Last week we mentioned that the extremely popular open source video player VLC is getting a brand new interface in the upcoming 4.0 release, which is expected to debut later this year. VLC 4.0 isn’t ready for prime time use yet, but because the program is open source, adventurous users can build it every night to get a glimpse of what’s to come. The screenshots we are going to show are from the overnight build released last Friday – 20120212-0431.
Goodbye file opener, hello media jukebox
When opening the 4.0 dev version of VLC, the first change that jumps out is an interface shift from “file opener” to “media browser”. In older versions of VLC – from its inception in 2001 through the 3.x version now being distributed – a blank player window opens, with VLC’s iconic traffic cone in the center. The new VLC instead opens a media browser interface, showing thumbnails of all the videos present in the user’s Videos folder.
This is the view associated with the video view displayed along the top menu bar of the new version; it also presents Music, Browse and Discover. Music offers a similar view in the user’s music folder, Discover presents a network browser that searches for shares and streams present on the user’s LAN, and Discover does not appear to be fully implemented yet.
Another big change is only apparent when you open a video. In older versions of VLC, a single window provided both the video content and the controls. VLC 4.0 instead spawns a new player window, separate from the browse/control window from which the video was selected.
File system? Which file system? There are only files
As long as your videos are all in your local Videos folder, you probably won’t have any problems with the new interface, but in its current state it’s no fun browsing through large numbers of files in multiple folders. If you want to get out of your video folder, you need to click on the hamburger menu at the top left of the playlist and select Media > Open Directory. Unfortunately, if you select Open Directory, you don’t actually go to the new directory – instead it scans all files both within and under the new directory you select and randomly adds them all to the Videos tab itself.
This metaphor for scanning folders and updating the browser is very reminiscent of the “Movies” interface of the Kodi media player – in theory it abstracts the inconvenience of fully managing folders and files, leaving you with a single pane of glass. to view all your content. But it doesn’t fit too many usage scenarios. not me per se want to see all the stupid memes I’ve downloaded and video clips I’ve shot with my webcam when I’m searching for movies, or vice versa.
The Kodi media player wisely retains a “Files” interface for those who want to see their contents by folder, but as far as we can tell, VLC 4.0 has not kept a way to go to the old file-based interface, nor a new version .
It is also quite difficult to find the filename or location of media already in your library. You can’t do it at all from the library view itself, but while a particular item is playing, you can right-click on it, select Tools, and then select Media Information.
Did we mention the work is in progress?
The current version of VLC 4.0.0-dev doesn’t cater for many of the use cases that were previous versions of VLC, but it’s not clear yet how much of that is by design and how much because the new version just hasn’t been done.
VLC 4.0 has been in development for about two years now; it was first announced at FOSDEM in February 2019, with early overnight builds becoming available to the public the same month. The chairman of the VideoLAN foundation, Jean-Baptiste Kempf, told Protocol that 4.0 would be released sometime in 2021, but there is still no concrete release date.