Windows Media Player 11 Guide

A guide for users of the Jaws screen reader, written by David Bailes at Chorlton Workshop for hsbp. More guides are available on the Jaws Guides page of the VIP Software Guides website.



This is a guide for Windows Media Player 11, running under Windows XP. Although the Player can deal with most types of digital media, including audio, pictures, and video, this guide is only concerned with digital audio. The guide describes how you can use Window Media Player to:

Even given the focus only on digital audio, not all the capabilities of the Player are covered in this guide. For further information, see the the Player's Help.

Throughout the guide, optical drives which can play CDs, whether they're DVD or CD drives, are referred to simply as CD drives.

Pages and tasks

Windows Media Player has a number of different pages, and so its structure is in some ways similar to that of a multi-page dialog box. Each of the pages is designed for a particular task or group of related tasks. The pages and tasks are:

When you open Windows Media Player from the Start menu or a Desktop icon, it opens on the Library page.

Main window

Main components

All these components have the same width as the main window, and so divide the main window into a number of horizontal panes. The “page” takes up most of the window, with the Player taskbar above it, and the Playback controls area below it.

Moving around the main window

There are two options for the format of the main menus:

Both these formats contains bugs in their keyboard navigation, but the bug in the classic menus is more severe, and so it's recommended that you use the new style pop-up menu, which Windows Media Player uses by default. If you want to change between the two formats, press CTRL + M. The two menu formats are described in the next sections.

New style pop-up menu

Classic menus

There is a severe bug in the keyboard navigation of the conventional menu bar. If you press ALT to move to the menu bar, then the two standard keystrokes to leave the menu bar, ALT and ESC both don't work. There are work arounds, but it's easiest to use the new style pop-up menu.

Player taskbar

The player taskbar contains the following controls, which will be described in the next sections:

Back and Forward buttons

These buttons have similarities with the Back and Forward buttons in Internet Explorer. The keystrokes for these buttons are ALT + LEFT ARROW and ALT + RIGHT ARROW respectively. The rest of this section gives a more precise description of these buttons, and assumes that you're reasonably familiar with the Library page.

On any of the pages which contain a Primary list view, there are a number of actions which can change the contents of the Primary list view. For example, on the Library page the Primary list view can be changed by selecting an item in the Library tree, opening an item in the Primary list view which isn't a track, or entering text in the Search box. After one or more of these actions, you can use the Back button to go back through these actions. Once you've gone back through a number of actions, you can then use the Forward button to move forward through the actions again. As a simple example, if you open an album in the Primary list view, the tracks in the album are then displayed. If you then press the Back button, you go back to the list of albums.

Warning: sometimes if you're on a page other than the Library page, and you press the Back button a number of times, then after going back through the actions which changed the Primary list view, you are then returned to the Library page. But only sometimes.

Six pairs of buttons for the pages

The first button in each pair is used for selecting which page is displayed. One of these buttons is always pressed, and when Jaws reads the name of the button, it includes the word pressed if the button is pressed.

The second button in each pair is a menu button for that page. Nearly all these menus contain the following items:

BUG WARNING: If you press one of the buttons for selecting the page using SPACEBAR, then as well as the button being pressed, the menu associated with the following button also opens (this doesn't happen when Jaws is not running). So only use ENTER to press these buttons.

Playback controls area

The Playback controls area contains the following controls:

Additional keystrokes

Current position edit box

There are three options for the information shown in the current position edit box: elapsed time, elapsed time/ track length, and remaining time. You can cycle round these three options using the Jaws cursor. To move to the next option:

  1. With the current position edit box being the focus, press INSERT + NUMPAD MINUS to route the Jaws cursor to the PC cursor.
  2. Press NUMPAD SLASH for a left mouse click.
  3. Press NUMPAD PLUS to switch back to the PC cursor
  4. Press INSERT + UP ARROW to read the new value.

Playing CDs and audio files

This section gives an overview of playing CDs and audio files. Some of the details mentioned are more fully described in the sections on the Now Playing and Library pages, and may make more sense after you have read those sections.

The standard installation of Windows Media Player allows you to play audio files in only some of the common formats, including mp3, wma and wav. However you can play files in other audio formats by installing some additional software, as described in the Audio file formats section.

Now Playing list

Whenever you play one or more tracks, these tracks appear on the Now Playing list. You can browse this list on both the Now Playing and Library pages, as described in the sections for these pages.

Whenever there are tracks in the Now Playing list, you can use all the Playback controls, which are described above in the Playback controls area section, and whose shortcuts are summarised in the Playback controls section of the Keystrokes section.

Playing audio CDs

If Windows Media Player is open, then regardless of which page you're on, if you insert an audio CD:

If Windows Media player is not open, and you insert an audio CD, then the autoplay action for CDs whose content type is Music CD is performed (see the CD drive autoplay section). If this autoplay action is either:


Playing data CDs containing audio files

If you insert a data CD containing audio files, then the autoplay action for CDs whose content type is Music files is performed (see the CD drive autoplay section). If this autoplay action is either:


A data CD can contain hundreds of audio files if they're in a compressed format like mp3 or wma. If you have a data CD with a large number of files, then on the Library page you can easily browse the files by artist, album etc using the different views of the CD which are available in the Library tree, as described in the Library tree section of the Library page section.

Ejecting CDs

To eject a CD: if you only have one CD/DVD drive, then you can use the shortcut CTRL + J. Otherwise, if you're in the Library, Rip or Burn pages, you can select the drive in the Library tree, and choose Eject from its shortcut menu.

Playing audio files which are not in the Library

To play audio files which are not in the Library, you can either use the Open dialog in Windows Media Player, or open them in Windows Explorer which then refers them to Windows Media Player for playing.

To play one or more audio files using the Open dialog in Windows Media Player:

  1. To open the Open dialog choose Open from the file menu, or press CTRL + O.
  2. Select one or more files, and press the default Open button.
  3. Playing starts automatically, and the Now Playing list contains the selected track(s).

If you open one or more audio file in Windows Explorer by selecting them and pressing ENTER, and their default program is Windows Media Player then:

If a particular audio file type does not have Windows Media Player as its default program, you can change this on the File Types page of the Options dialog, as described in the File types section of the Options dialog section.

Playing audio files on web pages

If you open a link to an audio file, and it's default program is Windows Media Player then:

Note that if you're using the Firefox web browser, this program uses its own settings for a file type's default program. You can can change these on the Contents page of Firefox's Options dialog.

Playing audio files which are in the Library

This is described in far too much detail in the Library page section.

Now Playing page

The primary use of the Now Playing page is for viewing pictures or videos. However, if Windows Media Player in not open and you open an audio file, or insert and try to play a CD, then Windows Media Player opens on the Now Playing page.

Components of Now Playing page

The now playing page is divided vertically into two panes:

List Pane

The List pane contains these controls:

Library page

On the Library page you can easily find an play files which are in the Library, and also create, edit and play your own playlists. This is the largest section of this guide, and it contains the following sub-sections:

The Library

The Library is a database of the media files on your computer, which allows you to quickly find and play files. This database contains pointers to the media files, so you can remove a file from the Library without necessarily removing the file from your computer.

The media files in the Library are divided into five main categories: music, pictures, video, recorded TV, and other media. The Library page shows only the files in the category which is set by the Select a category button, which is the first control on the page. By default this is set to Music, so you shouldn't have to change it.

Media information

When a media file is created, then certain media information is included in the file. Individual items of media information are known as attributes or tags. Examples of the attributes contained in audio files are: title, album, artist, etc. This media information is vital for the Library, as it's the information which allows you to quickly search it to find the tracks which you want. If the media information has not been automatically included in a file then it can be added manually, as described in the Editing media information section below.

Components of the Library page

These are the components of the Library page, which are all described in detail in subsequent sections:

The address toolbar runs across the top of the page, and below this the Library tree, Primary list view and List pane form three columns

Address toolbar

The Address toolbar contains the following controls:

Library tree

If you select an item in the Library tree, then its contents are shown in the Primary list view. The items at the top level of the Library tree are:

Navigating the tree

Primary list view

Views of the Primary list view

For many of the items in the Library tree, the corresponding list of items in the Primary list view can be displayed in a number of possible views. For example, if the Songs view of the Library is selected in the Library tree, then the list of tracks in the Primary list view can have either an Expanded Tile or Details view. This is very similar to the choice of views of a folder in Windows Explorer.

For each of the items in the Library tree, it's recommended that, whenever possible, you set the view to details, as this allows you both to use UP ARROW and DOWN ARROW to move through the entire list, and to use the first letter of an item to quickly find it.

Unfortunately, unlike in Windows Explorer, you can't change the view for one of the items in the Library tree, and then apply that to all the other items. After some instructions for changing a view, there's a list of the items in the Library tree, along with recommendations for changing the view.

To change the view of the Primary list view for an item in the Library tree:

  1. Select an item in the Library tree.
  2. Move to the Layout options button in the Address bar (eg press CTRL + TAB twice, TAB once.
  3. Press RIGHT ARROW to move to the View Options split button.
  4. Press DOWN ARROW to open the drop down menu, and choose an option (eg details).

The following list of the items in the Library tree gives their default view, and recommendations for changing the view to details, where possible:

Choosing columns

For all of the items in the Library tree, if it's been set to use the details view, then you can choose which columns are shown, and their order. Examples for wanting to change the default settings include:

To choose the columns for an item in the Library tree:

Navigating the Primary list view

Playing tracks

Once you've found in the Primary list view the track(s) that you want to play:

You can browse around the library without affecting this Now Playing list, and if you want to refer back to the list, its available via the Now Playing item in the Library tree.

Searching the Primary list view

You can search for items in the Primary list view using the Search edit box in the Address bar. Because the results of the search are also shown in the Primary list view, you can also think of this operation as filtering the contents of the Primary list view.

Details of the text matching used in the search:

Updating the Library

There are number of ways of updating the media files in the Library:

Editing media information

Occasionally you may want to manually edit a track's media information. For example, if the media information for a ripped CD is not available in Microsoft's online database, or it's an audio file which you've created yourself. Two methods of editing the the media information are described in the next two sections.

Editing media information using the Edit command

To change one of the media attributes of a track:

  1. In the Primary list view, select a track, and either choose Edit from its shortcut menu, or press F2.
  2. The text in the first column is selected. If necessary, TAB to the column which you want to change — unfortunately Jaws does not tell you which column you're in.
  3. Type in the new information, and press ENTER. Note that on the basis of this new information, the position of the track in the list of tracks may change.

You can also use the Edit command on items other than tracks, and so change a media attribute of a number of tracks at the same time. For example, suppose that you've got a number of tracks in the library by the artist Susan Flowerpot. To change all those tracks so that they have the artist attribute Sue Flowers:

  1. Select the Artist view of the Library in the Library tree.
  2. Select the artist Susan Flowerpot in the Primary list view.
  3. Follow the instructions above to change the first column from Susan Flowerpot to Sue Flowers.

Using the different views of the Library, you can also change the names of albums, genre's, and years.

Editing media information using the Advanced Tag Editor

To change one or more attributes of a track, you can use the Advanced Tag Editor (note the bug warning below):

  1. In the Primary list view, select a track, and choose Advanced Tag Editor from its shortcut menu.
  2. The Advanced Tag Editor dialog box opens. This is a multi-page dialog, and most of the information which you'll want to change will probably be on the first two pages: Track Info and Artist Info.

BUG WARNINGS: The keystrokes for changing the page of this dialog are a badly broken. CTRL + TAB does not change the page of this dialog. To change the page:

  1. TAB to the page tab, and press LEFT ARROW or RIGHT ARROW
  2. Note that on the new page the focus should be on the page tab, but in fact it's on the OK button. This means that you can't press one of the arrow keys repeatedly and cycle round the page tabs.


A playlist is a list of tracks, and each playlist has its own name. You can use a playlist to create a group of tracks which aren't necessarily by the same artist or on the same album, etc. For example, you could create a playlist called sixties which contains your favourite tracks from the sixties.

You can create both regular and auto playlists. For a regular playlist, the editing of which tracks are in the playlist is completely manual. In contrast, an auto playlist contains a set of criteria for the tracks to be included, and the tracks in the playlist are automatically updated if necessary when the tracks in the Library change. For example you could create an auto playlist which contains all the tracks in the library by a particular artist which were released before a particular year. If you then added more tracks to the Library which satisfied those criteria, then they would automatically be added to the playlist. Only the creation and editing of regular playlists will be described in this guide.

Before describing how to create and edit regular playlists, there's a description of the controls in the List pane which can be used for both creating and editing these playlists.

List pane

The controls in the list pane are:

Creating a regular playlist

To create a playlist:

Editing a regular playlist using the List pane

To edit a playlist using the List pane:

  1. To start editing, select a playlist and choose Edit in List pane from its shortcut menu. (For details of accessing playlists, see the Library tree section above.) The playlist is displayed in the List pane.
  2. Edit the list, as described below.
  3. When you want to save your edits, press the Save Playlist button at the end of the List pane (ALT + S). If you forget to save your edits, then at some stage you'll get a dialog box warning you that your changes haven't been saved, and asking you whether you want to save the changes. The default button is Yes.

    BUG WARNING:If you press the No button to indicate that you don't want to save your changes, then unless you close and reopen the program, it appears as if your changes were in fact saved. A little confusing.

The possible edits include:

Rip page

This page is for ripping (copying) the tracks from an audio CD to your computer.

The first time that you rip a CD, a Rip Options dialog opens. The first control is a pair of radio buttons which give you the option as to whether you want to add copy protection to your music files or not. The second control is a checkbox which you have to check to indicate that you understand that music from CDs is protected by copyright.

When you rip a CD, if you're connected to the internet Windows Media Player tries to get the media information for the tracks on the CD from Microsoft's online database. If you're not connected to the internet when you rip a CD, you'll get a dialog box warning you that it couldn't get the media information. When you next connect to the internet, Windows Media Player will try to obtain the missing media information. Occasionally, the required media information is not contained in the online database, and you have to edit the media information manually, as described in the Editing media information section which is in the Library page section.

Components of the Rip page

The Layout Options button is at the top of the page, and below this the Library tree and the Primary list view form two columns. The Start/Stop Rip button is at the bottom of the page.

Rip options

These are some of the options you may want to set. The following description uses the items on the Rip menu in the Player taskbar, but the options are also available on the Rip page of the Options Dialog.

Ripping a CD

This describes how to rip a CD, assuming that you've set the Rip CD Automatically option to never, as described above.

  1. If there isn't already an audio CD in one of the computer's CD drives, insert one.
  2. If you've got more than one CD drive, make sure that that the drive containing the audio CD is selected in the Library tree.
  3. The Primary List view should list the tracks on the CD. Each item in the list has an associated check box which is checked by default. If there are tracks which you don't want to rip, you can go through and uncheck those tracks.
  4. Press the Start Rip button (ALT + S).
  5. There is some text in the Playback Controls area which gives the progress of the ripping, but this is not accessible to Jaws. If you do want to find out the progress, then if you move to a track in the Primary List view, the rip status is normally one of the columns which Jaws reads out. This status can be either pending, ripping, or ripped to library. When the rip is complete, the CD is ejected, as long as you're set that option. Whilst a CD is being ripped its quite alright to use the computer for other tasks.

Burn page

On the Burn page, you can burn either audio or data CDs.

Components of the Burn page

The address toolbar runs across the top of the page, and below this the the Library tree, Primary list view and List pane form three columns.

List pane

The list pane contains the following controls:

Burn options

These are some of the options you may want to set, using the Burn menu on the Player taskbar. There are also other options on the Burn page of the Options dialog.

Burning a CD

Assuming that you've only got one drive that can burn CDs and that you're going to burn a CD-R, then to burn a CD:

  1. Set any options, as described in the previous section.
  2. Insert a blank CD. If you want to check that you've inserted a blank CD, move to the CD burner at the bottom of the Library tree, and it should read Blank Disc.
  3. To add one or more items in the Primary list view to the Burn list, select the items, and then choose Add to Burn list from the shortcut menu. Note that you can add any type of item in the Primary list view: for example if you add an playlist, then all the tracks in the playlist are added to the Burn list.
  4. The time/space remaining on the disc is displayed at the top of the List pane, but this is inaccessible to Jaws users. Also, if the list takes up more than one CD, then the list is automatically split into a number of CDs. However, this splitting is again not accessible to Jaws users. Which only leaves mental arithmetic.
  5. If necessary you can edit the Burn list in the List pane. If you select one or more tracks in this list, from the shortcut menu you can either remove the track(s) from the list, or move the track(s) up or down the list. To sort the list, press the Burn list button, and choose an option from the sort sub-menu.
  6. To burn the CD, press the Start Burn button (ALT + S) at the bottom of the List pane.
  7. Microsoft recommend that you don't use the computer for any other task during burning a CD. Some of the information indicating the progress of burning the CD is accessible to Jaws, but as that involves the computer in another task, it's probably best just to wait till the CD is ejected.

Options dialog

The Options dialog is a multi-page dialog box, which you can open by choosing Options from the Tools menu (ALT + T, O).

Library, Rip, and Burn

The Library, Rip and Burn pages of the Options dialog contain options relevant to the corresponding pages in the main window of Windows Media Player. The menus in the Player taskbar also contain options for the pages in the main window, as described in the Player taskbar section above. Many options are available only on the pages of the Options dialog, and a small number of options are only available on the menus in the Player Taskbar.

File types

The File Types page of the Options dialog allows you to set whether or not you want Windows Media Player to be the default program for each of the media file types (file formats). The first control is a list of check boxes for all the media file types. If a check box is checked, then Windows Media Player is the default program for that file type.

Audio file formats

The standard installation of Windows Media Player can only play audio files in certain formats, for example WAV, WMA and MP3. However it's possible to play other audio formats by installing additional software.

The audio in nearly all audio formats has been compressed to reduce the storage requirements. To play the audio in such a file it first has to be decompressed using a decoder. There are several schemes for compression and decompression, and hence the need for several decoders. So play to files in a format which are not supported as standard, you have to install any decoders which may be needed to play the file.

In addition, if you want to include these files in other formats in your library, you need to install another piece of software to do this. Two examples of decoders you might need, and the software to include the files in your library are described in the following sections.

Additional decoders

Ogg Vorbis is an open source file format which is free of patents (probably), and audio files in this format normally have the extension .ogg. You can download a decoder for Ogg files from the web page at:

An Advanced Audio Coding (aac) decoder is needed to play files in the m4a and aac formats. By default, iTunes uses the m4a format when it rips audio CDs. Note that files bought from iTunes which are copy protected have the m4p format, and these can only be played by iTunes. A free aac decoder to play m4a and aac files is available from the company Orban, and it can be downloaded from the web page at: On this page, the link to the plug-in which contains the decoder is “get it here”. Note that this plug-in has the unwanted behaviour that when you play a track in the aac or m4a format it changes the page of Windows Media Player to the Now Playing page. If you move away from this page, it stops playing the track.

Including files in additional formats in the Library

Even after you have installed these decoders, Ogg files appear in the Other media category of the Library, and aac and m4a files don't appear in the Library at all.

However, you can include these files (and some others) if you install the WMP Tag Support Extender plug-in. This software is open source, and therefore free. You can download it from the web page at: On this page, the link to the plug-in is “Download It!”.

There are a number of issues with the WMP Tag Support Extender:

CD drive autoplay

When a CD is inserted into a drive, then you can set an action to be performed which depends of the content type of the CD. These actions are known as autoplay actions, and they're set on the autoplay page of the drive's properties dialog, as described later in this section.

For each content type, you can set the action to be:

The actions available depend on the content type of the CD. For the Music CD content type (audio CDs), the actions include:

For Music files (data CDs containing audio files), the actions include:

To change a drive's autoplay setting for a particular content type:

  1. To open the properties dialog of the CD drive, select the drive in Windows Explorer, and either choose Properties from its shortcut menu or press ALT + ENTER.
  2. Using CTRL + TAB move to the Autoplay page of the dialog.
  3. The first control on this page is a combo box for the content type of the CD for which you want to set an automatic action. Set this to the content type you're interested in, and then TAB to the next control.
  4. The next control is a pair a radio boxes. However the standard keyboard navigation of these has been broken by placing a list box between them. The focus will either be on the “Select an action to perform” radio button, or the “Prompt me each time to select an action” radio button. If the focus is on the second of these radio button, then you can change the selection by pressing UP ARROW or DOWN ARROW as usual. However if the focus is on the first radio box (Select an action to perform) to select the other radio button you can either press UP ARROW twice or TAB to the Restore Defaults button and press it, since the default action is to prompt each time.
  5. If you have chosen the “Select an action to perform” radio box, press TAB to move to a list box of possible actions and select the one you want.
  6. Press ENTER to press the default OK button.



Command Keystrokes
Open dialog CTRL + O
Options dialog ALT + T, O
Move forward to either first control in page, or the seek slider CTRL + TAB
Move backward to either first control in page, or the seek slider CTRL + SHIFT + TAB
To eject a CD (if there is only one CD/DVD drive) CTRL + J

Playback controls

Command Keystrokes
Play/Pause CTRL + P
Stop CTRL + S
Fast forward CTRL + SHIFT + F
Jump backward or forward by one four hundredth of the length of the track With the focus on the seek slider, SHIFT + LEFT ARROW or SHIFT + RIGHT ARROW
Jump backward or forward by one twentieth of the length of the track With the focus on the seek slider, LEFT ARROW or RIGHT ARROW
Jump backward or forward by one fifth of the length of the track With the focus on the seek slider, CTRL + LEFT ARROW or CTRL + RIGHT ARROW
Use a normal play speed CTRL + SHIFT + N
Use a fast play speed (1.4x) CTRL + SHIFT + G
Use a slow play speed (0.5x) CTRL + SHIFT + S
Mute F7
Decrease volume F8
Increase volume F9
Previous item CTRL + B
Next item CTRL + F
Toggle shuffle CTRL + H
Toggle repeat CTRL + T
Read the name of the track which is playing INSERT + CTRL + T (Jaws 10 or later)

Library page

Command Keystrokes
Artist view of library CTRL + 7
Album view of library CTRL + 8
Songs view of library CTRL + 9
Search edit box CTRL + E
Create new playlist CTRL + N
Save edited playlist ALT + S

Rip page

Command Keystrokes
Start/Stop rip ALT + S

Burn page

Command Keystrokes
Artist view of library CTRL + 7
Album view of library CTRL + 8
Songs view of library CTRL + 9
Search edit box CTRL + E
Start/Stop burn ALT + S