J.D. Fox Micro Resource Center
Audio/Video Media Managers
The applications on this page are for computer users who make extensive use of a desktop or laptop computer for storing, sorting, transferring, and playing music and video files. If you just need to open a single file or web site, check this page first before downloading anything here.
The downloads presented here, with some exceptions, can play audio CDs and DVD movies on your computer, connect to online music stores to download albums and individuals tracks, sort and organize your music, manage digital licenses, create playlists, rip music tracks from standard audio CDs to save as computer files, synchronize with handheld music players and modern mobile phones, and burn your music to recordable audio CDs.
Check the descriptions below and follow the links to see whether a given application is available for your platform (Windows, Mac, Linux, etc.). Note these applications are all for desktop and laptop computers only, and not for mobile phones—although some have equivalent versions you can install on a mobile phone for specific functions, such as for purchasing music online.
Apple introduced the iTunes application along with its handheld digital music player, the iPod, in 2001. Initial versions supported music library management, synchronization with the iPod and similar MP3 players, and ripping from and burning to audio CDs. Integrated online music purchasing from the iTunes Store, support for Windows-based computers, and support for video were all added over the next few years. iTunes was updated to support synchronization with the iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV as these were introduced. It does not play DVD movies, however.
iTunes has been bundled with every new Mac for many years. It is also still available for the latest versions of Windows. Although Windows users will already have Windows Media Player (the Windows equivalent to iTunes), some users download iTunes to synchronize their computers with their Apple mobile devices. Also, the only way to access the iTunes Store is through the iTunes application software.
The iPhone comes with a mobile version of iTunes for accessing the iTunes Store. iTunes is not available for other phones.
Microsoft Windows Media Player
Microsoft has included many kinds of audio/video players with the Microsoft Windows operating systems for many years. Early versions were rudimentary compared to the competition, but over the years Microsoft has added many features to make Windows Media Player a serious contender in the media manager field.
If you have Microsoft Windows on your computer, you already have Windows Media Player, but you can download upgrades for more features.
If you have an Apple iMac or MacBook, then Windows Media Player is not available to you. But, if you need to play Microsoft-specific media files from a website (such as a .wmv file), and this does not work on your Mac, click here for a Windows Media Player for Mac.
Windows Media Player is not available for mobile phones, because it doesn't really apply. But, phones running Windows Mobile or Windows Phone have a scaled-down version that supports playing Windows Media files.
Here is some software from BlackBerry that will help you upload your iTunes or Windows Media Player libraries to a BlackBerry phone or tablet (although DRM-protected tracks might not transfer). Read the descriptions below each link to ensure you pick the right one. Both applications are available for Windows or Mac.
For any current generation phone running BlackBerry 10, you can use BlackBerry Link to upload your iTunes or Windows Media libraries to your phone, as well as photos, videos, and documents. With this, you have to create a BlackBerry ID (login account), which you most probably already did when you set up your phone. Install BlackBerry Link on your computer, and log in to the application with the same BlackBerry ID you use on your phone. Then you can transfer music to your phone. This does not transfer anything to BlackBerry's servers. It's all done locally; you can only transfer the music if your phone or tablet is on the same Wi-Fi network as your computer, or you connect it via USB.
For the previous generation of BlackBerry phones and the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, you can still download the BlackBerry Desktop Software for Windows or Mac. This includes the BlackBerry Media Sync function, which will upload music from your iTunes or Windows Media Player libraries. It works over Wi-Fi (BlackBerry OS 6 and later only) or USB.
RealPlayer by RealNetworks
Update: RealNetwork has now added even more programs, called RealTimes and RealCloud, both dealing with uploading all your photos and videos to their cloud service, and it is not possible to link directly to the RealPlayer any more. Click the link above, and look for "Looking for RealPlayer®?" at the top. Read the rest of the write-up below for more information.
RealNetworks introduced its first player, RealAudio, in 1995. This enabled listening to audio broadcasts streamed over the Internet, even over a dial-up modem, using RealNetworks' proprietary audio format. Streaming means the web server sends audio or video in real time as you play it on your computer, as opposed to downloading the entire file to your computer first. Streaming is more suitable for a radio station to broadcast continuously online, and it also allows content providers to have some control over what you can save on your computer. When the program was updated to support streaming video, it was renamed from RealAudio to RealPlayer.
RealPlayer once was widely used, but its market share declined temendously as many other methods of streaming were developed. You do need it, though, to play a Real Media file, as other players do not support these.
Over the years, RealPlayer has evolved. It added support for all standard audio and video file formats, for managing media libraries and burning to CDs, for synchronizing with the iPod and other handheld players, and for integrating with Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. It can also serve as an alternative DVD movie player (with the paid Plus edition). As it moved beyond being just a web media player, for a while it was described as a "Media Manager" on the RealNetworks website.
The latest enhancement involves completely new focus and capabilities. It's now called RealPlayer Cloud. You have to create an account to download it, and it will now upload your videos to Real's servers and convert them as needed to play on any of your computers or devices, as well as on your big-screen TV through Apple TV, Roku, or Chromecast. Use of the cloud services is optional; you can still use it like the former RealPlayer, but you have to manually disable the automatic upload to Real's servers.
Historically, RealPlayer software was quite bloated, and presented more ads on your computer than would normally be expected with free software of this type. Later versions addressed these criticisms. But, this new Cloud edition has turned it back into kind of a monstrosity, requiring much more to download and deal with than you might like to if you just need to play a Real Media file.
Winamp Media Player
Winamp was the first media manager for personal computers, released in 1997. It became hugely popular very quickly due to its full feature list (playlists, an equalizer, support for third-party plug-ins, and synchronization with early MP3 players) and design innovations (customizable "skins"), as well as support for streaming Internet radio broadcasts. Later, it was included in the client software package for online services provider America Online, meaning millions of people had it on their computers without even specifically seeking it out.
Many competitors to Winamp were developed in the years following its release. MusicMatch Jukebox and similar media managers were bundled with audio and video hardware; RealPlayer and Windows Media Player were enhanced to copy the features of Winamp; and Apple introduced iTunes. But, even to the end, Winamp had a strong following.
In 2013, America Online decided to withdraw support for Winamp, and, as of January 2014, the software is no longer available for download from the Winamp website. It may return, however, as the website itself is still there, with a notice indicating its owners intend to release a new version at some point.