Windows Media Player 11 Beta
It seems like only yesterday I was saying goodbye to Windows Media Player 9 (WMP 9) and now WMP 11 is out in beta. They grow up so fast, don’t they? I know WMP takes a lot of heat compared to iTunes, Winamp and even MusicMatch as far as digital players go, but I have always liked WMP and I like this new version as well.
First of all, the new version has a small departure from some of the features in earlier versions of the player while adding other components to help make the player a major competitor in the media field. If you are familiar with WMP 10, you should find transitions to the new player easy and exciting.
From the main interface, you are bound to notice some major differences in the interface. It’s cleaner and more efficient. Taking feedback from its customers has obviously paid off. Upon launching the player, you will also notice immediately the new music service, called Urge . It is integrated into the main interface as well. Microsoft has decided to make Urge, which is also MTV’s music service, the default integrated music store in the new WMP, while saying goodbye to MSN Music.
There is no question that Microsoft hasn’t been as successful in the realm of digital music as the wildly successful iTunes and this version of WMP validates this fact. For example, in addition to the change in the default music store, there has also been improvements in the way the WMP handles syncing removable devices, such as MP3 players. This should definitely come as a very welcomed addition. WMP will intuitively see your player and it will easily synchronize it in a number of different ways to suit your needs. Unlike iTunes, you can also easily transfer files from you MP3 player back to your WMP, which is an incredibly nice feature to have.
In addition to these improvements, here are some more things you can expect to see from the new Windows Media Player:
With stacking, you can see graphically how many albums you have in a specific category of music. The more items you see in a stack (category), the larger the pile. Categories for stacks include genre, artist and album. Changing the interface from a long list of titles to a graphic representation not only makes the interface more pleasing to the eye, but also makes understanding, navigating and managing your music much easier.
Digital music collections are getting larger and larger. With a large collection, comes that first inevitable memory lapse. Believe it or not, there will come a time when you can’t remember the name of an album, the artist or the name of the song you want to hear. So, Media Player 11 offers a way to instantly find exactly what you want.
Specifically, Windows Media Player 11 includes the Windows Vista WordWheel search functionality, incorporated right into the Media Player Library. All you have to do is type part of the artist’s name, song title or genre (whatever you can remember). The Library will then “prune” through your entire collection with a query across relevant fields and it will offer up what it thinks you’re looking for. Cool, huh?!
Back and Forward Buttons
The new Back and Forward buttons do just what you’d expect them to. They make using the player more Internet like and they offer a simple way to browse the interface. It’s also easy to return to something you were doing, viewing or listening to earlier. This Internet feel seems quite natural and intuitive.
New CD Burning Features
How much space is left on the CD you plan to burn to and whether you have enough room for one more track has always been a guessing game. Worse is creating the ultimate playlist, only to find that it won’t fit on the CD. With the new Burning Progress Bar in Media Player 11, that won’t ever happen again. The bar is a graphic representation of how much space is left on the CD. The progress bar gets longer as songs are added to the playlist. When the bar reaches the end of the graphic, you’ll know the disk is full.
If you have the ultimate playlist, but it won’t fit on one CD, you can burn it to multiple CDs. With Multiple Disk CD Burning, you’ll be notified that the music won’t all fit and then prompted to put in another CD when the first one is full. Now that’s what I call progress!
No matter what the task, Windows Media Player 11 can tell you in an instant what’s going on. With the Global Status feature, you can easily find out how buffering is coming, what song is currently being synched, how CD ripping is progressing and more. Finally, no more guessing!
Synching music to portable devices is an important part of any media application. The new synching features in Media Player 11 can play hardball with the best of them. Just plug in your device and click Start Sync. You’ll see the songs to be synched listed, with a progress bar for each one. You’ll always know how much more there is to go and what the current progress is. Plus, if any song can’t be synched, the player gives you a reason for it.
Whew! That’s a mouthful. So, what do you think? If this is something you would like to check out, let me remind you that the program is still in beta form, which means it’s not 100 percent bug free yet. I would suggest making absolute sure all background running programs are disabled, especially any other media players installed on your system. You may also want to create a restore point  in your XP system just in case you need an easy out. There are also a number of resources out at Microsoft’s Web site that should help you if you so happen to run into any issues. Don’t let that scare you though. I know a number of people that have downloaded the program and have had no ill effects.
Download the new beta version of Windows Media Player 11 here.
Install and removal instructions are here.
~ Chad Stelnicki