|For years, the "Windows Media Player" was just a crude place-holder of an application useful mostly for playing little WAV files and little more. Microsoft has decided to turn it into a does-it-all application to give away like Internet Explorer, so they can set all the media format standards. The government of the European Union has sued to give users an even-handed choice. You may find you like one of the alternatives more suited to your particular interests.|
|RealOne (formerly RealPlayer) has long been one of the innovators in online media, especially streaming. Its support for both video and audio formats is strong, and lots of web sites take advantage of Real's technology. They do their darnedest to steer you into buying one of the full-featured versions of their player, but if you can find it, you can download the basic version for free. It's available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.|
|Apple's QuickTime Player supports many video formats others don't, not the least of which is the QuickTime format itself. And it has a refreshingly uncluttered interface. Available for Windows as well as Mac. The basic version is free, with a version with creating/editing capabilities also available.|
|Blaze Media Pro covers most of the audio- and video-format bases, and includes audio editing capabilities, as well as extensive conversions between audio and video formats. It's skinnable, and supports online CD databases. You can download a free trial, but it costs money.|
|Zinf is an open-source audio player for Windows and Linux, with ports available to QNX, Solaris, and BSD, and a Mac version in the works. It's based on FreeAmp, but due to trademark conflicts, it's been rechristened (using the acronym for "Zinf Is Not FreeAmp"). Although the guiding design priciple is simplicity, it plays both local files (MP3, CD, WAV, Ogg/Vorbis, etc.) and streams (Shoutcast, Icecast) and supports skins and online music-data lookups.|
|WinAmp is an music player that's geared mostly for playing MP3's, though it supports other audio formats and audio-visualisation plug-ins as well. It's appearance can be customised with skins, and can access online CD databases. It's free (and comes bundled with Netscape Communicator).|
|NOTE: People who take advantage the Gracenote/CDDB database of CD information should take note of the company's increasingly dictatorial terms for the use of their database, such as demanding that their logo be displayed (even on a player for the blind that has no on-screen display!), not allowing anyone to access any other database and still access theirs, and coercing programmers to switch to their new proprietary CDDB2 service. FreeDB.org was created as a fully free and open alternative. Most CDDB1-capable players can be configured to access FreeDB instead.|
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