App of the Week: VLC Media Player

Have a video you need to play, but that default media app just doesn’t cut it?  Is your media in odd and unusual formats that you’ve never even heard of?  Ask any geek or media expert of the most powerful media player, and they’ll all tell you the same thing: VLC.

VLC media player is the self-proclaimed “Swiss army knife of media”, and not without due cause.  It can play any music or video file, as well as a variety of codec without a hitch.  Whether it’s the most common file types, like AVI, WMV, and MP3, to less file formats like Flash, H.264, MOD, and more.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to use it to watch videos on cameras that export their videos into such weird formats.  And of course it can play CD’s and DVD’s.  And you can take any of these files and make a handy playlist out of it.  Need subtitles?  Also not a problem; VLC has extensive subtitle support.

Still not convinced?  VLC allows you to tweak audio and video settings either with presets or on the fly

VLC Media Player

changes.  Furthermore, the app  as the ability to stream video and audio from a variety of streaming sources.  I’ve used it before and the video and audio quality is pretty good, though maybe not as good as streaming it directly from the website.  You can also import video and audio directly from your Mac’s built-in webcam and microphone.

I could really go on about VLC, but let me break it down to the most simple things you need to know.  First, it can play almost any media format you can through at it, can stream media very well, has extensive options for tweaking, as well as third-party extensions to expand the functionality.  And it does it all very well.  And if you have Handbrake with VLC, you can use them to rip CD’s and DVD to your Mac.  The possibilities are astounding.

However these numerous abilities, tweaks, and settings are also a weakness.  Geeks and media-philes will love the numerous options, but the casual user might be overwhelmed by these possibilities.  This includes some of the lingo used when digging through the preferences.  While the settings out of the box are just fine for the average user, anyone looking to tweak or improve might have a bit of a learning curve. Another thing is that even though VLC has a bunch of skins and themes, almost all of them aren’t available for Mac because of lacking themes support.  This is more of an aesthetic choice, and I do like the default look of VLC, but I think these themes should quickly be added to the program.  One last note of annoyance is that VLC, unlike every other media player, opens up a separate window than the default player controls.  Even though the video window does have the controls for playing, fullscreen, etc., it seems pointless that the video should in the same window initially as the controls.

Even though VLC has some quirks, it makes for an amazing media player that should be on every media editor’s or connoisseurs Mac.  It is available for free at for OS 10.4 or higher (Tiger or higher), as well as Windows, Linux, iOS, and more.  If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about this or any other topic, leave a comment below or email me at  You can also check me out on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube by hitting the buttons on the top of your screen.  You can also check out my Google Plus Page.  Thanks!

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