There was a time, way back in the day, back in the late 1990s, when music and video was all the rage and every Mac and Windows PC user had RealPlayer.
With so many different ways to get music and video clips on the web today, I honestly forgot that RealPlayer was still around. Honestly, I thought they went out of business years ago.
As it turns out, I was wrong. While the company that makes RealPlayer may not have Apple’s hoard of $100-billion lying around, RealPlayer is still kicking.
The claim to fame for RealPlayer, besides having been around since the early days of the public internet, is the wide variety of audio and video files it can play, far more than Windows Media Player or iTunes (though most of them are seldom used or dying quickly).
The player itself is familiar to anyone who has used a music or video player that is not named iTunes. RealPlayer can download videos from websites and let you build a library of songs and videos to play offline.
Setting up RealPlayer on a Mac is an adventure. Here’s the first hint that trouble is ahead.
Modems? Seriously? RealPlayer can’t figure out how fast your internet connection is and adjust playback streaming accordingly? Seriously?
From there it just goes downhill. The initial installation quit Safari without warning, so not much has changed with RealPlayer’s user friendliness through the years.
Preferences, to put it kindly, are too numerous to list, and confusing and cumbersome at best.
There are settings for caching files, displaying different languages, modifying connection speed, playback buffering, internet configuration options, and media types.
It’s bewildering for the average user, but probably wonderful for geeks who love to tweak as much as they love to listen to audio or watch videos online.
The only bright spot is the player, which is mostly minimalist, but can be expanded and easily moved around the screen.
Despite the inconveniences and extensive configuration, RealPlayer is loaded with features, including one-click video downloads (after you find the video), convert video audio to MP3, transfer music and videos to phone or tablet, video editing, burn videos to DVD, and more.
There’s a built-in equalizer to balance music, an option to password protect your video collection, and it converts Flash videos so they’re viewable on iPhone or iPad.
Some of those options are available only in the RealPlayer Plus option which has a hefty price tag ($50). It’s not as though your Mac cannot already burn music to CDs and videos to DVDs.
If you love to tinker and twiddle, RealPlayer can still bring delight.