Try VLC: A Better Media Player

Category: Audio , Software , Video

Do you like to play music, videos, CDs or DVDs on your computer or mobile device? Are you frustrated with the limitations of iTunes or Windows Media Player? Tired of having to convert audio or video formats? Here comes VLC Media Player to the rescue! Read on…

VLC Media Player: A Better Way

You may not be familiar with VLC Media Player, but it's one of the most popular programs on Earth; it passed the 3.5 billion downloads mark this month. Today, it’s available on more operating systems than any other media player, and it just keeps getting better.

In January 2021, version 3.0.12 of VLC Media Player was released for Windows and Mac OS X. It is also available for over a dozen flavors of Linux and Unix. There are mobile versions for Apple/iOS, Android, and Windows Phone; and even versions for Chrome OS, Apple TV, and OS/2. VLC Media Player plays MPEG, AVI, H.264, MKV, WebM, WAV, WMA, WMV, MP3, MP4, and practically all other video and sound formats, as well as DVDs, audio CDs, and various streaming protocols.

Notably, it is developed by a non-profit organization, and has no spyware, ads, or user tracking. The VLC Player includes features like 360-degree video navigation, the ability to detect vertically oriented video and rotate it automatically, and the ability to re-start a video at the point where you left off or closed it accidentally. With every release, support for new codecs (file formats) are added, further reducing the chance that you will ever encounter a multimedia file or disc that VLC can’t play.

VLC Media Player

The latest versions include security updates, improvements for Blu-ray and HDR (high dynamic range), 4k (and 8K) playback support, and hardware acceleration. VideoLAN President Jean-Baptiste Kempf is quoted as saying "VLC runs everywhere, plays everything.”

That is the whole point of VLC Media Player, of course. The open-source project got its start in 1996, a time when numerous software developers were trying to establish dominance in multimedia by imposing their proprietary file formats on everyone. VLC set out to support Windows Media Video (WMV), Apple QuickTime (MOV), RealPlay’s RealAudio and RealVideo, and every other format. Today, it’s the Swiss Army Knife of media players. Just install VLC on every device you own and don’t worry about converting one file format to another.

If you read somewhere that VLC Media Player had a "critical software vulnerability" that could allow attackers to compromise your computer, you can relax. VideoLAN, the company that develops the VLC Player, says their software is "not vulnerable" to the flaw reported by security researchers. The "security issue" was related to a third-party software library called libebml, which was fixed several years ago, and incorporated in version 3.0.3, which was released back in May 2018.

Why does the VLC project feature an orange traffic cone in its logo? Some believe that it means VLC is always "under construction." But the real answer is much more interesting. VLC was started in 1996 as an academic project by students at the École Centrale Paris. At the time, there was a tradition amongst the members of the École Centrale's Networking Students' Association to steal borrow collect traffic cones. So the cone was adopted by the group as the VLC logo.

If you're into audio, you should know about Audacity, a free, easy-to-use, audio editor and recorder for Windows, Mac, and Linux. You can use Audacity to record live audio, or convert tapes and records into digital format. It can edit, cut, copy, splice or mix sounds together, or change the speed, pitch or tempo of a recording. It's also a great tool for converting from one audio format to another.

Since 2009, the software has been developed and maintained by VideoLAN, an autonomous non-profit organization. It is now a worldwide open-source project with developers from 40 countries. You can download the source code to learn, or even contribute your time to the development, documentation, testing, or user support of the VLC Media Player project.

It Slices, It Dices, It Even Streams!

VLC is also a streaming media server, so you can use it to play YouTube, and other streaming media without a browser that supports streaming. In fact, you can even use VLC to save streamed files to your hard drive. Or if you like, use the red Record button to save a short clip from a video as it plays.

VLC even decrypts the weak CSS encryption used on DVDs, allowing them to be played outside of their geographic regions or ripped to backup copies. This is a controversial feature that violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, but it furthers VLC’s mission of being able to “play everything.”

If you don’t like the look and feel of the VLC player, you can download a “skin” to change it. Choose from dozens of skins or create your own with the VLC Skin Editor. (Skins only work on Windows and Linux/Unix systems.) There are also extensions created by fans to add features not found in the standard version.

Do you use VLC Media Player? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Try VLC: A Better Media Player"

(See all 30 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

08 Mar 2021

I've read everyone's praises for VLC player, but it doesn't work for me all the time. I have the latest version but there are just some things I try to play that will not play. What I need is a tutorial or a user manual. Know of any such thing?

Posted by:

08 Mar 2021

As an audiophile, I am using VLC with a surplus older computer as a music source for my stereo system. Using the VLC tools/preferences/advanced settings menu - it is possible to optimize the sound quality to near audiophile standards. The best options to do this are the "audio resampler" and "audio codecs" options under main "audio" menu. Under that main menu, also leave "peak protection" checked - as well as possibly setting the "audio gain" to match the other high level inputs to your preamp/integrated amp/receiver. Under “audio codecs” it is best to uncheck both "dynamic range compression" options to retain the dynamic range present in the original music source.

In general, the memory capacity and processor speed of your motherboard will determine the limitations of your VLC sound quality settings before "stuttering" or increased distortion can be heard. If you do run into any irreversible snags - the "reset preferences" box can always be checked to get back to the default settings. In my older computer, I have been able to increase the described settings to near the highest levels, without any problems. With the optimized VLC player, best results will be obtained with high quality MP3 music files or some of the many "lossless" options now available - but quality MP3's will sound surprisingly good.

Posted by:

08 Mar 2021

Never got VLC to work properly. IT ALWAYS STUTTERS every video during a pan on scrren. Tried it on WinXP computer, Win 7 Computer and now WIN 10 computer. Always, I mean ALWAYS stutters. Have tried dedicated graphics card... Have tried "cures" from googling the problem, but no joy.

Can anyone tell me what I can do to make VLC work?

Posted by:

Ryan James
08 Mar 2021

To Duane: There are multiple tutorials for VLC. Google: vlc tutorial youtube

Posted by:

08 Mar 2021

I discovered VLC when I started using Linux distros such as Ubuntu and Mint.It is very handy and easy to use.
To Duanu who left a comment about needing help with VLC: Just click the help option on the face of VLC when it first start up.There are several links for using VLC for the first time.There is a link to the forums, so you can ask questions there if need be.

Posted by:

Bob Farrell
08 Mar 2021

I have been using VLC for years. Best one I have found !

Posted by:

Bob Farrell
08 Mar 2021

To: T John, yes this is a free download .

Posted by:

Ernest N. Wilcox Jr.
08 Mar 2021

I too have been using VLC Media Player for several years. I use it to stream my favorite local radio broadcast stations and to stream Web Blogs (text, audio, and video). I have not tried it with YouTube, but I will soon. I have not found a better media player and I'd doubt that there is a more versatile media solution available. It is my first choice when I want to watch or listen to any media from the Internet.

Posted by:

08 Mar 2021

I, too, like VLC very much. One pet peeve for me is that when I have it play an audio file or video it is listed as a 'recent item' thereby eliminating a bunch of my spreadsheets or pdfs or word docs that had been on the list. iTunes doesn't do that. I recall that way back when (on XP???) there was either a registry hack or a one-off utility that I could run so that I could increase the number of items on that recent items list. Alas, I have not found it. As a result, I only use VLC when I've got something quick to play and don't want iTunes to add to its own library.
FTR, for now, I'm still using my Win7 system. My Win10 will be set up soon, so it remains to be seen if I'll still have the same problem.
TIA for any guidance.

Posted by:

08 Mar 2021

VLC has been the go-to default video player in our private school system for years. The only thing it does NOT do well is music playlists - we have started using MusicBee for that (as a replacement for the defunct and overbloated iTunes).

VLC is also the default player on the refurbished computers that I set up for people - along with LibreOffice and other open-source software that obviates the need for expensive SAS subscriptions.

Posted by:

Richard Dengrove
09 Mar 2021

When I tried to get VLC several months ago, my computer said that it somehow would endanger it and wouldn't let me install it I had it in my previous computer.

Posted by:

09 Mar 2021

@ T John. It is a free download. Only download from the link in the article. There are other sites where its available. I suggest it may not be safe to trust all of them.

Posted by:

09 Mar 2021

Love VLC, but it needs a little help to play BluRays:
How to Play Blu-rays on Windows 10

The catch is that when you first install VLC, it isn't capable of playing Blu-ray discs. After you install it, you need to download two additional files and place them into specific folders.
Fully illustrated instructions here:

I have also used an OLDER version of this player, strictly for BRays:

Posted by:

Jim M
09 Mar 2021

What red button? I don't see any red button.

Posted by:

09 Mar 2021

I downloaded VLC Media Player years ago to convert all my iTunes-purchased music from MP4 to MP3 so that it would play on an (old:)Android phone, and I've never looked back! VLC is the Disneyland of media players... awesome and magical!

Posted by:

Mike Davies
09 Mar 2021

What I find particularly useful in VLC is that you can add or disable subtitles very easily. Also, videos that have been downloaded sometimes want to play in an incorrect aspect ratio, this is easily rectified by a simple click. Good bit of kit!

Posted by:

George Valkinov
09 Mar 2021

I've used many players, but VLC Media Player is the best.

Posted by:

10 Mar 2021

I had VLC for years but deleted it because of the Java Script controversy at that time. I notice that Hippo refers to Java Script in its download. Is this now acceptable please?

EDITOR'S NOTE: I think you might be referring to vulnerabilities discovered in Java, which (despite the name) has nothing to do with JavaScript. Also, the issues with Java were only for web-based apps.

Posted by:

Jim Seiler
21 Mar 2021

On first reading about VLC, it looked like the answer to my continued frustrations, but not so fast my friend. The menu bar shown on the website is non-existent in every version I've installed for Windows (10/8.1/7/XP, 32 bit or 64 bit), and I can't find the red dot either. Guess I could try a Linux version I have in a sandbox, but not worth the trouble just to play music, especially obscure about creating a playlist. Seems to get good reviews for videos and movies ... I do about 1 video a year whether I need to or not! Not so great for audio/music, tho', as described above. Like being able to cast it over my home network if I had something I wanted to cast. To paraphrase a frequently used statement, "You never get MORE than what you pay for>"

Posted by:

The Baroness
23 Mar 2021

Hi Bob, I have tried VLC Media Player over the years and always uninstall it after a day or two. It's very invasive, isn't any better than any other media player (my opinion), and almost impossible to uninstall in my older and new laptops. I'm always hoping "this time it's better," but it's not - ever. PS - I run ASUS and Acer laptops with Windows 7 in some and Windows 10 in others.

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