Free cross-platform multimedia player
VLC media player for Mac is an open-source cross-platform multimedia player that plays most multimedia files, as well as various streaming protocols. Safe, powerful, and completely free, the VLC app can play a range of media, including video and music files, in multiple formats directly on your Mac.
What is VLC media player used for?
VLC media player can play video or music files in just about any format from MPEG to FLV, MKV and RMBV files. VLC plays most codecs with no codec packs required, including MPEG-2, MPEG-4/Xvid, H.264, MKV, WebM, WMV, and MP3. It can also play audio CDs, and DVDs and BluRay discs, ignoring region codes.
Because the software plays almost anything, VLC is a great alternative to iTunes, RealPlayer, and Quicktime. Users can also use VLC to convert files and, in addition to all the formats and physical media it will play, many streaming protocols are supported.
Simple interface and easy basic functionality
The VLC interface for Mac is lightweight, fast, and simple with a single-window for everything. Visually, the player is not very exciting, although a selection of audio visualizations - graphic shapes and signs that respond to the audio being played - can be used to add color and interest to the display.
For those who prefer a more visually interesting interface, KMPlayer is fully customizable and allows users to open multiple windows for controls, playlist, or equalizer.
At a very basic level, VLC media player is an easy program to use for simple viewing of videos and listening to audio. During software installation, a user can set VLC as the default media player, meaning that whenever they click on an audio or video file it will automatically open in VLC.
In playback mode, the play, pause, stop, full-screen and volume controls are easily accessible onscreen. There is also a timeline that shows the full length of the video with a slider to move through the video. It's simple to watch and pause videos, and to control their volume, using your mouse.
VLC media player also has great hotkey support and, if you learn the shortcuts, it can be controlled without touching your mouse. Functions such as changing the video's size, jumping to a specific time point in the video, and taking a quick screengrab are available using the hotkeys.
Enriched playback experience
For music, VLC plays more or less any audio file and features an equalizer and playlist creation. While it isn't as intuitive as iTunes as a media manager, VLC is much more flexible in terms of file formats.
VLC can also check online for album art and metadata to enrich playback experience, such as providing track information when playing audio CDs.
Lots of advanced features
VLC media player for Mac is not just for simple video and audio playback, however. More ambitious users will want to take advantage of the host of advanced features the player offers.
The player can be used to record a user's desktop or webcam via its built-in screen recorder. Users can select the frame-rate and codec for their video, as well as the destination folder for saving. This feature is useful for creating onscreen tutorials and screencasts or video presentations.
Converting video or audio files to a different format is one of VLC's most handy features. As well as being able to select a destination on their computer in which to save the newly converted file, users can also stream the file using a streaming method of their choice.
VLC media player makes it easy to add subtitles to video files too - simply add the SRT file to the folder where the video is kept, and it will automatically play with subtitles. Also useful is the fact that users can use VLC media player to preview files that are downloading since it plays incomplete parts of video files.
It's possible to use VLC player to stream and download videos from YouTube, allowing users to convert YouTube videos to formats such as MP3. While this does break the terms of service for using YouTube, it's a helpful feature if users need to play a YouTube video without internet access. Alternatively, 5KPlayer for Mac also has this functionality.
Despite its basic-level simplicity, navigating VLC's advanced workflows and functionality isn't particularly user-friendly or intuitive. To access advanced features and discover VLC's full potential, users may have to rely on online forums and tutorials. Some support from the developer is available via the Help menu within the app although online documentation is limited.
Is VLC media player safe?
Many users may question whether VLC media player for Mac is safe to use. To ensure 100% security, VLC player should only be downloaded from a trustworthy site. This will make sure the version used does not have viruses, spyware, or malware.
While in general VLC media player is safe to run, there have been reports of vulnerabilities. Users should protect their hardware and privacy by only using VLC to open trustworthy files, and keeping the software updated to the most recent version.
Powerful, free multi-format media player
At its most basic level, VLC media player for Mac is a powerful multi-format media player that will play even the most unusual or stubborn files where other players fail. Where it falters, however, is the accessibility of its more advanced features. Many users will not have the technical knowledge - or patience - to navigate its overly complicated menu items and workflows, meaning they'll likely miss out on its most impressive features.