While you were busy celebrating the first birthday of Apple’s iTunes App Store, VLC turned one. Rather, version 1.0.
VLC is VideoLAN Client, an open source media player that began the gestation period back in 2001. What’s VLC? It’s not your father’s QuickTime, or even your mother’s Flash. VLC is the media player that does everything.
What’s a media player, you ask? Apple’s QuickTime Player is the media player that comes with your Mac. It plays most popular audio and media files, and with a plugin, also plays Windows audio and media files.
Adobe’s Flash is the other media player that most of us know and love to hate. While both QuickTime and Flash play audio and movies in the most popular formats, there are many, many others out there they won’t play.
That’s where VLC comes in. First, it’s open source, cross-platform, and free. And, it’s been in beta since somewhere around 20001 and the first commercial version of Mac OS X, so you know it is tried and true and well tested. That’s the only reason why it took so long, right?
Second, VLC can record live audio and video, comes with all the popular playback codecs for audio and video, including new HD codecs like AES3, Dolby Digital Plus, Blu-Ray Linear PCM, and a whole lot more that are only known and used by those with phobias for what’s popular.
Third, VLC also plays audio and video, including MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 (try that in QuickTime without deducting from your checking account), and many more, including the all important Ogg Vorbis and Ogg Theora, audio and video, respectively.
Finally, not everything about VLC is created equally, though it runs admirably on Windows, Linux, the Mac, and other relics like BeOS.
Alright, so VLC used to be VideoLAN Client, and it was in beta form for eight years, and it’s now ready for prime time, and every Mac user who wants to listen to quality music on a Mac or obscure videos on a Mac should have it.
So, what does VLC do? Mostly, it plays audio and video files that QuickTime, Windows, and Flash do not. The features page will give you a list longer than the waiting line at a Michael Jackson memorial.
Are you totally bored with the platinum plastic look of QuickTime on your Mac? Get used to it. VLC comes with a number of skins, attractive and not so much, so you can customize the look of the player to match your tastes. Or, lack of tastes.
Mac users must have perfect taste buds already because skins don’t skin on Mac OS X. You’ve been spared the indignity of making your Mac look like a Windows PC. Or, worse, Linux.
My view of VLC is that it’s really a Swiss Army Knife of obscure audio and video files. Watching an HD movie on your Mac is one thing, watching it in Ogg Theora is something to tell the grandkids about. That’s likely to be VLC 1.1.