With Windows 7 now heading into production ahead of an October release users can begin to look forward a number of new features that promise to make Windows 7 a much better bet than Vista ever was. Along with streamlined user interaction, a smaller footprint, a speedier boot and the potential for touch-screen features, Windows 7 also boasts better multimedia handling over previous releases.
Most of the improvements in Windows 7’s media handling are not entirely surprising given the growing importance and proliferation of multimedia in today’s computing environment. Some of the major changes in Windows 7 multimedia handling include a new media player with many features to make it easier to manage media files as well as share them with other computers on your home network.
Not everyone is a fan of Windows Media Player but many use it because it is the default on their system. Irrespective of whether you’re a fan of Media Player or not, the new version, Windows Media Player 12, has a number of new features that are worth investigating.
Unlike previous versions of Media Player, version 12 includes better features for managing media files. This is done with a dual-mode approach: the Library view and the Now Playing view. Microsoft has separated the two roles and enhanced each of them.
Using the Library view users have access to all of the media management tools including categories, playlists and ratings. One of the nice features of the Library view is the ability to list all media types in a single tree view, making it easier to manage them in a single place.
The Now Playing view, on the other hand, shows the current playlist, videos, visual effects and so on.
Built into Media Player 12 are “activity tabs” which make it easier to shift between different operations such as burning, playing or synchronising media files. Added to this is an improved search function which finds files as your type in search terms.
Organising albums has also been given a better visual look. Much like Apple offers users a visual representation of their albums, Media Player 12 provides a “stack” view of albums. The intention is to make it look as if there is a stack of CDs onscreen. Media Player 12 also adds a preview function which plays a 15-second sample of the media when Preview is selected.
Media Player 12 also includes support for a number of new file formats in addition to those supported by Windows Media Player 11. Most notable among these are support for H.264 video, AAC audio, Xvid and DivX video.
As multimedia becomes increasingly popular among users and more and more people are storing their media files on PCs, Windows Media Player 12 has noticeably better network capabilities and allows makes it easier for users to share media files across their home network.
On Windows 7 users can establish a HomeGroup and browse and search for media files on all of the computers in the group. One of the best features is the ability to play media files from one PC to another. So even if all a user’s media files are on one machine they can use the “play to” features to play the media on another PC with better audio equipment, for example.
In addition users can also elect to stream media files to remote devices that conform to the Digital Living Network Alliance standards. From the Library view users can use the “Stream” option to allow Internet access to their media and also allow for remote control of the player.
Windows 7 multimedia discussion