Winamp, iTunes, Doubletwist, Songbird - the list of freeware media library and playback options for Windows 7 users goes on and on. But in spite of the glut of alternatives, Windows Media Player 12 remains a decent default media player in its own right. Sure, there are a few usability features missing, but nothing absolutely critical. And that's what makes Windows Media Player Plus! from BM Productions such a hot download. It reintroduces some of the ease of use from earlier Windows Media Player versions and adds some other tweaks that correct some of the shortcomings of Windows Media Player 12 that, while not exactly deal breakers, may have steered you away initially. With Windows Media Player Plus!, Windows Media Player 12 makes a lot more sense to more users.
Download & Installation
Installing Windows Media Player Plus! is simple. Hop on over to the download page at BM-productions, close Windows Media Player 12 and run the install file. The properties menu will pop up automatically the next time you open Windows Media Player 12, but after that, you can access it by clicking Tools, Plug-in Properties and Windows Media Player Plus!.
The Windows Media Player Plus! Settings menu looks like the screen below.
Now that you've got Windows Media Player Plus! up and running, you can see for yourself what makes it a worthy download. Here's what we like best:
Reason 1: Added Ease of Use in the Player Library
Windows Media Player Plus! introduces some time-saving tweaks to the Player Library. While not exactly groundbreaking, they do come quite in handy. Try using them for a week and then using a friend's computer without Windows Media Player Plus! and you'll certainly notice.
- Find as you Type - the first and simplest tweak is the 'Find as you type' feature. Checking this box in the Library pane of the settings menu allows you to start typing anywhere in the Player Library to begin a search, rather than having you click in the box first. A subtle change, but nice all the same.
To enable this feature, simply check the box in the settings page.
Now, you can begin typing to start a search, even if you're not focused on the search box.
- Disable group headers in the Library Pane - another tweak that effects the Library is the ability to disable the group headers. This is an aesthetic change for users who prefer the continuous list of items. See the screenshot below to see it in action.
Again, simply click the checkbox next to 'Disable group headers in the Library Pane' and click Apply and OK to enable this feature.
As you can see below, the group headings disappear, giving you a continuous, uninterrupted list of items.
- Context Menus - now, let's skip down to 'Context Menus', since this affects the way the Player Library behaves. The first section allows you to add the File option to the context menu when you right-click. By default, Windows Media Player 12 has a limited set of actions you can do from within the Player Library. In order to copy the file, pin it to the start menu, open it with a different application and perform other advanced options, you would have to open the file in Windows Explorer. With this option enabled, you can save yourself a step.
From the Windows Media Player Plus! settings window, click 'Context Menus' on the left and check the boxes beneath File menu. You can enable the File menu in the Library Pane, the List Pane or both, by checking the appropriate boxes. Click Apply and OK when you're done.
Now, the File menu appears when you right-click.
Reason 2: Tag Editor Plus
Tag Editor Plus deserves a section all on its own, since it's possibly the best part of Windows Media Player Plus!. You can enable this feature in the same settings pane as the File menu option.
With Tag Editor Plus enabled, you can edit song and media information from a convenient tabbed window, much like you could in earlier versions of Windows Media Player and in iTunes. This is a much more comfortable way to edit song information than the standard method, which involves right-clicking each detail in the columns and clicking Edit. (This process was explained in How to Sort, Tag and Rate Pictures in Windows Media Player 12.)
To access Tag Editor Plus, right-click an item and click 'Tag Editor Plus'.
This will open the Tag Editor Plus window, which includes a form-style interface for quickly filling in media information. There are three tabs for commonly used tags and advanced tab, which includes everything you could possibly edit for a given file (including some things you shouldn't). The Summary tab contains essential fields, including Title, Artist, Track number, Album title and Album artist, Genre, Release year and disc number. You can also add a rating here. The Track tab gets more specific, allowing you to add a subtitle, subgenre, mood, language and initial key in addition to the title information found in the Summary tab. Likewise, the Artist tab allows you to delve deeper by adding a composer, writer and conductor.
Lastly is the Advanced tab. This includes everything you can alter, including values that aren't typically user-edited. For instance, you can change the play count. Some items cannot be edited, such as the SourceURL and the TrackingID.
Reason 3: Display Now Playing Information in Taskbar and Live Messenger
Windows Media Player Plus! also allows you to add Now Playing information to the taskbar and your Windows Live Messenger status. The latter functionality already existed in Live Messenger, but with Windows Media Player Plus!, you can tweak the message and add Advanced Title Formatting (ATF).
You can activate the title bar functionality in the User Interface pane. Enter which information you'd like to see in the Format field and check the box next to 'Show currently playing media in Windows Media Player's title bar'.
Below, you can see how the title bar displays simply 'Windows Media Player' before this feature is enabled. After, the text is replaced by the song information.
Song information can also be sent to Windows Live Messenger from the Messenger pane in the settings window. Here's where the ATF Editor really comes in handy. You can use this feature for the title bar as well. First click Messenger on the left and then click the ATF Editor button to pull it up.
You can type in ATF values if you know them. If you don't, check out the Advanced Title Formatting Reference. If you're not quite that geeky, you can click the Insert button to pull them up automatically. In this example, ATF fields and functions are combined with normal text.
In Windows Live Messenger, click the row next to 'Share a quick message' and check 'Show what I'm listening to'.
Your Live Messenger contacts will now see your custom message.
Reason 4: Picking Up Where You Left Off
The remaining features from Windows Media Player Plus! help add continuity between the time you close Windows Media Player 12 and open it again.
In the 'Restore Media at Startup' pane, you can choose to pick up where you left off to varying degrees. You can simple have the last items you had in your playlist already queued up, or you can have them begin playing again at the point in the song you were at before you closed Windows Media Player 12. Additionally, you can have Windows Media Player Plus! rewind a few seconds, which is handy if you're listening to an audiobook or podcast, so you can get your bearings again.
The Restore Plug-ins pane slightly tweaks the way Windows Media Player 12 behaves after a crash. By default, Windows Media Player 12 will automatically disable all plug-ins and notify you the next time you launch it. With Windows Media Player Plus! you can have it forgo the error message or show you an enhanced error message, which lets you re-enable all or some of your plug-ins right away.
We don't have an original screenshot of the enhanced error message, since we couldn't get Windows Media Player 12 to crash on purpose, but if you want to see it in action, check out BM-Productions' screenshots.
Windows Media Player Plus! is a subtle add-on for Windows Media Player 12, but the usability and functionality that it adds greatly enhance the overall experience. While Windows Media Player 12 is an excellent media player in its own right, Windows Media Player Plus! makes it even better by eliminating some common pet peeves.
Try it out for yourself and let us know what you think. It's free and, like all Windows Media Player 12 plug-ins, it's simple to disable and uninstall if you change your mind.
Windows Media Player 12 Menus & Views Explained
How to Use Playback Enhancements in Windows Media Player 12
How to Install and Use Windows Media Player 12 Plug-ins
How to Download, Install and Apply Skins in Windows Media Player 12