I've tried most of the mainstream media players and disliked all of them for one reason or another. Windows Media Player irritates me by not allowing me to uninstall it, and with its baffling interface. What is it with those four separate menu/title bars at the top of Windows Media Player 10? Has anyone actually worked out yet what they all do? QuickTime and RealPlayer irritate me because they automatically install an icon in the system tray and then force premium content down my throat. And no, Real Player, I don't want to make you the default for all my media types, so stop asking!
All I want is a media player that has a simple interface, no ads and the good manners to let me uninstall it and to not put itself in my taskbar without asking. Is that too much to ask?
Luckily it isn't. I stumbled across VLC media player a few months ago and have been recommending it to all my friends ever since. The player, which is developed by the VideoLAN project, a non-commercial organisation, is completely free with no catches -- no demands for you to upgrade to a paid-for version, no premium content touted. It doesn't keep asking you if you want to make it your default media player (although I soon set it as such), it doesn't install an evil icon in the Windows taskbar and it lets me uninstall it.
VLC supports an impressive list of media formats, including the standard formats such as MP3, MPEG, DivX and AVI; many of the proprietary formats such as RealVideo, WMA, WMV and QuickTime; and quite a few arcane formats such as Ascii art.
I've struggled to play my DVDs on Windows Media Player or Real Player -- both told me that they could not play it because I didn't have a 'compatible DVD decoder'. But on VLC media player it worked straightaway and I could click on the menu items with the mouse to select which chapter I wanted to watch. The only negative with VLC is that there isn't much documentation -- if you want to change one of the settings you'll have to work it out yourself, or search on Google. But then it works so smoothly that I've never wanted to change anything.
So if you're looking for the Ronseal of media players, which does what it says on the tin with no frills and no fuss, take VLC out for a spin. -Ingrid Marson