Media Center 10 is the new version of the program formerly known as Media Jukebox – software for playing and organizing your music files. It is a long-time favorite among power users, but the improvements in the interface on the new version make it far easier to get started. Click here for more information!

Media Center is capable of performing a lot of tasks. For many people it will be sufficient if it can find music files, sort them out, and play them – and Media Center makes that simple task far easier than Windows Media Player or RealPlayer or MusicMatch Jukebox. Media Center can also rip CDs and burn them, it can print CD labels, it can help you create playlists, it can display cool visuals to go with the music, and it can help you tag and organize your files. All of those functions are now easy to find and use.

Once you’re familiar with the basics and you’re looking for more, Media Center will grow with you to do a rather extraordinary variety of tasks. But the complexity is reasonably well hidden out of sight, so don’t be intimidated.

The developers of the program have apparently cut deals that will allow Media Center to integrate online music stores in the near future. I’m not interested in the stores, but the funding makes it more likely that Media Center will survive – no easy task in a niche that Microsoft is also in. Getting ready for those ventures caused the developers to make an all-out effort to eliminate bugs in the new version – the released version is very clean and polished.

You can download the program and use it for 30 days free, then you’ll have to pay $39.95. If you have a growing library of mp3s and you spend a bit of time with MC, I’ll bet you feel it’s well worth the price.

If you install Media Center, try clicking on these links to put on my favorite skins and add a feature called “Playing Now” that I’ll let you discover for yourself. (It costs another five dollars to keep using it after its own trial period. Try it, yank it if you don’t like it!)

Opus skin – my favorite look for the program. Click here for information and screen shots. Unfortunately, the Opus skin is no longer available from J River. You can click here and download my copy. There are three folders in the zip file; extract them so they are subfolders under C:Program FilesJ RiverMedia CenterMegaSkins.

Click here to install the Playing Now plugin

Click here to install the Opus skin for the Playing Now plugin

Click here and install G-Force 2.6 for extraordinary visuals to go with the music. (The basic version is free, but you should buy the enhanced version for $10 – not so much for what it adds, but because work this good deserves to be rewarded.)

Finally, click here for some advice on organizing mp3 files. I wrote these notes a couple of years ago using screen shots from a different version of Media Center, but the concepts are the same.

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