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Customizing the Player s Look and Feel
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Windows Media Player offers fewer customization options than its predecessors, and most of those options are well hidden. The most radical customization option allows you to completely change the Player s appearance by using an assortment of custom visual designs, known as skins. Even without using a skin, you can do a few things to modify the Player s appearance. In Now Playing, you can display or hide the List pane. You can change the color that appears behind the Player taskbar and in the Now Playing pane from its default blue to any shade. You can collapse the full Player to compact mode, leaving only the playback controls visible, or enable a Mini Player toolbar that embeds playback controls in the Windows taskbar. You can show or hide advanced controls (also known as Enhancements). And you can display one or more of the Player s many visualizations while your music plays. (Visualizations are animated designs that Windows Media Player displays while playing music.)
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For more information about visualizations, see Using Visualizations, later in this chapter.
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Windows Media Player has five display modes: full (the default view, described in the previous section), compact, skin, mini Player, and full screen. Compact mode shrinks the Player window to its absolute smallest size, as shown in Figure 15-2, with only the title bar and playback controls visible. The button in the lower right corner toggles between Full and Compact modes. When playing music in Compact mode, the title bar changes every few seconds to show the artist name, album, and track title in rotation.
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Figure 15-2 Compact mode displays only those controls that are essential for playback.
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To switch from Full or Compact mode to skin mode, press Ctrl+2 or click Skin Mode from the View menu. To return to the previous mode, press Ctrl+1. When you switch to skin mode, the Player applies the current skin. To choose a different skin, start from full mode and click Skin Chooser on the View menu. Select the skin you want, and then choose Apply Skin. Unlike its predecessors, Windows Media Player 11 includes only two skins, both of which are designed to pare the Player down to a more conservative look. Figure 15-3 shows the Corporate skin.
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Figure 15-3 The no-frills corporate skin is one of two included by default with Windows Media Player 11.
To select a different skin, click Skin Chooser on the View menu. To add skins to the list shown in the Skin Chooser, click More Skins. This link takes you to a web page where you can find a long alphabetical list of downloadable skins approved by Microsoft.
Customizing the Player s Look and Feel
Downloading is straightforward, and the skins are automatically added to the Player s Skin Chooser list as soon as they re downloaded. Choose a new skin from the list and click Apply Skin to begin using it. All skins include the most essential controls for playing, pausing, stopping, skipping to the next track or previous track, adjusting volume, and so on. Beyond these, skin features vary considerably. Some can show the current playlist or the graphic equalizer. Some show the current visualization and let you move to a different one. Some show the name of the current track. You ll need to experiment to see what the different skins can do and where each control is located. Most of the Player s menu commands are available in the skin-mode shortcut menu. Right-click anywhere on a skin to display this menu.
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To make the Player window stay on top of all other windows, whether it s in full, compact, or skin mode, click Options from the Tools menu. On the Player tab, select Keep the Player On Top of Other Windows.
What do you do if the phone rings while you re playing one of your favorite tunes If the Player is open in any mode (full, compact, or skinned), you have to bring it to the foreground to reach the Pause or Mute button. For easier access, you have the option to minimize the player to a tiny toolbar that docks on the Windows taskbar. With the Mini Player toolbar enabled, you can control playback and volume without restoring the full Player window. Figure 15-4 identifies each of the toolbar s controls.
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