Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Windows 7’s Windows Media Player 12 (2010 Update)

Windows 7

Windows 7 seems to be the next best thing to sliced bread as of lately. Everyone can’t help but comment on how great it is and how wonderful it seems to interoperate with everything. For the most part this is true, but 7 isn’t without it’s jagged edges. There are the minor things that still take away from the full picture. The addition of the ability to increase the size of the fonts on screen to 125% or 150% is an amazing feature (not that it wasn’t there before, its just really easy to do now), especially for people like me that have high resolution monitors. However it breaks the functionality of some applications such as Encode HD and Xvid4PSP.

Why? well for the most part the reason the program doesn't play nice could be because the developer didn’t write the application to a specific standard which would give it the ability to be properly manipulated by the operating system.

Never the less, there are other areas such as the decision to recreate the Paint and Control Panel Icons among others. The new Icons are nice but they don’t seem to match the overall visual style of Windows Vista’s Icon set which was brought over to Windows 7. In addition, I don’t know what it is exactly that’s causing it, but Windows 7’s Icon set somehow the colouring reminds me of the Windows XP icon set; a little too yellow i guess.

Explorer

(Windows Media Player 12 is worlds apart from 11 that was shipped in Vista) WMP 12Much cleaner in terns of interface, it plays songs back snappily with very little delay, however when moving between libraries such as Video and Music or from one library to a playlist, there is a noticeable lag to load the items. Overall performance may be improved but WMP 12 still manages to hiccup now and again causing serious detraction from the overall experience. To add to this, the new “Now Playing” view returns to the days of Windows Media Player 9 with the “Mini View Skins.” Now really and truly, most people don’t use the “Now Playing” view much unless that like to watch the visualisations or the album art.

The downside of the new Now Playing Feature is a variety of things. To get to the now playing screen, you have to press a button on the bottom right of the Player (really… who is even going to look there?). However to get from the now playing screen to the library view, the button to back isn’t on the bottom right, its actually on the top right…? Now to add insult to injury, you have to right click on the now playing screen for user access to the Equaliser and SRS WOW effects and video adjustments etc. There is no direct way to access the equaliser from the Library screen like you did in Windows Media Player 11. Lets add one more scalding point… say you decided to go through your music folders and play random songs as you browse, every time you double click a song, window media player comes up, and you have to minimise it…. EVERY TIME!!!! Back in WMP 11, if you enabled the taskbar mode when you played a song by directly double clicking the file WMP 11 would stay in taskbar mode minimised, and would be not up in you face. The Zune software… interestingly enough, actually still has a taskbar mode. Odd but true.

WMP NP Context Menu

(As you can see from the screen shot, accessing the equaliser requires the use of a context menu which can get really old, really fast.)

(Also, the classic list view is still there but even when enabled, still does not provide a direct way to access the EQ and other enhancements)

WMP NP List View

To add insult to injury, the Now Playing and Media Library view are not position independent. So if you wanted to keep the now playing window in the upper left of the screen, and you moved the library window to the bottom right of the screen, when you go back to the Now Playing window, the window ends up approximately in the middle of the screen instead of the upper left. Annoying?… most definitely.

For the most part, Windows 7 has been exquisitely refined and polished, but these few quirks have permanently move me off Windows Media Player to Zune and Winamp for music and KMPlayer for videos.

Someone, please kick Balmer and the team that developed WMP 12 in the NUTS!!