Windows Media Player is a dynamic, versatile program for enjoying a huge variety of audio and video files -- everything from your favorite songs and videos to digital voice mail and webcam home movies. Best of all, Windows Media Player is included free with Windows, and it's able to play files saved in dozens of formats, so you won't need a different media player for every type of file you'd like to enjoy.
Microsoft Media File Types
File types with the extension .asf, .wma, .wmv, .wm, .wmd and .asx are all Microsoft proprietary media formats, which use various compression methods to store audio, video or both in a single file. While different, each plays exactly the same in Windows Media Player, and none require any special handling. Microsoft has also developed the WPL file type to save the playlists that you can create and customize when using Windows Media Player.
MPEG File Types
File types with extensions such as .mpeg, .mpg, .mp2, .mp3, .mpa, .mpe, .mlv and .m3u are all included in a format standard developed by The Moving Picture Experts Group to encode audio, video or both together. The .mpeg and .mpg file extensions indicate common types of video files, while the MP3 format uses perceptual audio coding to save CD-quality sound into a compact file. MP3 is the most common form of audio file, used almost exclusively to store music due to its excellent sound reproduction quality.
Audio Visual Interleave
Audio Visual Interleave, or AVI files, are the most commonly found files storing audio and video data together. AVI is an older file format than MPEG, and generally needs two to three times the disk space to save the same content as an MPEG does.
Audio-Only File Types
A host of file types store only audio content. The most commonly used file types in this category include WAV, MID, MIDI, AIF, AIFC, AIFF, AU, SND and CDA -- all playable by Windows Media Player. Each of these types is used primarily to store sounds, audio samples, musical instrument data, and so forth rather than full-length songs.
Other File Types
Less frequently used file formats compatible with Windows Media Player include IVF (for video content), DVR-MS (for digital video recorders), and WMZ or WMS, which store data for customizing the appearance of Windows Media Player.
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