonetheless, it has become one of the most popular media players in the world for good reasons. Firstly, VLC Media Player can play absolutely any audio or video file that you are ever likely to encounter on the Internet. It can even be used as a streaming media server. No extra codec packs are required since the software provides native support for almost everything.
VLC Media Player is a cross-platform solution and thanks to it being free and open-source software, it has ports for Linux, Mac OS X, Unix and most other operating systems. There is even a portable version available. The media player is small, user-friendly and very straightforward to use. VLC Media Player should have no problem building up your media library thanks to its extensive tag support. The program also supports some degree of customization through the use of skins.
Winamp has long been one of the favourite audio player applications. Newer versions also provide native support for various video formats including Windows Media Video and Nullsoft Streaming Video. It supports almost all audio formats that you are ever likely to encounter, including the increasingly popular lossless audio compression formats such as FLAC. Video support is largely dependent on having additional codecs installed as is the case with Windows Media Player. This is because Winamp uses the DirectShow API for video playback. Most people only use the free version of Winamp although the paid “Pro” version provides native support for a wider range of video formats as well as other additional features.
Winamp has a fully customizable and skinnable interface. There are also numerous plug-ins and visualizations available for free for the program, mostly thanks to its great popularity. Adding further functionality and customizing the software is easy thanks to this. Nonetheless, Winamp remains the program of choice for many audio enthusiasts while it remains relatively unpopular for its video playback.
KMPlayer is one of the lesser known freeware media players but it is rapidly gaining ground in the highly competitive software market. Like VLC Media Player, it provides support for a huge range of video and audio formats without requiring any additional codec packs to be installed. It is also a highly customizable program which even supports certain Winamp plug-ins and visualizations. It supports all of the popular video subtitle formats as well. The latest version supports Blu-Ray playback.
If you are looking for a highly versatile and customizable solution for both audio and video playback combined with extensive file type support, KMPlayer is the perfect alternative to VLC Media Player. Also, if you have had problems with certain formats with the latter, KMPlayer is likely to solve them since it provides its own built-in media decoders.