Windows 8 deep dive: get to know the Music app

Rocking hard or hardly rocking? We find out when we plunge deep into Microsoft's Music app.

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Key options and settings

Now let's take a look at the settings from the Charms bar when Music is active.

'Account' is where you can monitor and manage everything pertaining to your Xbox account. This includes the checking statuses for your various paid services, such as Xbox Live and Xbox Music Pass, redeeming codes to add money to those accounts, managing the devices you have synced with Xbox Music, and selecting various billing options.

'Preferences' covers five adjustable settings, each offering the simple choice of 'On or Off', and many dealing with devices that you would sync to your account. 

The rest of the settings include 'About' (with technical information about Music), 'Feedback' (which lets you provide feedback on the app), 'Permissions' (listing the different things you have agreed to allow people to use), and 'Rate and Review' (which takes you to the Windows Store to review the app).

Throughout the Music app, there are various options depending on which song is selected. The Options bar maintains a standard format, with the highlighted song's options on the left side and a simple music player on the right. Song options can be anything from adding the selected song to a playlist to buying the track.

The music player's options are standard: You can click 'Previous', 'Pause/Play', 'Next', or either of two 'Playback' options (repeat or shuffle). It took me a moment to realize that the options shown were for a song I had highlightedand not necessarily for the song that was currently playing. This design permits you to manage playlists and to purchase music without actually playing it.

Music contains two basic areas, both of which allow you to listen to good music. The 'my music' section includes everything that you've added to the music folder as well as any saved streaming music. It's basically the hub for the stuff you like.

The other area holds everything else. From today's top artists and songs to any kind of musical genre you can think of, the app is a gateway to a world of music that's ripe for exploration. Just remember to add the stuff you like to your 'my music' section so you won't have to venture through the unbearable each time you want to hear some good tunes.

Next page: Some nifty tips and tricks, and some Music alternatives.

Tips and tricks

  • Selecting any song and bringing up the Options bar will give you the option to add it to a playlist; add it to your music collection; or buy the song. If the song is already part of your 'my music' collection, the option to delete it will also appear.
  • Remember to add all of your music and audio files to the Music folder in the file explorer. You won't be able to play anything outside the folder in Music, even if you create shortcuts.
  • To remove or rearrange songs in a playlist, click the tile for the playlist that you want to edit in the 'my music' section. Then select the song you want to adjust; you should see the 'Play' and 'Remove from playlist' options to the right. On the left you'll see up and down arrows; select the appropriate arrow to move the song in that direction in the playlist.
  • Snapping Music into a smaller window will show the music player with the title of the song and artist. It also allows the options to play previous, next, pause/play, show song list, and play Smart DJ for the current artist. When activating the Options bar in the smaller window, you can add the song to a playlist or add it to your music collection. Snap Music to a window to see the player while using other apps.
  • Use the Search function in the Charms bar to look for artists, songs, and albums. Once you've searched, you can filter out some of the options on the left hand side to specifically look for a song, album, etc.
  • If you don't feel like using up a portion of your screen for the music player but you do want to manage music playing, use the appropriate media functionality control keys (such as play/pause, next, previous, volume keys, mute/unmute), and a mini-player will show up at the top left of the screen. The media keys will control the music, but you'll be able to see exactly what's playing.

An alternative to Music

Not happy with the new Music app? The best alternative app differs for different people. If you want simple music management and playback features for local content, try the Windows Media Player desktop app that comes with Windows 8 (regrettably, it's not available in Windows RT). Or consider MusicBee, which offers powerful song tagging and management features, and pretty much everything Music leaves out. Best of all, MusicBee is free.

If you want a different streaming music service, look into alternatives such as Spotify, Rdio, Slacker Radio, and Pandora.

This story, "Windows 8 deep dive: get to know the Music app" was originally published by PCWorld.

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