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15 Years of WinAmp: Why It’s Still My Preferred Music Player After All These Years

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I discovered WinAmp in the unlikeliest manner: it’s bundled in MP3 discs I started collecting in 2000, used as the disc’s default player, running itself whenever you pop in the disc in the PC drive thru XP’s annoying AutoPlay option, which eventually became a security risk after being exploited by malwares to spread to different computers via USB thumb drives a few years later. Ah, the times. Mention USB at those times and iCafe owners will scratch their heads wondering what the hell it was. (On a related note, it pisses me off whenever users refer to thumb drives and other external disk storages as USB, because USB stands for universal serial bus, or the port (the slot on your CPU) where you plug in those devices, and not the devices by themselves. By doing so you might as well refer to printers, cameras, smartphones, tablets, webcams, joysticks and such other things as a USB). In those years, CD’s are still the preferred medium for music, and the iPod has not yet penetrated the mainstream. I took interest in MP3 during those times because it enables tracks to be compressed 1/5 of its CD size, making it possible to cram more than 100 tracks in a 650-MB disc, which is the standard size at the time. More importantly, it allows the music files to be copy/pasted to your PC for storage. I was too green at the time to figure out that you need to rip CD’s in order to keep a copy on your computer. Unfortunately, only PC’s can playback this file format at the time, and WinAmp quickly became my media player of choice, easily replacing Windows Media Player.

Many years have passed, I have seen many other media players, have tried them all but I keep on coming back to WinAmp. I simply can’t part away from so many features in the program, and I notice that I ‘m always looking for this certain WinAmp feature on an alternative programs and notice that there’s no equivalent whatsoever. I got temporarily pissed off at WinAmp 3 because of its slowness, but my interest got renewed with version 5.

In tribute, here’s a list of the best features of WinAmp:

  1. Plugins

    PluginsIronically, the worst thing I hate about Firefox is the thing I loved the most about WinAmp (I have yet to discover the Opera of media players, which has so many features built-in inside). Plugins extend the usability of the program. On the downside, it increases the program bloat, so I keep plugins only to a handful. Whether it’s about allowing every possible file formats to be playable, file conversion, scrobbling to Last.fm, Windows 7 taskbar integration, user profiles and other functionalities, WinAmp has a huge library of plugins available.

  2. More Playlist Controls

    SearchWinamp has four separate sections by default: Main Window (containing the controls), Equalizer, Media Library and Playlist Editor. One of the things I hate about other players is their tendency to hide your playlist. And located at the bottom of the Playlist Editor are a number of controls that makes managing playlists easy, the most I can find in any player ever. It allows you to easily add files from a folder or quick load playlists, remove duplicate or dead (missing) songs in the playlist, or its reverse, cropping tracks (or retaining only the tracks that were selected), sort the tracks (including my favorite arrangement: Randomized), generate HTML playlist and saving playlists. It’s certainly more convenient than rummaging through menus in other programs. It doesn’t end there though. Looking for a certain song? Just press F3 from the playlist editor and enter the Search term. Want to play it after the current song playing? No problem.

  3. We know all media players has this feature, but what sets apart Winamp from the other programs is that Winamp doesn’t only allow textures to be changed, but also the whole interface, as shown here, cloning the WMP and iTunes interface.

    WMP iTewnz

  4. Actually, I think WMP has much better visualizations IMO, but Milkdrop can stand on its own (I think it’s possible to import the WMP visualizations, but I have yet to discover how). And it’s not just about the artistic appeal of the visualization, somehow WinAmp manages to show its visualization in such a way that wasn’t too intrusive, unlike other programs. Couple it up with WinAmp’s “Always on top” option, or for a more extreme setup, you can also use “Desktop Mode” and the visualization will replace your desktop wallpaper.

    Visualization

  5. Media Library

    Ironically, I learned to appreciate Media Library after installing the WMP skin. Before that I always close this because I’m not fully interested in managing my library. But as my music collection kept on growing, it’s not possible to keep track of it, making this feature a huge necessity. What’s amazing is that WinAmp updates the music library very silently, adding new songs or removing those that aren’t found anymore, without even the slightest slowdown or any distracting visual cues while doing this. It doesn’t even choke when working with a massive and complexly-structured file directory, with the possibility of including tracks that have dirty tags. And it’s automatic. To be honest, I find it to be much better than iTunes, which somehow uses an alien language for its commands. Consolidate? Come on. Whenever I update my iTunes library, I’m always using the same practice: Select All » Delete » Add new…

    WatchFolderStill, it’s important to do selective folder choosing since my music is located in a single directory, and that is where “Watch Folder” comes in handy. But WinAmp will also add a directory automatically once you played a file from that directory.

    MultiAfter that, your library is presented into three separate windows, one for the artist (which includes “All” and “(no artist)” for those with no tags, nifty), to the right are the albums related to that artist, and the bottom are the individual tracks for each artist. WinAmp also has a multi-track editor. Just select the songs, right-click and click “Edit metadata for selection…” Another convenient feature: select multiple songs and execute “Edit file info…” from the right-click menu to individually edit the ID tag of each selection. Once you press Ok to save changes to that tag, it will automatically display the window for the next song in the selection. As always, double clicking the songs will clear playlist and display only songs from that artist for the corresponding album in the playlist window (there’s an option from the Preferences window to enqueue the tracks instead. If this option is not enabled, you can still do this by doing a right-click and select the “Enqueue” command).

    Another nifty feature: It also includes a “Recently Added” section, which shows tracks recently added to the library. It’s a good way of monitoring your library.

    WinAmp also has AutoTag, but I find it lacking.

  6. Shell Integration

    ShellNearly all media players has some form of commands included in Windows’ right-click menu, but the WinAmp commands doesn’t seem to be iffy when it comes to handling media files. It applies to different file types, on folders, and even on media and folder combinations. But it doesn’t end there. I have always hated browser toolbars, but I gave in to the WinAmp toolbar and installed it at one point. I eventually moved to a WinAmp gadget, but my favorite setup as of the moment: WinAmp’s Windows 7 taskbar integration. I can’t wait to see a WinAmp Windows 8 Metro app.

  7. Winamp Lite

    One of the criticisms of the current versions of WinAmp is that it’s now too bloated. Guess what? If you need WinAmp’s basic features, there’s actually a lite version which only weighs 3.5MB. Head over to the download site to get it.

2 comments on “15 Years of WinAmp: Why It’s Still My Preferred Music Player After All These Years

  1. I agree wit u 100% … been using WinAmp since v1.8something way back in 1996, got it off a PCFormat CD (December if I’m not mistaken), been using it ever since (even when my computer wasn’t able to run it with other simple programmes like Word cause it used up too much resources … I got it to work though, eventually, but it was a real strain on my system, but I endured nonetheless)

    WinAmp 3 was a disaster & I moved back to WinAmp 2.something

    But then they released what they marketed at the time as WinAmp 3+2, WinAmp 5, which to me blew me away

    Its easy to use, VERY powerful, VERY flexible … I market it out to my friends when ever I get a chance to and its the same from their side once they’ve become WinAmp converts (from finding the interface & ease of use much better than everything else out there)

    Even got a few iPod/iPhone/iPad = iTunes people to use WinAmp exclusively to sync their music

    Those WinAmp guys are the future & I keep searching for any news on metro versions … it would be GREAT to have WinAmp on my phone as well

    And you sir are the 1st person who’s as passionate about WinAmp as I am, great step-by-step explanation of exactly why it is GREAT. Great article

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