For this week’s Freeware Frenzy, I will be taking a look at Winamp Free 5.1. I’ve been using Winamp for years now; it is my primary media player. I only use WMP or QuickTime if absolutely necessary. Winamp has come a long way since the very popular Version 2. While Winamp 3 started to evolve, it was version 5 saw a new look, tons of new features and better video support. Winamp comes in two versions, Free and Pro for $19.95. The key difference is the lack of high speed ripping and burning support in Free. However, with the latest release 5.1, Free supports ripping at 8x, up from 2x. But for those of you who need high speed ripping, there are plenty of other programs out there.
Installation of Winamp is straightforward. When you choose Free, you can download three types, Lite (with limited very limited features), Full and Bundle. Check ‘em out here: http://www.winamp.com/player/free.php
Winamp will ask which components you would like to install and what files to associate with it. Next you choose Internet Connection and Language, The default skin (Modern or Classic; Winamp5 supports all older skins), and finally registering, which I left blank.
Winamp is very simple to setup and use.
Pressing ML opens your media library, the hub of your media collection. It is where you can easily organize all of your Audio and Video files, play lists, and load up some music or video from Winamp, Shoutcast or AOL. I’m not a fan of AOL and fortunately there were no AOL shortcuts installed that I could find. One of the latest additions to Winamp is MusicMix from Predixis. They say that they can mix my tracks by analyzing the type of music, and then finding similar songs to create a custom play list. I chose a song at random and hit Mix and after a few minutes time for Predixis to analyze my 1,200 mp3s, I could create mixes with 20 songs similar to the first. I thought this was an interesting way to mix up your tunes, for those of us who get sick of Shuffle. Although, I’m not convinced all the songs are similar, it did a fairly decent job.
As you can see in the screenshot, the left side of your Media Library shows all of your different areas. Winamp, AOL and Shoutcast all have thousands of feeds of music, videos, TV, Radio stations, etc. I often go to these for something new.
Winamp contains a myriad of options for you to tinker with. Everything from compatible file types (there are 50), to play list font size, to hotkeys, to skins and plug-ins, you can tailor Winamp to however you like it. All of my screenshots show the “City Night” color theme, but Winamp comes with dozens of others for all desktops; everything from Bubblegum Pink to Rainforest Green. Of course, Winamp supports skinning, and you can find thousands of them at Winamp.com. Video playback is simple, with 1x, 2x, Full window or full screen options. I’ve used Winamp for watching mpeg, avi and wmv. You can also add in your own plug-in, should you find one. I’ve never needed more then the built-ins, but the option is there.
In conclusion, Winamp is an excellent, all in one media player. I prefer its compact size and customizability to the bulkiness of Windows Media Player or other large players like Music Match. Ease of use is top notch and there are plenty of help files should you get stuck. The new options included in 5.1 only enhance the Winamp experience. I recommend everyone who has never tried Winamp or those who haven’t since 2 or 3 to surf over to www.winamp.com and have a look see. The Full Free version is only a 6MB download.
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