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VLC 2.2 for Windows: Hands-on first impressions

By Jon L. Jacobi | March 2, 2015
Products that try to be all things to all people are typically mediocre at everything. The free and open-source VLC--the VideLAN player--comes closer to pulling it off than any software on the market, paid or free.

For me, "resume" is by far the most welcome. It allows you to pick up playback of a movie from where you left off, as many other media players, hardware and software do. This feature is implemented as a question at the top of the screen when you re-open a file. The file will open at the beginning and start playing, but you can jump back to your previous location.

Subtitle functions are now a root-level menu on the main menu, and categories are in the preferences dialog are at the top rather than the side, providing for quicker navigation. At some point, VLC also recaptured the ability to play the older WMV files that had become problematic. Unfortunately, it started failing with some antiquated (but useful) MPEG-1 program-stream files with older headers. This has been the normal cycle with VLC: things get better, things break, things get better....

On this go-round, there was still a problem with the MPEG-PS file, and that included one that was actually using the AVC codec. The QuickTime player handled the former just fine, and other players had no issue with the AVC-encoded file. All in all, however, that's only two fails out of about twenty file types I threw at the player in OGG Theora and x.265 encodings. Sadly, VLC still tends to hang when it doesn't understand a file or the file is damaged in an odd way, often requiring a trip to the task manager to force it to quit.

VideoLan is also demonstrating big ambition in adding compatibility with Digital Cinema Package, a container format used by digital theaters. Also new is support for Opus in MKV files, VP8 in OGG video, MPEG-2 encoding using x262, and HEVC/H.265 encoding using x.265. Automatic rotation of video is now supported under Windows as well.

VLC easily offers the broadest operating support of any media player, and indeed, any program of any type that I'm aware of. In addition to now less-used operating systems such as Solaris and OS/2, it now supports Windows Phone, Windows RT, and even the Rasberry Pi. It's nearly impossible to find a computer that won't run VLC.

The other big news is that... No, it isn't. VLC still uses a traffic cone as its symbol. Traffic cones are usually used to indicate something you should avoid, and you definitely should not be avoiding VLC. Even if you don't decide on it as your main player, it will definitely help you out when you run across an obscure codec, streaming need, or want to view subtitles for a Stephen Chow film when that function breaks in WMP and MPC-HC (Media Player Classic: Home Cinema, a VLC rival). That last scenario happened to me just last night.

 

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