5 Great (and Free) Alternatives to QuickTime

I, like quite a few people, am not a huge fan of Apple’s default media software, QuickTime, which comes bundled in with every release of OS X. Although it gets the job done for some things, I find that the range of codecs and built-in features is a little limited and not enough to suit my needs (and videos!). There are plenty of alternatives out there on the Internet, and with Front Row gone from all future releases of OS X starting from Lion, now is really the time to start looking around for an alternative.

So without further ado, here are my 5 top free alternatives to QuickTime.

VLC icon

VLC Media Player

VLC is currently one of the most popular alternatives to QuickTime for OS X and seems to be able to handle almost every single media file you throw at it. It supports a wide range of codecs (including some more obscure ones as well), often without any additional software and also deals with subtitles and music files without any problems. The program integrates with Lion’s full-screen mode and the recent update to version 2 brought along a new, overhauled interface and experimental Blu-Ray support for the Mac. For a free and open-source program, VLC is jam-packed full of features and is a must-have program for every Mac user.

Price: Free
Requires: OS X 10.5 and above (older versions available)
Developer: VideoLAN

MPlayerX

MPlayerX

MPlayerX is another open-source Mac video player that is quite similar to VLC. It’ll play a wide range of video and audio files (again without the need for any additional codecs or software) and has a few other hidden features, such as multi-touch and Apple Remote support. The interface is based on that of QuickTime’s with the same minimal approach and one feature I love about MPlayerX is the bookmark feature which remembers where you played up to last time – something which I think every video player should have.

Price: Free
Requires: OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: Niltsh

Plex

Plex

Plex is more like a media centre than an individual video player, but if you’re still grieving over the death of Front Row then Plex is a pretty good replacement for it. It sorts your video collection out into films and TV shows and downloads the synopsis and cover art for each one, giving it a more organised look. You can also stream online content from sources such as YouTube, Netflix and Hulu straight from the app and, like VLC and MPlayerX, supports a wide range of video codecs without any additional software.

Another great feature of Plex is Plex Media Server, which allows you to stream all your videos and music to your iOS device (you’ll need to buy the Plex for iOS client though, which is available from the App Store for $4.99).

Price: Free (Mac version)
Requires: OS X 10.6 and above (Intel only)
Developer: Plex Inc

Miro

Miro

Miro is an open-source media player with a built-in torrent client and an interface that has taken a few leaves out of the iTunes book. Although it won’t play media files different to any other media player, it has a built-in video converter with tons of presets (including for the iPhone and iPad). You can also share your media files over your local network with anyone who also has Miro installed and there’s an iPad version in the works, which promises the ability to stream and transfer videos and music to it.

Price: Free
Requires: OS X 10.5 and above
Developer: Participatory Culture Foundation

XBMC

XBMC

XBMC is another open-source media centre which can play most types of video, music and picture. The interface is very customizable (there’s a load of different skins and plug-ins available for it from their website) and the program is completely open-source, meaning that almost anyone can develop a feature for it. Although I prefer Plex for usability and features, XBMC is a very good (and completely open-source) alternative and is most definitely worth a look at least.

Price: Free
Requires: None – available in both Intel and PowerPC versions
Developer: XBMC Team

Over To You!

I hope that this little collection of applications helps you on your quest to find an alternative for QuickTime. All of the ones listed above have a wide and very different range of features, so the best thing really is to download each one and try them out (besides, they’re all free anyway!) to see which one suits you best.

I personally use VLC for pretty much anything as it’s so simple to use and it supports such a wide range of formats. Now, it’s over to you. Which is your favourite alternative video player? Or are you a loyal QuickTime fan? Have we missed one out in the list above? Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!


  • User

    Glad to see MPlayerX mentioned here. VLC for Mac was always a little slow and with version 2.0, the interface is downright atrocious. MPlayerX always seeks instantly for me and you have to love the windowless playback VLC never implemented for some reason.

  • Lucion

    I typically use Movist for playing all my video files since it is very light-weight. If that doesn’t work for some bizarre codec-related reason, I fire up MPlayer OSX Extended.

    I don’t know if it is just the mental scars from using Quicktime on a Windows PC years ago, but in the five years since I started using a Mac I still cringe when I accidentally launch it.

    You can’t beat VLC for just playing a file, but I’ve just not been a fan of it on the Mac, particularly after 2.0. I worry it has become bloated like QT.

  • Ales

    Uh, oh!
    You forgot to mention Movist.
    Simple, fast and still with most of the features that VLC has.
    Since Movist I don’t use VLC at all.
    J’adore!

    • Chris

      Movist isn’t free anymore. Still awesome though.

      • Lucion

        Version 0.6.8, the latest version before the rewrite, is still freely available. To be honest, the “new” Movist looks like it adds the same bloat that caused people to move to Movist in the first place.

  • Jason

    What’s wrong with Quicktime? I’ve never had a problem with it. It always works. I think people just like to complain for no reason.

    • Giova

      It’s not that there’s something wrong with Quicktime, it’s just that it is lacking in features. Ever since I got a Mac I’d always use Quicktime for my video-watching needs, but the moment I started noticing it lacked support for a very wide range of codecs and formats, I knew it was time to switch to another alternative, which for me is currently VLC. So again, Quicktime’s got nothing wrong, it’s just that it doesn’t have enough, even with the Perian system preference installed.

  • http://about.me/docziandras András Dóczi

    I’m new to the Mac so most of the video files I have gathered around during the years, are rather PC-friendly formats. QuickTime doesn’t really excel at recognizing/playing them, and I can also agree with Lucion, QuickTime on a PC does cause mental scars.
    So my vote went for MPlayerX as my default video player. I love the Resume-like feature and the windowless playing. It looks like it was an app Apple made itself while VLC is erm, ugly.

  • EraqEE

    I had to convert some of my videos so Mplayer X can play them properly, otherwise, it’s been a pretty good so far!!

  • Mike Wallbridge

    I’ve been using Quicktime Player 7 because it allows me to play both video and audio files at slower speeds without a change in pitch, great for a musician who is wanting to work out what someone is playing. VLC doesn’t do this but I would be interested in learning if any of the other free players does.

  • http://www.bluray-player-software.com Aurora

    VLC is always the best choice for the Mac media player, but for Blu-rays, it only support the user customized ones. There is no free Blu-ray player software available on Mac now, only sharewares like Mac Blu-ray Player, etc.

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