Tired of the standard Media Player look and feel, and want something new and innovative? Zune offers a fresh, new way to enjoy your music, videos, pictures, and podcasts, whether or not you own a Zune device.
Microsoft started out on a new multimedia experience for PCs and mobile devices with the launch of the Zune several years ago. The Zune devices have been well received and noted for their innovative UI, and the Zune HD’s fluid interface is the foundation for the widely anticipated Windows Phone 7. But regardless of whether or not you have a Zune Device, you can still use the exciting new UI and services directly from your PC. Zune for Windows is a very nice media player that offers a music and video store and wide support for multimedia formats including those used in Apple products. And if you enjoy listening to a wide variety of music, it also offers the Zune Pass which lets you stream an unlimited number of songs to your computer and download 10 songs for keeps per month for $14.99/month. Or you can do a pre-paid music card as well. It does all this using the new Metro UI which beautifully shows information using text in a whole new way. Here’s a quick look at setting up and using Zune on your PC.
Download the installer (link below), and run it to begin setup. Please note that Zune offers a separate version for computers running the 64 bit version of Windows Vista or 7, so choose it if your computer is running these.
Once your download is finished, run the installer to setup Zune on your computer. Accept the EULA when prompted.
If there are any updates available, they will automatically download and install during the setup. So, if you’re installing Zune from a disk (for example, one packaged with a Zune device), you don’t have to worry if you have the latest version. Zune will proceed to install on your computer.
It may prompt you to restart your computer after installation; click Restart Now so you can proceed with your Zune setup. The reboot appears to be for Zune device support, and the program ran fine otherwise without rebooting, so you could possibly skip this step if you’re not using a Zune device. However, to be on the safe side, go ahead and reboot.
After rebooting, launch Zune. It will play a cute introduction video on first launch; press skip if you don’t want to watch it.
Zune will now ask you if you want to keep the default settings or change them. Choose Start to keep the defaults, or Settings to customize to your wishes. Do note that the default settings will set Zune as your default media player, so click Settings if you wish to change this.
If you choose to change the default settings, you can change how Zune finds and stores media on your computer. In Windows 7, Zune will by default use your Windows 7 Libraries to manage your media, and will in fact add a new Podcasts library to Windows 7.
If your media is stored on another location, such as on a server, then you can add this to the Library. Please note that this adds the location to your system-wide library, not just the Zune player.
There’s one last step. Enter three of your favorite artists, and Zune will add Smart DJ mixes to your Quickplay list based on these. Some less famous or popular artists may not be recognized, so you may have to try another if your choice isn’t available. Or, you can click Skip if you don’t want to do this right now.
Welcome to Zune! This is the default first page, QuickPlay, where you can easily access your pinned and new items.
If you have a Zune account, or would like to create a new one, click Sign In on the top.
Creating a new account is quick and simple, and if you’re new to Zune, you can try out a 14 day trial of Zune Pass for free if you want.
Zune allows you to share your listening habits and favorites with friends or the world, but you can turn this off or change it if you like.
Using Zune for Windows
To access your media, click the Collection link on the top left. Zune will show all the media you already have stored on your computer, organized by artist and album.
Right-click on any album, and you choose to have Zune find album art or do a variety of other tasks with the media.
When playing media, you can view it in several unique ways. First, the default Mix view will show related tracks to the music you’re playing from Smart DJ. You can either play these fully if you’re a Zune Pass subscriber, or otherwise you can play 30 second previews.
Then, for many popular artists, Zune will change the player background to show pictures and information in a unique way while the music is playing. The information may range from history about the artist to the popularity of the song being played.
Zune also works as a nice viewer for the pictures on your computer.
Start a slideshow, and Zune will play your pictures with nice transition effects and music from your library.
The Zune Store offers a wide variety of music, TV shows, and videos for purchase. If you’re a Zune Pass subscriber, you can listen to or download any song without purchasing it; otherwise, you can preview a 30 second clip first.
Zune also offers a wide selection of Podcasts you can subscribe to for free.
Using Zune for PC with a Zune Device
If you have a Zune device attached to your computer, you can easily add media files to it by simply dragging them to the Zune device icon in the left corner. In the future, this will also work with Windows Phone 7 devices.
If you have a Zune HD, you can also download and add apps to your device.
Here’s the detailed information window for the weather app. Click Download to add it to your device.
The Zune player generally takes up a large portion of your screen, and is actually most impressive when run maximized. However, if you’re simply wanting to enjoy your tunes while you’re using your computer, you can use the Mini mode to still view music info and control Zune in a smaller mode. Click the Mini Player button near the window control buttons in the top right to activate it.
Now Zune will take up much less of your desktop. This window will stay on top of other windows so you can still easily view and control it.
Zune will display an image of the artist if one is available, and this shows up in Mini mode more often than it does in the full mode.
And, in Windows 7, you could simply minimize Zune as you can control it directly from the taskbar thumbnail preview.
Even more controls are available from Zune’s jumplist in Windows 7. You can directly access your Quickplay links or choose to shuffle all music without leaving the taskbar.
Although Zune is designed to be used without confusing menus and settings, you can tweak the program to your liking from the settings panel. Click Settings near the top left of the window.
Here you can change file storage, types, burn, metadata, and many more settings. You can also setup Zune to stream media to your XBOX 360 if you have one.
You can also customize Zune’s look with a variety of modern backgrounds and gradients.
If you’re ready for a fresh way to enjoy your media, Zune is designed for you. It’s innovative UI definitely sets it apart from standard media players, and is very pleasing to use. Zune is especially nice if your computer is using XP, Vista Home Basic, or 7 Starter as these versions of Windows don’t include Media Center. Additionally, the mini player mode is a nice touch that brings a feature of Windows 7’s Media Player to XP and Vista. Zune is definitely one of our favorite music apps. Try it out, and get a fresh view of your music today!
Matthew digs up tasty bytes about Windows, Virtualization, and the cloud, and serves them up for all to enjoy!
- Published 04/6/10