Windows Media Player 12 Menus & Views Explained

Windows Media Player 12 elegantly pulls off the challenge of including numerous view modes and a complex library system without inundating you with options and arcane buttons. Navigating Windows Media Player 12 is surprisingly simple, given how many different ways to sort and organize your media files there are. In this tutorial, I'll walk you through the basic navigational functions that you'll need to know in order to play songs, watch videos and find media in your library.

When you first open Windows Media Player 12, you'll see the Player Library. There are a couple constants throughout the Player Library, including the Playback controls, the Back and Forward buttons the Navigation pane and the 'Switch to Now Playing' button.

These elements are mostly self-explanatory, but I'll take a look at each one in action in the next chapters of this article.

Navigation Pane, Back/Forward Buttons and Breadcrumbs

When you click on a media type (e.g. Music, Pictures, Video) on the Navigation Pane it will expand to show the sub-categorizations. If you click on 'Artist', it will list your music files by artist. As you move deeper into your library, you'll also notice the Breadcrumbs along the top of the screen (here, they read 'Library -> Music -> Artist'). You can click on any of these terms to return to that level of your library. Alternately, you can use the Back and Forward arrows to return to previous screens, exactly the way you would while using a web browser.

Working with Search Strings

One of the best features of Windows Media Player 12 is the Search box. In the screen shown above, you might be overwhelmed by the vast amount of artists displayed. But if you want to home in on a specific artist, album title or song name, you can simply type in a search string and your choices will be instantly narrowed.

If your particular view does not have any matches, Windows Media Player 12 will point you towards other matches in your library. Click on the blue text to see those results.

Double-clicking an artist name will bring up a list of songs. To play a song, double-click the name of the song or highlight it and press 'Play' in the Playback controls at the bottom of the screen.

No matter where you are in the Player Library, you will be able to see the Playback controls. The function of each of these buttons is annotated here, but we'll get into a more in-depth explanation of each button in an upcoming tutorial.

How to Work with View Options and Sorting

There are three different View options for Windows Media Player 12: Icon, Tile and Details. You can choose one by clicking the arrow next to the View options button or scroll through them by clicking the button itself. These views behave very similarly to the views in Windows Explorer. Let's see each view in action:

  • Icon view - In Windows Explorer, Icon view is pretty self-explanatory - the only details shown are the filename and the icon. In Windows Media Player 12, Icon view works in much the same way, except the icons are the album covers (if you have them downloaded). How much information is displayed below the album cover depends on which level of the library you're viewing. For example, in this screenshot, we are at the Album level, so it shows the artist name below the album name (if available). At the Artist level, only the album name will be displayed.

  • Tile View - Tile view is a sort of hybrid between Icon and Details. You'll see the album artwork as well as a bit more information displayed to the right. In the Album level, you get the artist name, album name, genre and year. In the Artist view, you'll also see the number of songs and length. If the album has been rated, this information will be displayed, too.

  • Details View - Details view is the most customizable and most powerful for sorting and searching. It allows you to see the category columns and allow you to quickly sort your songs according to these columns. Click the column once to sort the items in ascending order. Click it again to sort it in descending order.

You'll notice that some View options aren't available at certain levels in the Library. For example, you cannot use Tile or Details view at the top (Library) level, nor can you use Icon when viewing from the Music level.

With all three View options, you can change the way the items are sorted by clicking the appropriate category column. For example, click 'Album' once to sort the items in ascending order based on album name. Click 'Album' again to sort the items in descending order by album name.

Switching Between View Modes

For most purposes, you'll be using the Player Library mode. But Windows Media Player 12 also has a Skin mode and a Now Playing mode. From the Player Library, you can switch to any of the modes by right-clicking a blank area and selecting View and the appropriate view mode.

Let's see the differences between them:

  • Now Playing Mode - it is a compact mode designed to sit unobtrusively on your desktop. By default, Now Playing mode shows the album artwork, but you can also have it display visualizations (as shown in the screenshot). If you have lyrics downloaded, they will also appear here. The play controls, as always, are embedded at the bottom and you can switch back to the Player Library by clicking the icon in the upper-right hand corner.

  • Skin Mode - this displays the player in the customized skin you've chosen. The appearance and layout will vary depending on the selected skin. The screenshot shows the Revert skin.

Useful Keyboard Shortcuts

You can also quickly perform actions on Windows Media Player 12 by using keyboard shortcuts. Note that some keyboard shortcuts only work in Player Library or Now Playing Mode.

  • Video size 50% - Alt+1
  • Video size 100% - Alt+2
  • Video size 200% - Alt+3
  • Toggle display for full-screen video - Alt+Enter
  • Retrace your steps back through your most recent views in the Player - Alt+Left Arrow
  • Retrace your steps forward through your most recent views in the Player - Alt+Right Arrow
  • Switch to Player Library - Ctrl+1
  • Switch to skin mode - Ctrl+2
  • Switch to Now Playing mode - Ctrl+3
  • Add to play list - Ctrl+7
  • Add to burn list - Ctrl+8
  • Add to sync list - Ctrl+9
  • Select all in list pane - Ctrl+A
  • Previous (item or chapter) - Ctrl+B
  • In the Player Library, put the cursor in the search box - Ctrl+E
  • Next (item or chapter) - Ctrl+F
  • Turn shuffle on or off - Ctrl+H
  • Eject CD or DVD (this doesn't work on computers equipped with two or more CD or DVD disc drives) - Ctrl+J
  • In the Player Library, show or hide the menu bar - Ctrl+M
  • Create a new playlist - Ctrl+N
  • Open a file - Ctrl+O
  • Play or pause playing - Ctrl+P
  • Stop playing - Ctrl+S
  • Turn repeat on or off - Ctrl+T
  • Specify a URL or path to a file - Ctrl+U
  • Close or stop playing a file - Ctrl+W
  • Previous playlist - Ctrl+Left Arrow
  • Next playlist - Ctrl+Right Arrow
  • Restart video - Ctrl+Shift+B
  • Turn captions and subtitles on or off - Ctrl+Shift+C
  • Fast-forward through video or music - Ctrl+Shift+F
  • Use a fast play speed - Ctrl+Shift+G
  • Play at normal speed - Ctrl+Shift+N
  • Use a slow play speed - Ctrl+Shift+S
  • Display Windows Media Player Help - F1
  • Edit media information on a selected item in the Player Library - F2
  • Switch the view of items in the details pane - F4
  • Increase the size of album art - F6
  • Decrease the size of album art - Shift+F6
  • Mute the volume - F7
  • Decrease the volume - F8
  • Increase the volume - F9
  • Show menu bar in Player Library - F10
  • Show shortcut menu - Shift+F10

Conclusion

That about wraps up all the basic tips and pointers you'll need to find your files and play music using Windows Media Player 12. Stay tuned for deeper discussions on playing music and video in Windows Media Player 12, playback enhancements, playlists and more. Until then, don't hesitate to share with us any tips and tricks you might have.