Microsoft is putting a new face on Windows Media Player, with the application’s biggest overhaul in years. The company announced a beta version of the new player this morning, featuring a cleaner, Vista-like interface; integration with a new digital music store from MTV; and improved handling of large libraries and album art.
I’ve been playing around with the beta of Windows Media Player 11 for a while now, and the app’s streamlined look and improved performance have proved quite impressive. MTV’s new Urge music service (see “MTV Does Digital Music“) is deeply integrated with the player, letting you manage music downloads and subscription tracks in one interface.
Instant Search is the star of Media Player 11. Even when dealing with large libraries, the search feature is amazingly fast, updating as you type each letter of your search query to help you quickly drill down through your music collection to find exactly the song, artist, or album you want. The speed of the search function helps make it a primary tool for navigating your media library, allowing Microsoft to streamline Media Player’s interface further and to focus on a clean, engaging look.
WMP 11 uses Advanced Audio Fingerprinting–based on the waveform of the song itself, rather than whatever fragmentary metadata already exists in the file–to match the music in your collection with proper metadata (track numbers, album name, year of production, and so on) and album art. This helps correctly identify different versions of songs that appear on multiple albums. Media Player will automatically grab this information in the background, or you can elect to have it update your library all at once by choosing “Apply Media Information Changes” from the newly simplified Library menu.
A couple of other nice touches: Media Player 11 features a universal back button that lets you retrace your steps whether you’re browsing a subscription service or your own library, and a handy drop-down menu lets you manage other types of media in your collection. And WMP 11 will still collapse into a tiny window with just play controls if you reduce the window to small enough size.
Under the Hood Enhancements
Once you get past WMP 11’s interface overhaul, you’ll find some improvements to the syncing and burning features of Media Player.
You can choose what to sync or burn by dragging albums, artists, playlists, or tracks to the hideable right pane in the player, where a handy icon and meter show you which device you’re transferring songs to and how much space you’ll have left when you’re done. WMP 11 will automatically spread tracks over multiple discs if you’re trying to burn more tracks than will fit.
Reverse syncing and multiple PC syncing features aid you in archiving voice or FM recordings from an MP3 player or in keeping a consistent collection on multiple PCs.
Microsoft Windows Media Player 11
A streamlined interface, superfast search, and integration with MTV’s music store take Windows Media Player to the next level. Free download
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