I’m actually considering chalking WMP11 up in the win column for Microsoft. For the most part, I enjoy it.
I know that sounds odd coming from such a staunch Winamp supporter like myself, but it’s true. If you turn off all the “check the internet for everything, daily” options, the player is actually stable and secure.
On of my biggest problems lately is that while Winamp is a great music player it’s a horrible “library manager”. Meaning, that I can play individual MP3s and even whole albums, but if I wanted to switch between techno and ska, I’d have to wipe the playlist, start a new one, add more songs, etc. Now I know there is a “media library” in Winamp, so please don’t tell me that all that is possible. I already know that. It’s just that Winamp’s ML is so clunky that it’s practically unusable.
I’ve tried iTunes. It blows hard. It’s a great music store. Everything is available in a click or two. But the UI design is ass backwards, I don’t like the layout and I can never seem to find the options I want, when I want them. The only reason I ever even tried iTunes was for it’s podcast receiving abilities. I love listening to TWiT and DiggNation. iTunes did the best job at downloading them consistently and uncorrupt. I’ve tried Juice for my podcast downloading and it leaves a lot to be desired. So, downloading via juice and listening via Winamp is out.
So, recently, on a whim and while doing a Windows update, I decided to install WMP11. I have to say, I’m honestly impressed.
As a library it has more than adequate features. You can import a library strait from iTunes if you have them already. You can add folders to “watch” for new content, like my MP3 download folder for instance, so when new music is added, you don’t have to add it to the library. You can sort it via every imaginable (useful) category: artist, album, genre, etc. You can create and edit playlists when you’re in the middle of browsing the library. It even has an advanced ID3 tag editor to edit groups of MP3s if the tags are messed up. I had about 200 hundred or so that had their genre as “unknown”. About 3 clicks and I had it all straitened out. A nifty feature for me, which no one else will care about, is that if you have album art already in the folder it will use it, but if you don’t it’ll try to find it if you select “update album info” from the menu.
So, as a library, it’s fairly handy. As a player, the big huge window can get a bit obtrusive, which is why I really like the “minimize to controls” options. When minimized, instead of simply being another item on the taskbar, it turns itself into mini player controls. That’s how I have Winamp configured so that really is a plus. It also reduces my need for the FoxyTunes plugin in Firefox. Why have two status bar controls? The taskbar is always visible, so I just use that and reduce the footprint for firefox.
All in all I like it. I haven’t found any draconian evil yet. Then again, I don’t use it for downloading music through it’s built in URGE system. It doesn’t add any DRM to my MP3s like the new Zune music player is alleged to do. I seriously hope they don’t change that in Vista. If they leave everything as it is, I think they’ve overcome the horrible tragity that was WMP10, and 9, and 8 come to think of it. For the longest time I completely swore off WMP. It’s earlier incarnations were too over reaching in their control over the system. Remember back at the launch of XP when WMP tried to do everything? I can remember going out and finding the command to remove it from the system entirely. That and Windows Messenger needed to die.
I can honestly say that since WinAmp’s quality has started to decline in the past few years (and releases, since the AOL purchase), I’ve been looking for a new music player. I think I might have found it in WMP11. It takes a lot for me to say that too. I was very skeptical at first. But, sharing music across the network, easy playlists and a great library system seems to have won me over.
It’s not without it’s draw backs however. I would be remiss in my duties not to mention the bad things along with the good.
For example, the actual player part of the interface, the part with the big giant play button, is a little lacking. While I like the aesthetic value of a huge ass glowing button, a track time/counter would be nice. As would a few more controls. As a mini player, the repeat and shuffle features are gone and the volume slider is horribly placed horizontally instead of vertically, like everything else (including the default windows volume) is. Also, there’s the issues with “icon mode”. I used the icon mode instead of list mode because I like to see the album art. I know a CD by looking at it, so it makes seeing albums I want really easy. For some insane reason, even though “show in groups” is turned off in EVERY windows option I can find, it still wants to list things in groups sometimes. Randomly, when I open the player, it’s completely by luck that things are either in icons or in groups. I never know what to expect. The 3 built in options are “icon”, “title” and “details”. None of them help with the group display. If anyone as MS is reading this, a few more view options might be nice fellas. How about you make it like a normal explorer window (since that’s what it is anyway). I’d like the 5 normal view options (Thumbnails, Tiles, Icons, List, Details) as well as the “Arrange By” options (Name, Size, Type and Show in Groups and Auto Arrange). That would be nice. Also, although I don’t really use it a lot, the visualizations suck hard. There’s about 4. All of which are some version of a simple “bars” visualization. A system like MilkDrop for Winamp would be handy. Also, please, for the love of music, improve the EQ options. The basics simply don’t cut it.
Lastly, podcasting isn’t going anywhere. Please, please, please build in some podcast support. I know you don’t want to support iPods, and that’s fine, but at the very least, please support RSS with enclosures. At the moment I’m using Doppler to download podcasts into a directory that’s “watched” by WMP. That does the job for the time being, but it would be nice to have them automatically downloaded and updated.
So, there you have it. The good and the bad of WMP11. It’s a solid system and with a few tweaks it could be awesome.
I’m not sure what I did but now I’ve gotten my categories to look the way they should. This is what it should look like 100% of the time. Now, if only it’ll stay this way…