Windows Media Center was an aspect of Windows that never really took off – there were always several other tools that did much the same job in a much more satisfying way. With the release of Windows 8, Microsoft saw fit to drop the tool altogether (although it’s still available as an addon).
This means that there is now more incentive than ever for developers to produce decent media management tools, and for users to seek them out. Multimedia 8 is one of the first media center-style tools that’s worth taking a look at.
Media, Quick & Easy
Unlike Windows Media Center, this app is quick to load which immediately earns it bonus points. When you want to listen to music or watch a video, the last thing you want is to have to wait for longer than necessary for the app to load.
The opening screen features large, clear, tiled buttons that make it obvious how to access your media; want to watch a video? Hit the video tile. Clicking the Music tile displays the content of your music library.
This is tied directly to the libraries you have configured in Windows and it’s important to note that there are no file management options available in Multimedia 8
When listening to a track, you’re presented with a great full-screen mode to work with. Basic playback controls are available at the bottom while volume control is, perhaps slightly awkwardly, positioned at the top of the screen.
Other options that are available when listening to music include file editing. This gives you the ability to trim unwanted sections out of a track and save it as a new file. You can also use this feature to simply convert files between formats – although there is no way of seeing the current format of the selected file – and you can choose between MP3, WAV and M4A.
Creating playlists is the modern-day version of creating mix-tapes. Hours of enjoyment can be gained from compiling the perfect playlist for every mood, and Multimedia 8 makes playlist creation incredibly easy.
When browsing through tracks you can right click files to select them, while right clicking elsewhere on the app interface will bring up a list of additional options at the bottom of the screen.
But having saved a playlist need not be the end of the story. You can access any of those you have created from the Playlist section of the app and you can then change the order of tracks, delete any you have changed your mind about, and rename or delete the playlist itself.
Videos & Non-Library Files
Of course, you are not limited to playing media files that are contained within Windows’ libraries, nor indeed just music. Multimedia 8 can be used to watch videos and can be used to playback files that are stored in other locations such as on network drives or non-library folders.
Video playback works in very much the same way as with music files and there is valuable support for subtitle files. In practice you have to ensure that your subtitles are in either SRT or WebVTT format, so you may have to convert if you’re used to using something different.
Files – both music and video – can be loaded from any location by clicking the Open Media tile and there is even potential to play online content within the app. Content can be pulled in from media servers and NAS drives as well.
Another area of the app that’s worth mentioning is the audio and video capture. In some regards this is a slightly strange inclusion as what immediately springs to mind is capturing video with your webcam and audio with your microphone. But there is no reason that other forms of input should not be used, so you can view this aspect of Multimedia 8 as another means of adding to your library.
Making It Better
If all of this sounds extremely promising, you’d be right, but there are still areas that need some attention. The fact that when browsing music folders there is no album art displayed until you are looking at the individual tracks of an album us a little odd – being able to pick out an album at a glance would make things even easier and faster to use.
Navigation of locations outside of libraries could be easier but this is something of a minor complaint.
Compared to Windows Media Center, Multimedia 8 is leap and bounds ahead. The app is light on resources and feels quick and responsive at all time – which is something that few people could honestly say about Windows Media Center.
What’s your opinion of Multimedia 8? Have you found a better app for Windows 8? Let us know in the comments below.