VLC Plays Just About Any Video File You Can Find [50 Mac Essentials #45]

VLC icon

Your Mac comes with QuickTime Player, which does a great job of playing a lot of video content. Lovely.

But if you spend a lot of time doing stuff with video, you’ll know there are times when QuickTime lets you down. There are formats it just won’t play, even if you have Perian installed (which was number 4 in our list of 50 Mac Essentials).

When those moments arise, VLC will come to your aid.

There’s not much that VLC can’t play when it comes to video files. And audio files too: almost any obscure file format you can think of. There’s no need to download extra plugins or codecs or anything else, VLC has everything it needs built-in. If VLC can’t play it, chances are nothing can.

VLC can stream video from external sources (including the internet) and record them too. It has loads of hidden extras tucked away inside the preferences, such as lots of hotkeys for precise media control from the keyboard. It will even scrobble your music listening to last.fm if you want it to.

For some people, VLC might seem a little too much. If your video watching is confined to YouTube clips and the occasional DVD, then VLC is overkill. But for more advanced users, or for people who use a variety of devices to record audio and video, it has a lot to offer.

The fact that all of this is open source and free of charge is the icing on the cake. VLC is produced by volunteers at the non-profit VideoLAN organization, so if you to make regular use of it, a donation of a few dollars would be a nice gesture.

(You’re reading the 45th post in our series, 50 Essential Mac Applications: a list of the great Mac apps the team at Cult of Mac value most. Read more, or grab the RSS feed.)

  • omega

    But MplayerX is much better. VLC is not smooth when playing a HD 1080p mkv file.

  • Fletchs

    Is there an app for this?

  • Devouring

    I don’t agree with you, I watchrf a lot of 1080p MKVs with VLC and it’s very smooth.

  • atimoshenko

    VLC getting too bloated (at least on the Mac). Can’t think of anything it does that MPlayerX does not do as well or better.

  • Moctavian

    Playback maybe smooth, buy seeking (fast-forward, rewind) is stuttery as hell.

  • Moctavian

    The head title is just a bunch of lies. I have quite a few wmv and mkv files that VLC either refuses to open or opens them all messed up (like, showing bottom half of the video on top, and the top half of the buttom). And seeking is stuttering like hell on most files I have. Movist and MplayerX, on the other hand, open and seek those files just fine.

  • Moctavian

    Even VLC developers themselves admit that. I’ve had severals discussions with VLC staff on their forums about that. They admit, that VLC got out of hands, got too much bugs and too much useless half-working lines of code that they can’t figure out what to do with. They also said that almost all Mac developers left them.

    They’ve been trying to rewrite VLC for Mac from scratch (project called Lunette, or something), but it’s going as slow as legless turtle crawls, because they literally only got like one Mac programmer left.

  • Guest

    VLC’s interface has gotten slightly better over the years, but I still see it as a “maximalist” program that gives you hundreds of options except the ones that will make the interface less obtrusive.  For instance, if there are controls on the player window, why is there an external controller window that you have to close manually every single time?

  • Pete

    omg!!! vlc never failed to play any video as smooth as silk. 14 year old teens, please be quiet.

  • Mike Rathjen

    VLC is great except for the strange icon. A traffic cone?

  • Bob Forsberg

    I’ve used VLC and recommended it to many for their iPads, too. Another free App that plays all I’ve ever thrown at it is Movist, with nice 10-20 second smooth advances. 

  • William Diaz

    For an open source software VLC does a cracking job. All of you complaining about the software why don’t you go and create something better? No, you can’t. If you want improvements just go ahead and donate cos I’m pretty sure the Dev Team would appreciate and then it’ll give you something to look forward to.

  • Joncottage@gmail.com

    On my iMac, strictly mplayerX but on the iPad then it’s VLC. QuickTime just doesn’t cut it. Fantastic that VLC is also free!

About the author

Giles TurnbullGiles Turnbull is a freelance writer in England. He also writes for the Press Association and The Morning News. You can find out more at his website, and follow him on Twitter @gilest.

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