Preview: Windows Media Player Version 10

From a once over of the latest beta version of Windows Media Player, a good player looks to get even better.

Note that in all documentation and in our discussions with the company, Microsoft clearly states that this is a true beta to be installed only by technical users. This beta is intended to support third-party vendors developing plug-ins and devices that will sync to the new player.

That said, unlike previous Media Player releases, this version will uninstall, so you can experiment and then return to Media Player 9. We tested extensively on two computers and experienced no problems, but would advise against installing on mission-critical systems. The beta runs only on Windows XP Home Edition or Windows XP Professional. >p>Here are the highlights.

Microsoft has moved major function buttons from the left toolbar to the top. With the menu bar not showing, the shape of the interface is now square and more pleasing to the eye, though it can get top-heavy on pages with browser controls and menu items. Microsoft also simplified button language from Copy from CD and Copy to CD or Device to Rip, Burn, and Sync.


A third window view in the Media Library that displays the Now Playing List, Burn List, or Sync List is one of the most significant usability enhancements. In previous versions, you had to toggle between the Media Library and Copy to CD or Device window to burn a CD or send music to an MP3 player, which was a hassle since you could no longer see your library. Now, you can see the lists in the Library window and burn or copy from there, which feels much more intuitive.

Media Player 10 will also have superior interaction with third party devices, using a class driver rather than a device-specific driver, which is similar to the method USB memory keys use to connect. This will eliminate the need to download drivers and will enable a generally high level of communication with external devices.


You can now set up a Sync Relationship with an external device, for example, customizing which playlists Movie Maker 2 will automatically synchronize when you connect your device to the computer. This is a nice although not necessary feature to have when using a 60MB flash card player, but absolutely essential with a 40GB player capable of containing your entire music library.

The Sync Relationship can be bidirectional, as with a Pocket PC, so data entered on the portable player, such as song ratings or related information, can flow back to the main computer.


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