Winyl: an appealing, well-designed music player

Creating a great music player is a tricky business. You’ll need to provide plenty of features, but also make sure the interface is simple, unobtrusive, lightweight, and never gets in the user’s way. Very few players get this balance right, in our view, but Winyl is one of the exceptions.

The program arrives as a compact download (under 3MB), and installs quickly, with no browser add-ons or other extras to worry about (you won’t even see as much as a “Donate” button, unless you view the Winyl “About” box).

Setup is equally straightforward (point the program at your Music folder, allow it to import your albums, and that’s it), and in a second or two you’re looking at Winyl’s main interface: a simple tree which offers various views on your music collection (Artists, Albums, Years, Genres, Folders and more).

Getting started is then just a matter of, say, expanding the Albums view, double-clicking a track and it’ll start playing right away. Neatly, a pop-up window with the track’s album art and title appears in the bottom-right corner of your screen as every song begins, before fading away again (you can customize this window’s position, if you like, or turn it off entirely).

This all appears so simple that at first you might wonder what else you can do, but look more closely. Those tiny bars at the bottom of the window represent your current position in the track, and the song volume, for instance – you can click to change either. Click the musical note icon reveals a 10-band equalizer with a stack of presets, while the arrow icon switches views to display the cover art, and a mini visualizer.

That’s just the start, though. Right-clicking the title bar displays a menu with more options. You can create or import playlists, for instance (M3U/ M3U8, PLS, ASX, XSPF). A mini player reduces Winyl’s size even further. Or, if you prefer to do everything by mouse, then there’s an option to assign custom hotkeys for every player action: Play, Pause, Stop, Next/ Previous track, ratings, volume control and more.

And if, despite all this, you’re still not happy with Winyl’s interface, that’s not a problem. The program comes with some alternative skins, and you can make it look like iTunes or Windows Media Player in a few seconds.

Winyl’s core feature set is fairly typical, then (don’t expect to be surprised). But it looks great, is well designed and feels immediately comfortable to use. If the big-name music players are just a little bloated for your tastes, give the program a try – it might surprise you.

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