Plug-ins allow you to expand upon the core functionality of Windows Media Player 12 in various ways. These plug-ins easily integrate into Windows Media Player 12 and can be enabled or disabled on the fly without irreversibly altering the way the application works. In this tutorial, we'll explain the different types of Windows Media Player 12 plug-ins, show you how to view and configure plug-ins, download new plug-ins and disable and enable plug-ins.
Types of Windows Media Player 12 Plug-ins
There are eight different kinds of Windows Media Player 12 plug-ins, each of which affects your media experience in a different way. They are:
- Visualization plug-ins - Display colors, shapes and other animations that change according to the beat of the audio playing.
- Now Playing plug-ins - Enhance the Now Playing mode by adding functionality.
- Window plug-ins - Add functionality in a window separate from the Player window.
- Background plug-ins - Add functionality to Windows Media Player 12's backend. For example, WMP Keys adds hot keys to Windows Media Player 12 while the Google Talk Music Plugin allows you to display the name of the song your are listening to as your chat status. These plug-ins do not have a user interface.
- Video DSP plug-ins - Add effects to videos, such as changing color saturation.
- Audio DSP plug-ins - Perform audio effects, such as bass boost or normalization.
- Other DSP plug-ins - Adds other effects to video and audio playback.
- Renderer plug-ins - Plays content that isn't normally handled by Windows Media Player 12 (i.e. an audio or video codec)
Viewing and Configuring Installed Plug-ins
Windows Media Player 12 comes with several plug-ins already installed. You can view and configure plug-ins that are already installed by clicking the Tools menu and clicking Plug-ins and choosing Options....
Note: If you do not see the Menu Bar, press CTRL-M to reveal it.
In the next window, you'll see a list of plug-in categories on the left. Click a category to view the installed plug-ins in that category. Select a plug-in in the box to the right to see a description in the box below.
Click Properties to show configuration options for the selected plug-in.
Below is an example of a properties window for a plug-in. These will vary depending on the plug-in.
Note: not all plug-ins have configurable properties so there will be no option available for editing.
Downloading Windows Media Player 12 plug-ins
You can download plug-ins by clicking Tools and choosing Plug-ins and clicking Download plug-ins.
Alternately, you can click Tools, choosing Download and choose Plug-ins. From this menu, you can also choose to download visualizations.
This will bring up the Plug-ins for Windows Media Player webpage in your default web browser. Here, you can browse through the plug-ins, download them and install them just like you would any other program downloaded from the Internet.
Note: You might want to ensure that the plug-in is compatible with Windows Media Player 12. Most plug-ins designed for previous versions of Windows Media Player will work with Windows Media Player 12. Also, be careful when downloading and installing plug-ins from websites other than the Microsoft page accessed from Windows Media Player 12.
Once you install your plug-in, it will show up in your plug-ins options window, which we accessed in the previous section.
Disabling and Enabling Plug-ins
Plug-ins downloaded from the Internet can be disabled, enabled and removed from the plug-ins options window.
Alternately, you can choose Tools and choose Plug-ins and click a plug-in to enable or disable it directly from the Player Library.
In this screenshot, you can see that we've enabled the DFX Audio Enhancement plug-in. For this plug-in, the user interface appears in its own window. As mentioned above, some plug-ins do not have user interfaces.
Visualizations are activated a bit differently from other plug-ins. Visualizations can only be viewed from the Now Playing mode. Click on the icon in the lower right to enter Now Playing mode.
By default, the visualization for Now Playing mode is set to display the album art.
Right-click anywhere in the window and choose Visualizations. Here, you'll see all the Visualizations you have installed. Select a visualization to see the different modes and presets for that visualization. Choose one to activate it.
Here, you'll see the album art replaced by the visualization you chose.
Installing plug-ins and visualizations is a simple point and click matter. But the potential that plug-ins introduce into Windows Media Player 12 is nearly limitless. Download a couple of the plug-ins found at the Microsoft Windows Media Player Plug-in website and try them out. Now that you know how to enable and disable them, there's nothing to lose by experimenting.