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3 lightweight alternatives to Windows Media Player

After using Windows for a while, most people get quickly fed up of the clunky bloat that is Windows Media Player.
Admittedly, some of the features are rather good, and to some extent, it can handle music libraries decently. The biggest problem is it’s processor and memory footprint.
Here are three lightweight alternatives.

1. VLC Media Player

A completely open source, cross platform media player that is known for playing almost anything and everything.
The feature set is huge:

  • Support for nearly every audio and video formats on the planet – VLC plays MPEG 1/2/3/4, DivX, XviD, 3ivX, H,261, H.264, H.263. H.261, OGG, Dirac, WMV, AVI, Indeo, Real, FLAC, ALAC, MIDI, LPCM, QCELP, you name it.
  • Subtitle support
  • Network streaming, as client or server
  • You can watch TV on it with your TV tuner card
  • Plethora of interfaces – control VLC from the command line, over telnet, or even through a web interface.
  • Plugins for Firefox and IE
  • Plays from nearly every kind of optical media available in the market
  • Full DVD menu support, CDDB querying for audio discs
  • Localisation
  • Support for ipv6!
  • Video output in ASCII characters!!! (ok, this is optional)

Here’s a screenshot of it running on Vista with the new Skins interface:

It comes with very practical fullscreen controls, too:

(Screenshots courtesy the VLC website)
To download, head over to their download page and choose your platform.

2. Media player classic

Media Player Classic is a feature rich media player with a huge array of options. It doesn’t require installation – Just download the file and run it.

It’s feature set is also rather large – like VLC, MPC has a great number of audio and video codecs, just waiting to play any set of formats you throw at it.
It’s not as exhaustively customisable, though. It does, however come with a web interface you can use to control it.

Preferences dialog:
(Screenshots courtesy sourceforge)

3. Winamp

This one is rather legendary. It’s been around for years, and there is clone after clone of it all over the web.
Unlike the other two players mentioned above, Winamp is good for maintaining a music collection, with an interface that makes it quite easy to manage music.

It features all the things you’d expect from a music manager – full blown library management support, including support for synchronising portable devices (even the iPod), the ability to rip and burn CDs, iTunes library support, support for all the popular music formats, and thousands of third party skins and plugins that extend the functionality of Winamp.

Here’s Winamp showing off it’s album art support

Do you know any really good ones? Let us know in the comments!


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