Customising XP audio

So you've installed Windows XP, and now you're beginning to notice the little things that have changed. Personally, I noticed this when I slotted in a CD to listen to while I worked and couldn't find the volume control.

Where had they hidden it? As I sensed my colleagues rise from their desks to bang on my wall like the deadline-driven solitude seekers they are, I fumbled around for Windows' F1 help key and found the solution.

Volume control

When you start using Windows XP, you will notice that, by default, the little yellow speaker icon is no longer located in the System Tray, next to the time at the bottom right of your screen. To further confuse things, the System Tray is now known as the Notification Area.

So, how do you change the system volume? Click on Start-Control Panel-Sounds and Audio Devices. Under the Volume tab you are able to adjust your sound card's volume or even mute sound all-together. Selecting the Place volume icon in the taskbar option will do just that, allowing you to click once on the speaker icon to mute and or adjust volume. Double-clicking on the speaker icon will bring up the familiar Volume Control window with volume options including those for Main, Wave, Line In, and CD Audio. Depending on your sound card, there may be many more controls or even more advanced card-specific volume controls. If you want to display more sound port options such as Microphone and the like, go to Options-Properties from within the Volume Control Window and select the volume control you require.

Speaker configuration

Right-click on the speaker icon in the System Tray/Notification Area and select Adjust Audio Properties. Under Speaker settings, select Advanced. Click on the Speaker setup drop-down list box and select the speaker grouping that meets your needs. Options range from stereo headphones and laptop mono speakers to 5.1 and 7.1 surround-sound speakers. You can assure maximum performance for Hardware acceleration and Sample rate conversation quality under the Performance tab before clicking OK to save any changes you make.

Customising sounds for events

The Audio Here's How page in the July 2001 issue of Australian PC World looked at creating sound schemes in Windows 9x; much the same type of process applies to Windows XP, albeit a little differently. A sound scheme is a set of sounds that will be played when certain things happen or when you perform certain tasks as you use Windows.

Navigate to Start-Control Panel-Sounds and Audio Devices. Now click on the Sounds tab. Scroll down the Program Events list and you can hear the sound that will be played for that event by pressing the play icon, next to the browse button. You can select a new sound from the drop-down list box titled "Sounds" or click the Browse button to locate an existing .wav file on your hard drive. Any changes you make can be saved as your own sound scheme by clicking the Save As button, also under the Sounds tab. If you see a speaker icon just to the left of an event, that means the event already has a sound assigned to it. Of course, you can change these. Shareware sites like www.download.com offer listings of Windows themes (which include sound) for download.

Windows Media Player

You should be able to open Windows Media Player 8 via Start-Windows Media Player. If it's not here, go to Start-All Programs-Accessories-Entertainment, from where you can select Windows Media Player, Sound Recorder or even access the Volume Control. Windows Media Player has been given a fresh new look (alternative skins are also now included) and, as with earlier versions, you can play music CDs, play MP3, WAV and WMA formats among many more, rip CDs to WMA format with track information and create playlists. New is the ability to play DVD movies if you have a separate DVD decoder installed.

To perform a basic search for all supported media files on your hard disk while in Windows Media Player, simply press the key. Any media files found should be linked under the Media Library tab of Media Player. Alternatively, pressing -F will bring up Windows XP's new and improved find file wizard.

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