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VLC Media Player comes to iPad at last

Looks like Apple is making good on its promise to approve more apps--including this one, which plays just about any video you care to copy to your iPad.

The free VLC Media Player app for iPad can handle just about any video format you throw at it.
The free VLC Media Player app for iPad can handle just about any video format you throw at it. Screenshot by Rick Broida

If you were excited last month by the arrival of CineXPlayer, which lets you view Xvid-formatted videos on your iPad, you'll love this: uber-popular open-source video player VLC is now available for iPad as well, meaning you can now watch just about any video in any format.

Indeed, as the developer's fractured-English description notes, "It comes with support for nearly all codec there is." And based on the dozen or so sample videos I threw at it--Divx, MKV, Xvid, etc.--that seems to be the case.

As with CineXPlayer, you copy videos to VLC by way of iTunes' File Sharing feature: connect your iPad, click the Apps tab, scroll down to the File Sharing area, and then choose VLC. Click the Add button and find the video(s) you want to load up. Easy-peasy.

Unlike CineXPlayer, which displays only a text list of your videos, VLC Media Player uses thumbnails. Unfortunately, it doesn't sort them alphabetically, nor does it give you any sorting options; videos appear in the order they were copied to your iPad. It sorts videos alphabetically, but doesn't give you any other sorting options.

On the plus side, each thumbnail shows a little clock icon indicating how much of the video you've already watched (the app remembers your place, of course). Weirdly, however, the icon is backwards: the "hands" go counter-clockwise.

There's not much else to say about VLC Media Player. It's free, it works, and it opens the door to countless videos you wouldn't otherwise be able to view without first converting them. In that respect, it's a must-have app.

And a surprising arrival, I must say. In the past, an app that lets users watch videos not purchased from iTunes would have been strictly verboten, but Apple seems to be honoring its newly relaxed developer guidelines. Which begs the question: what other previously unthinkable apps would you like to see?