Many people would agree that Windows Media Player has proven to be one of the most reliable and convenient tools for managing one's media library. There is a lot it can do: organize your files, play videos and music, burn CDs, stream your media to other devices... the list of features is very large and very impressive.
One of WMP 12's most remarkable characteristics, however, is that it comes pre-installed in Windows 7. It means that the program is at your disposal the moment you turn on your new computer. You won't waste your time looking for media managers online, downloading the files, and installing them. WMP is all you will need.
Microsoft made numerous updates to WMP for the release in Windows 7. This new version is completely free from clutter, such as unnecessary buttons and menus, and this lets the users fully immerse themselves in the world of video and audio material on their computers. There is a number of built-in audio and video codecs already included with the program and the required missing codecs are automatically identified and downloaded from the Internet, so virtually any file can be played with the WMP.
While all other versions of the Windows Media Player were able to stream music, version 12 extends and simplifies media sharing across the network and the Internet. The new Play To feature allows you to share your media content with other computers running Windows 7 on your local network. The Remote Media Streaming makes your media library available over the Internet when you are on the road.
Smarter DVD playback, iDevice support (with required plug-ins and iTunes installed alongside), 15-second song previews and Jump Lists are some of the features that are worth mentioning. While the first three features are quite obvious, Jump Lists need explanations. They allow you to navigate through your media library amazingly fast; in addition, Jump Lists can be customized to fit your needs and style.
As usual, WMP options are overwhelming. It is a good and a bad thing at the same time. There are many settings to change, but a regular user won't need to tweak any of them, and an advanced user won't find what he is looking for. Yet again, Microsoft managed to add a lot, but nothing of substance.
WMP 12 does not include some of the features that were available in the previous versions of the program, including the taskbar-intergrated mini-player (some controls are now available in the application's thumbnail preview in the taskbar, however), the advanced tag editor, and the party mode. The player cannot be used with operating systems older than Windows 7. WMP 11, on the other hand, can be officially downloaded from Microsoft's servers and used with many of the previous versions of Windows operating system.