I first wrote about RealPlayer and it’s bad habits in 2004. Back then, you could expect that a RealPlayer install would load you down with adware applications you didn’t want. It would also stage a hostile takeover of all of your media file types. We’ve told you how to get back your favorite file types, but you don’t want to have to do that every time you install new software. Many people swore back then, and even today, that no power on earth would ever get them to use a RealMedia product again.
In the past my recommendation has always been for people to use Real Alternative if they need to play RealMedia files. I may be softening a bit on that advice after trying RealPlayer SP today.
The reason I decided to try RealPlayer after ignoring it for several years is that it now allows you to easily download and convert streaming video from many websites. I couldn’t resist trying that out. Fortunately, I haven’t sworn any oaths of undying hatred for RealPlayer.
RealPlayer SP now advertises that it can:
Now you can download and organize your favorite videos from thousands of Websites. Then watch them anytime, anywhere you want.
Our new video converter makes it incredibly easy to copy online video to your iPod, cell phone, Xbox, PS3 or other favorite device.
RealPlayer SP is the easiest way to share your favorite videos with your favorite people on your Facebook page or Twitter feed.
You can download RealPlayer SP here.
Here’s what I’ve found after a brief trial.
Before installing, I fired up Zsoft Uninstaller to monitor the RealPlayer install in case I decided not to keep it.
The installer wasn’t a big download, but it was a “stub”. In other words, you’d better be connected to the net because more is going to be downloaded when you start the install. Real Networks used to sometimes hide other programs in the install but now all that I saw was an offer to install Google Chrome and maybe the Google Toolbar. Naturally, I turned them down. I use a different version of Chrome called Iron which offers you far more privacy and I’ve never really liked browser toolbars.
As I mentioned above, RealPlayer used to automatically steal all of the media file types, but this time it asked nicely if it could take only those not already assigned to some other program. It also asked me if it was okay to install an addon for Firefox and other browsers for grabbing videos.
When all was said and done, the final footprint was about 63 MB in the Program Files folder. Sure that’s pretty good sized, but it’s not out of line for a full featured media player.
The first thing I did was visit the “Library” and have RealPlayer scan my drives for media files. It was very fast at this and I was impressed.
When I tried playing some types of media, RealPlayer would offer to go out and get codecs or plugins. In the case of MOV files, it had to grab a plugin for QuickTime. Once that was done it was able to play almost everything I have. It even plays FLV (Flash Video) files now. That’s a trick that Windows Media Player still doesn’t appear to have mastered. If you want to play Flash Video in Windows Media Player, we’ll tell you how.
Next, I went out to test how well RealPlayer rips streaming videos. All I did was open up my Firefox browser and go to JibJab as a first try. As you can see below, the RealPlayer plugin put a small download tab over the video and all I had to do was to click on it to download the video.
The download link worked nicely. I also tried it at a few other video sharing sites like YouTube, Viddler, Vimeo and DailyMotion. It works at them all.
Once downloaded, I checked to see how well RealPlayer could convert it to a different format. The first format I tried was “Zune” which is actually a WMV file format.
It took what seemed forever for the conversion but it got the job done. If you do a lot of conversion between file formats, you may want to try something like Quick Media Converter or maybe an online media converter.
RealPlayer seems to be making real progress on not giving us so many headaches. I don’t feel that it’s any worse than using Windows Media Player in most cases. If you need to go out and rip videos from the video sharing sites, it may be a great tool for you. If you are using Firefox, keep in mind that there are quite a few addons that also let you grab streaming video from websites. RealPlayer isn’t the only game in town. It’s up to you. Personally, I’ll probably be uninstalling it soon.