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.