VLC Media Player gets face-lift, new features

VLC Media Player 2.0 offers a complete interface redesign for Mac, new features for everyone, and more under the hood than before.

VLC Media Player 2.1
The new look has been a long time coming for Mac users, now with better navigation, skin options, and more. (Credit: Screenshot by Felix Kühne, developer on the VLC 2.0 project)

The Open Source VLC Media Player has been a longtime favorite here at Download.com, and a recent update gives the Mac app a complete overhaul to the interface.

VLC Media Player (Mac or Windows) made a name for itself as the open-source alternative to default players from both of today's major operating systems. On Windows users would grab VLC to play files not supported by Windows Media Player and for Mac users, it was often the only way to play Windows-only media file types. VLC Media Player is not the only option for free video playback, but its one of the best, and this latest version gives the app a brand new look and several feature enhancements to sweeten the deal.

VLC Media Player has always offered a number of tools and customization options to manage and watch video. Users get frame-by-frame advancement; granular speed controls allowing for on-the-fly slower or faster playback; and live recording of streaming video. There are also a number of effects you can add to your videos, and a full-featured audio equalizer with tons of presets to experiment with.

VLC Media Player
Tool windows now have a new look and features are laid out in much more efficient way than older versions. (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Version 2.0 brings with it a completely overhauled interface for the Mac version, replacing a more generic-looking layout with a view that integrates many of the program's features. Playlist and video output are merged into one window, and users now get the choice of switching between the standard gray or new predominantly black skins. The new playlist interface closely resembles iTunes, with navigation at the left that lets you quickly select media from your library, on your local network, or from a wide range of video and audio stations over the Internet. On the right you get the listings from each source and across the bottom are standard playback controls, a playlist toggle, repeat, and shuffle buttons. You can also access the equalizer in the lower right, which opens a newly designed dark grey EQ with sliders for adjusting the equalizer, compressor effects, a spatializer (for simulated surround sound), and filter options.

Among the more technical improvements in VLC Media Player 2.0 for both Mac and Windows are faster decoding on multicore, GPU, and mobile hardware, and the ability to open more high-quality HD formats. A new rendering pipeline for video, higher-quality subtitles, and new video filters also made it into this expansive update. The developers also added the ability to play files ripped from Blu-ray discs (not actual Blu-ray playback), but it is an experimental feature they may continue to flesh out in updates on the horizon.

VLC Media Player 2.0 adds a ton of new features for both platforms along with a new look and layout for Mac users. In my testing on the Mac I found the new version to be faster, more flexible with file types, and easier to navigate with the new layout. As with any interface redesign, there will be cries to bring back the old version, but in my estimation, VLC has needed a face-lift for some time, and this update is a huge step in the right direction.

About Jason Parker

Jason Parker has been at CNET for more than 13 years. He is the Senior Editor in charge iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.