Microsoft, despite the many years Windows has been in development, hasn't really expanded Windows' multimedia capacity much at all. Because of this, netizens are inclined to run into MKVs, OGMs, and other, more exotic formats that still can't be played with Windows Media Player.
For some, a simple download of VLC Media Player will do the job. But if you are looking for some better format support, as well as tighter integration with the operating system, there are Windows Media Player codec packs designed for various video and audio types. However, none come as close to encompassing every kind of variant like Shark007's Video Codec Pack does.
With Shark007's solution, all you need to do is install the codec package that corresponds to your installed version of Windows, reboot, and enjoy. Since the software is comprehensive in its coverage of formats, the author strongly recommends that no other third-party codec packages are installed on the system, as possible conflicts might occur.
Once initialized, media files come to life with full support for thumbnails in Windows Explorer as well as playback of DTS streams contained in some movies, for instance. A few other interesting features include XBOX 360 extender support, which allows one to pump files like MKVs over a network to the game console for playback on the TV, preview pane support for delivering detailed information on media in Windows Explorer, and an incredibly tweak-able backend full of options for power users.
For multi-user systems, Shark007's kit enforces UAC rules, which allow each account to have its own unique configuration, without affecting other users in the process. This way, everyone can have their cake and eat it too, with regards to how everything is handled in playback. With the need for VLC or MPlayer out of the picture, Shark007's solution seems to deliver well on its promise to beef up Windows' internal codec support.
In my investigation of the software, my only pet peeve would be concerning the settings interface, which is relatively cramped and not clearly organized in an easy-to-find fashion. There are tabs in the configuration area for the different media formats that this tool supports, but they aren't too descriptive or helpful for anyone who might be a neophyte with computers. Nevertheless, thanks to the install-it-and-forget-it mentality behind the codec pack, most will not need to mess around with the deeper settings anyway.
Overall, Shark007 offers a compelling package for media lovers who want to stick with their beloved Windows Media Player and not shuffle between other player applications. It's quick to install and set up, and the price is at an always-attractive $0.00, which makes picking up this software a no-brainer. No matter what the media file, Shark007 has got you covered.
An avid technology writer and an IT guru, Matthew is here to help bring the best in software, hardware and the web to the collective consciousness of TechRepublic's readership. In addition to writing for TechRepublic, Matthew currently works as a Customer Success Professional for Ultimate Software in Santa Ana, California.