Section 8.4. Windows XP s Media Player


8.4. Windows XP's Media Player

Windows XP's Media Player does a decent job of shuttling music from your PC to your digital music playeras long as your player's not an iPod. That requires iTunes, covered in the previous section.


Note: If you're not running Windows Media Player 10 (check your version number by choosing Help About Windows Media Player), download it by visiting Microsofts Media Player Web site (www.microsoft.com/mediaplayer). Version 10 adds compatibility with the many more music players than earlier versions of Media Player supported.

When you plug your digital player into the USB port of a PC running Media Player, the Device Setup wizard appears, as shown in Figure 8-8. Instead of offering a traditional greeting, the wizard hits you up with a blunt question: should Media Player load your player with songs automatically or manually ?

Figure 8-8. When you plug in a portable player (or a keychain drive, for that matter), Windows Media Player offers to synchronize it with your PC's music either automatically or manually. If your entire music collection fits on your player, your choice is easy. Choose Automatic and, on the next screen, select All Music for your Sync playlist. (Playlists are ordered lists of songs; more details on syncing starts on Section 8.4.2.2.) That tells Media Player to automatically load your player with any new songs you've added to Media Player's library. But if your music collection exceeds your player's storage capacity, you must select some songs to leave behind.

If all your PC's songs fit on your playeror at least you think they willchoose Automatic. That tells Media Player to keep your player's music synchronized with your PC's music. If you already know your that library is swollen past your player's capacity, choose Manual to handpick which songs stay behind and which live on your player. Don't fret over making the wrong choice here, as your decision's easily reversed as described in the box on Section 8.5.1.

TROUBLESHOOTING MOMENT
When the Automatic or Manual Wizard Doesn't Show Up

Media Player tries its best to work with a wide variety of digital music players (iPod excepted, of course). But some playersusually those made before 2004can't be synchronized automatically. To see if yours falls into that category, open Media Player and go to Tools Options Devices. If you double-click your devices name , the Properties dialog box appears.

If your player's Settings button isn't grayed out, click it to tell Media Player to synchronize automatically. If the Settings button is grayed out, as shown here, your portable player can't be synchronized automatically when plugged in. You're stuck with manual synchronization.

That's not too bad, though. Just create a playlist called My Player (Section 8.4.2.2) and keep it filled with all the songs you want on your device. Whenever you plug your player into your computer, tell Media Player to synchronize it with your My Player playlist, and Media Player dutifully loads it up with those songs.


8.4.1. Adding Music to Media Player

Borrowing a business model from Apple, Microsoft designed Media Player to be the gateway to your digital music player. Before anything moves to your player, it must first live on Media Player. Your first task is to stock Media Player with music, which will then help you copy the tunes to your portable player. You can add music to Media Player in three different ways:

  • Import music that's already stored on your PC (explained below).

  • Buy music from Media Player's mall of online stores (Section 8.4.1.2).

  • Rip (copy) music files from your CDs; that procedure is described on Section 10.4.

8.4.1.1. Importing your PC's music

The first few times Media Player appears on your screen, it eagerly begs to track down all your PC's music so it can list every song in its library. If Media Player has stopped begging, or if you want to make sure its list is up to date, tell it to search anew by pressing F3 or choosing Tools Search for Music Files.

Media Player sends you to the window shown in Figure 8-9, which asks you where it should look for songs on your PC, and whether it should also update the newly added songs' tags the hidden text inside a song file that contains its identifying information: the title, artist, track number, and so on.

Figure 8-9. To add songs to Media Player, tell the player where to start looking. If you store your music in your My Music folder, save time by opening the drop-down menu of the "Search on" box shown here, and then choosing My Music Folder. Otherwise, ignore the "Search on" box and just click the Browse button to point and click your way to the folder containing your songs.

Here's how to fill out the form to help Media Player find your songs:

  • Search on . In this box, Media Player wants you to choose a particular drive to scour for songs. If all your music lives in your My Music folder, choose that and be done with it. But if you store songs in other areasperhaps on a networked computer or an external hard drivechoose that area instead.

  • Look in . Meant as a time saver, this option lets you limit Media Player's search area to a specific folder on your selected drive. Simplify matters by clicking the Browse button and then navigating to the specific folder you need.

  • New files only (fast) . If you choose this option, Media Player updates newly added songs' tags so they display the correct artist names and titles. Media Player doesn't bother updating tags for songs already in your library.

  • New files and existing files in library without media information . This option tells Media Player to update the tags of newly added songs, as well as untagged songs currently in your library.

  • New files and all existing files in the library (slow) . An agonizingly slow option. Media Player updates the tags of your incoming songs and every song in your library. If you have thousands of songs, this could take an hour or so.

  • Advanced Options . This button adds two more options to the mix. "Add files previously deleted from library" tells Media Player to add every file it finds even if you've previously deleted that file from your library. Choosing this option brings back any accidental deletions; if you've already spent time weeding out the stinkers, avoid it, or you'll bring them back. The second option, "Add volume leveling values for all files" lets Media Player automatically turn up the volume for quiet songs and turn down the loud ones. If you choose this option, be prepared to wait hours for the process to complete, as Media Player must "listen" to each song and assign it a volume level so it knows which way to tweak the volume when you play the song.


Tip: If you meticulously fill out your song's tags and don't want Media Player to touch them, ever, choose Tools Options and click the Privacy tab. Then turn off "Update music files by retrieving media info from the Internet."

Each store carries a slightly different catalog, so you may need to pick and choose between stores to find exactly what you want. Unfortunately, most stores make browsing surprisingly difficult, forcing you to download and install their software before seeing the catalog.


Tip: If you visit the stores' Web sites with Internet Explorer, you can often browse their songs before having to install any extra software.

Almost all digital music sold today comes with restrictions called Digital Rights Management a techno term for copy protection. Media Player's files come with licenses little codes that keep track of what you do with the filehow many times you can burn it to a CD, copy it to another PC, and so on. Without a license, you're locked out of your music.

To keep your music safe, be sure to back up your licenses (Tools Manage Licenses Backup Now) to a CD you can store in a safe place. Reinstalling or upgrading Windows can damage your licenses, locking you out of your purchased music. And moving songs from one PC to another often requires proof of licenses as well.

8.4.2. Copying Songs to Your Portable Player

Media Player can copy songs to your portable player automatically for quick "grab and run" transfers. Or, it lets you copy songs manually, a more time-consuming option in which you can fine-tune your song selection. Media Player asks you to choose your preferred method the first time you plug in your device, but you can change your mind at any time (Section 8.4.2.2).

This section describes how to transfer songs automatically and manually.

8.4.2.1. Transferring songs automatically

Automatic synchronization is a great timesaver for people on the run because it tells Media Player to dump the same playlistan ordered list of songsinto your player whenever you plug it into your PC. This incredibly boring sounding option's actually a gem in disguise if you select the right playlist. Media Player lists your available playlists in the Playlists category of its left-most pane. Try some of these for starters:

  • All music . Choose this playlist, and Media Player dumps all your music onto your player. If your player is big enough to hold your entire digital library, the All Music playlist keeps your player up-to-date with your PC, quickly and automatically. It's an obvious choice for relatively small music libraries.

  • An automatically updated playlist . Media Player constantly monitors your listening habits, and creates a series of on-the-fly playlists to match them. One playlist, called "Favorites4 and 5 star rated," contains the songs you hear most often; another contains songs you haven't heard for awhile ("Favorites Have not heard recently"); yet another contains songs you listen to on weekdays ("FavoritesListen to on Weekdays"). To keep your digital player automatically updated with your PC's newest songs, for example, choose Media Player's "Fresh tracks" playlist.

    Since Media Player creates these playlists automatically, using them is a quick and easy way to stock your player with a variety of songs.

  • Your own playlist . When your player can't hold your entire music library, create a new My Player playlista list of songs created especially for your player. Click the Library tab along the top, and then drag all your favorite songs onto the Now Playing listMedia Player's right-most pane. (Yes, this could take a long time for large playlists.) Then click the words Now Playing List at the pane's top, choose "Save Playlist as," and then name your new playlist "My Player."

    When you acquire new music, add it to your My Player playlist the same way, removing a few stale tunes (right-click and choose Remove from List) to make room. Then tell Media Player to copy your My Player playlist onto your player automatically (Section 8.4.2). Since you'll have already done the prep work to keep this list up-to-date with your favorites, the synchronizing process goes much faster: Media Player simply trims and adds songs from your player to make it match your My Player list.

Media Player remembers whether you choose Automatic or Manual and dubs your decision a "synchronization partnership." It remembers the synchronization partnership you've chosen for up to 16 different players, always choosing the right synchronization method whenever you plug in that particular device.

Changed your mind about Automatic or Manual? Choose Sync Sync Settings (or Set Up Sync) to flip flop.

8.4.2.2. Transferring songs manually

Manual synchronization's your only option when your tune stash grows larger than your player's capacity. But it's also meant for people who like to hand-craft their Sync Liststhe songs Media Player transfers onto your device. When you choose manual synchronization, you're instructing Media Player to fetch the Sync window (Figure 8-11) every time you plug your player into your PC. It's up to you at that point to remove a few Miles Davis albums to make room for more Erykah Badu.

To clear some space on your player, begin by selecting unwanted tunes from the right side of the Sync List; then right-click those selected songs and choose "Delete from device" to remove them from your portable player. You can add new songs by creating a Sync List in any of three ways:

  • From the Library . If you can make quick decisions, create your Sync List straight from Media Player's Library. The Library lists all of your PC's songs sorted by artist, album, genre , release year, and other categories. When you spot something you want copied to your device, whether it's an artist, album, or any other category of music, right-click it and then choose "Add to Sync List."

    Figure 8-11. Media Player's Sync window contains two sides. The left shows the Sync List: songs waiting to be copied to your device; the right lists your player's current songs. Click Start Sync, and Media Player copies as many songs as it can fit onto your portable player. To squeeze in as many as possible, Media Player converts your player-bound MP3 files to WMA format. If you'd prefer that Media Player leave them as MP3 files, choose Tools Options Devices. Then doubleclick your devices name, click the Quality tab, and turn off the "Convert files as required by this device" checkbox.
  • From the Sync area . If you prefer crafting playlists from scratch, click the Sync tab along Media Player's top or choose File CDs and Devices Synchronize to view the Sync window, as shown in Figure 8-11. Then click Edit Playlist and Media Players Playlist Editor appears, as shown in Figure 8-12. The Playlist Editor shows a stripped-down version of Media Player's library, letting you add songs by clicking their names while sorting them by artist, album, or genre.

  • Drag and drop . This route is meant for people who find Media Player's structure a bit awkward . Windows lets you drag any songs or folders directly onto the Sync List. For instance, you can open your My Music folder, and then drag its files or folders directly onto the Sync List, shown on the left side of Figure 8-11. Media Player adds them to your Sync List, ready for you to copy to your portable player.

When you finish creating your Sync List, click Start Sync, as shown in Figure 8-11, to have Media Player copy all your Sync List's files onto your deviceproviding there's enough room, of course. If your player lacks the storage space, Media Player copies all the songs that fit, and then gives up. Instead of sending a message explaining the situation, Media Player simply breaks your Sync List into two categories: "Synchronized to Device" and "Did not fit on Device."

Figure 8-12. Media Player's Edit Playlist window offers a quick way to create short playlists that you can listen to immediately, or save or copy to a portable player. The window's left side shows your media library; the right side shows the playlist you're making (or editing). To find your files quickly, choose different options from the "View library by" drop-down list. The list lets you view your library by Artist, Artist and Album, Album, Genre, Genre and Album, and so on. To add individual songs to the list, double-click them; to add entire albums, artists , or genres, right-click them and then choose "Add to Playlist." Save the playlist by clicking OK.

To free up some room, prune your Sync List by selecting items, right-clicking them, and then choosing "Remove from List." Once you've chopped your Sync List down to a manageable size , click the Start Sync button again; Media Player begins pouring more songs onto your player.

8.4.3. Transferring Data

Some portable music players work double-duty as digital briefcases. Instead of limiting their stash to tunes, they let you toss in dataperhaps a few large Word files to bring to work. To see if your digital player is open to this idea, double-click its icon in My Computer, and then try to copy a folder to it.

If the copying worked, your player works fine as a file ferry boat. But if your player protests at the incoming files, you're out of luck. Your success depends entirely on your device's software, its design, and the kindness of its programmers.




PCs
PCs: The Missing Manual
ISBN: 0596100930
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2005
Pages: 206
Authors: Andy Rathbone

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