Final design of VLC 2.0 for Mac

Since the release of VLC 2.0 is approaching, I thought it was time to publish its final interface design by Damien Erambert.

Jean-Baptiste Kempf and me started to collect ideas for this interface in the summer of 2008. After slightly chaotic approaches and a few near death experiences for VLC’s Mac OS X port, we’re really proud of the result.

The interface of VLC for Mac as you know it dated back to the 0.7.0 days with various additions until the 0.8.6 release (in 2008!). Since then, it was more or less unchanged with minor optimisations here and there. A re-write called Lunettes appeared in late 2009 and finally converged in VLC for iOS.

VLC 2.0’s interface for Mac is dramatically different from its previous revision, both technically and usage-wise. Playlist and video output share the same window, service discovery modules can be easily accessed through a sidebar and various audio + video filters are available through the respective panels. Besides that, the interface is noticeably faster and easily expandable. Speaking of that, we also added support for VLC’s lua-based extensions, which allow you to get info about the current movie from Allociné, post to Twitter, fetch subtitles automatically, etc.

For the main window, you’ll have the choice between a gray and a black window style.

VLC 2.0 will be available later this week on Enjoy!

NB: Development of the interface wouldn’t have been possible without a stipend from Google Inc. as part of Google Summer of Code 2011, which allowed me to work on it fulltime without worries.

VLC 2.0 on Lion:





VLC 2.0 on Snow Leopard and Leopard:

74 thoughts on “Final design of VLC 2.0 for Mac”

  1. Is it possible to turn this off?
    Read: Can I – somehow – get the old, simply, non-cluttered UI?

  2. Lol, they finally make a completly redesign ui, that is looking really nice imho, and all you want is to turn it off. oO

  3. I just want to drag a video-file onto the VLC icon.
    Ideally, this shouldn’t add the file into a “media library”. If I wanted a “media library” I’d use iTunes. :p

    Those videos won’t stay on my HD for very long. I’ll watch them once, maybe twice, but then they get deleted/archived. So there is really not much use for a media library that keeps track of those files.

    This reminds me a lot of the time when Windows Media Player stopped being usable and “Media Player Classic” jumped to the rescue.

    I appreciate the work that has gone into this redesign. I really do.
    I just hope that I’ll have the option to turn it off if it gets annoying.

  4. Glad they finally decided to make it look like a real OS X app. But – call me neurotic – where is the attention to detail? The toolbar is supposed to be on top, the buttons inside the toolbar should be vertically centered, icons inside the sidebar are monochromatic since Lion and there is supposed to be a 1px heigh, dark-grey line on the bottom of the titlebar.

  5. @cargath

    “”But – call me neurotic – where is the attention to detail? The toolbar is supposed to be on top””

    Where’s YOUR attention to detail? It’s not a toolbar, it’s a button panel. Tons of Apple’s own applications have one at the button.

  6. Wow, too much negativity. This looks great! The future belongs to those who embrace redesigns rather than looking for the old Facebook.

  7. VLC’s UI was perfect except for a few flaws. Didn’t need such a dramatic change.
    Hope it works :/

  8. Don’t get me wrong – those screenshots look very nice, but like @huxi, this new UI doesn’t compliment how I use VLC. I just want a humble video *player*. The separate video-output and controller windows of today’s VLC suit the simple player paradigm well. But this new UI seems not to. I don’t want a “media manager”; I just something I can drag a file to from the Finder which will play a video with minimal fuss.

  9. Arg. When the play bar is small it’s hard to cue to specific points, which really sucks. Let the play bar go the FULL WIDTH of the window.

  10. We’re in times of simplicity and smart design. Seems like you’re stuck in 2005.

    If you’re trying to force us to use the player more by just including a media library, not only we won’t do it, but we’ll be pissed of.

    Do you really think we’re going to use the equalizer that much, to include it in the panel for every video we watch?

    Considering how cluttered the interface is, did you evaluate to use a vertical volume scroll instead a horizontal one to create more whitespace?

    As John Dewson comments, trying to precise use the play bar for a 2 hour video will be imposible. Are you implementing any kind of functionality on the hover status that we can’t see on the screenshots?

    You still have time. We love your player, please reevaluate your product and design strategy. And, please, align those icons and elements, it hurts my eyes.

  11. Oh no! What have you done to our beloved VLC 🙁

    Please include an option or skin to revert to the current v1.1 interface.

  12. This is really a Big step backwards. How often do you use repeat, equalizer or playlist in a video player? And at the cost of not being able to seek.

    This UI destroys all that is good about VLC.

  13. Really final? IMHO, it repeats all the mistakes of the past 20 years of media player design.

    * The video timeline slider is one of the MOST important UI control but you made it ridiculously narrow. It is rendered useless as you made it impossible to navigate precisely through the video.

    * Who ever uses FastForward/-Backwards buttons? It is an obsolete remains of the tape-deck days. Why not give the users a usable timeline slider which allows them to navigate to any video position precisely.

    * Give up the “Stop” button. There is “Pause” for that (Play/Pause toggle button). if I want to stop watching video, I EXIT the program. If I want to start the video over, I move the timeline slider to the left. Again, separation of Pause/Stop is a thing of the tape-deck past.

    * Why wasting the horizontal space for the audio slider? Make it a fly-out.

    * Do really so many users want to enable to random playback or fine-tune the EQ that you granted those buttons a premier location?

    * Full-screen button? Double-clicking the video window should do it. Or sense maximizing the player window and auto-make it full-screen.

    * You could also make the video controls a semi-transparent window when hovering in the lower area. Check out QuickTime for that.

    My 25 cents.

    P.S.: Ellen rocks.

  14. Let me clarfiy 3 points:
    – we don’t intend to force anybody into using the media library. The playlist-as-you-know-it (which is emptied on every quit) is still present and the default mode. We developed the drop zone visible in the screenshots specifically for users who would like to “just play a simple file”.
    – there is an easy-to-find option in the preferences to get separate windows for playlist and video output.
    – the functionality displayed in the sidebar and the bottombar used to be present in the previous releases already. Right now, it’s just way more accessible.

    Additionally, if there’s something you’re missing, feel free to file a ticket on our bugtracker once the release is out and you’ve tried it in person 🙂

  15. What i need in VLC:
    – Play/Pause Button
    – a play Bar as wide as it can bee
    – A window for the Video itself (only when a Video is playing)
    – Volume controll, Fullscreen and Loop via Context menue
    Jep, thats it.

  16. Imagine I’ve repeated everything ShareMouse said above, with added exclamation points!

    From a looks perspective, the OS X QuickTime player is the design to emulate. When the video is playing, there is no chrome. At all. And when I’m actually watching something, those are the controls I need.

  17. What is REALLY missing in all versions of VLC is RECORD button
    It should simply start recording without asking any questions like the PAUSE
    The question about filename etc should be asked when recording is stoppped….

  18. @ShareMouse

    IMHO, your repeats all the mistakes of the past 20 years of internet: assuming that you know better than everyone, especially people who spent all their time on it. It would avoid looking like a stoopid moron…

    What you call FastForward and Backward buttons ARE next and previous… And surely this is useless…Ooops.

    You think stop and pause are the same? You think that stop means quit? Too bad, stop and pause are very different for network streams, especially with timeshifting. And you can stop playing a media to play another one.

    Having an audio fly out volume means an extra click.

    Random and EQ are very useful for audio playback.

    Double-clicking is against most accessibility guidelines… That is why even Apple kept his fullscreen button.

    We cannot do translucent control over the video with all versions of OSX and all GPU…

    So, guess what? Before speaking you should try and think and understand that not everyone has the same use as you do.

  19. @jb

    And scrobbling a media file is a functionality that hardly anybody ever uses.

    That’s why it’s perfectly ok to give the scrobble bar a width of about 20%, right? So it is extra easy to skip a minute in a, say, 2h video. Hm?


  20. @huxi: the width is small here, because the UI is very limited for the screenshot. You hardly have this in real life, you have larger windows, and the seeking bar is therefore the place that takes most part. Not to mention that you are probably in fullscreen too.
    But, we will do something for the small bar, if we can, maybe in 2.0.1.

    And there is no need to jump on our throats or to be condescendant.

  21. > assuming that you know better than everyone

    > What you call FastForward and Backward buttons ARE next and previous… And surely this is useless…Ooops.

    OK, but then you should use the correct button design: >| instead of >>


    > Having an audio fly out volume means an extra click.

    Then make it a *hover* flyout.

    > Random and EQ are very useful for audio playback.

    OK, then show them on *audio* (vs. video) playback.

    I have to admit that I don’t find myself adjusting EQ over and over again while watching a flick. YMMV.

    > Double-clicking is against most accessibility guidelines… That is why even Apple kept his fullscreen button.

    OK, why not sense play window maximize and make it full-screen then?

    > So, guess what?

    I guess that your tone is quite rude. I am trying to be helpful and spend my free time to make a good thing better. You have the option to ignore it if you don’t like the ideas (which are obviously mentioned quite often in this thread). If you are not interested in feedback at all, you may consider to disable the comment section.

  22. > What you call FastForward and Backward buttons ARE next and previous

    P.S.: Show them only, if there is a track list and hide them if only a single track is in the list.

  23. I tried a little the beta but I went back to the stable version because of some little problems, waiting for the official release. Il like the new UI which is convenient but I miss a lot a minimal little window whith just the bottom command bar. Il use to listen to radio streams all day long with VLC and then I don’t need all of the normal window : it takes to much place on my screen.

  24. @jb
    Oh, this was just my reaction to you comment @ShareMouse were you explained that HE/SHE got it all wrong…

    As I wrote before: I really appreciate the effort that was put into that redesign. I’d just really like to have the option to simply have the VLC 1.1.x overlay control.

    The biggest feature of the Quicktime Player 10 was a move in the direction of the old VLC while the new VLC design now moves in the direction of the old QTP/iTunes.

    I don’t mean to jump at your throat. I’m merely pretty anxious since I fear to lose VLC, one of my favorite apps.

  25. > You think stop and pause are the same?

    From the end user perspective? I would say a clear Yes, I do. It means to halt the video playback.

    The only difference I personally experienced as an end user is, that pressing Stop also returns to 00:00.

    Indeed, I didn’t reflect that network streaming vs. local file playback requires different actions. Is there no way to handle this “internally”? E.g. to disengage the stream if closing the player or if proceeding to another stream?

  26. @ShareMouse: arriving and telling people that what they do is all the mistake of the last 20 years is rude. Especially when you did not even try and test a build.


    >> is use as next by many programs, starting by iTunes!

    Hover flyout audio control makes it harder to get direct volume access, but could be tested. However, this isn’t a new thing in VLC, it was always like that, nothing to scream about.

    Appearing and disappear control are very confusing for most users and is against most HIG. That is true for random/equalizer/next and previous.

    Moreover, when watching a flick, you are probably in fullscreen, so the equalizer is not an issue then.

    Finally, on Lion, the fullscreen button is inside the top fullbar, as requested by the HIG and uses less space.

    Anyway, from “OMG OMG you are doing everything wrong, you stoopid”, we are moving to a complex discussion… So, you see, it isn’t easy…

  27. > From the end user perspective? I would say a clear Yes, I do. It means to halt the video playback.

    No, pause pauses the video on the current frame, it allows you to do frame-by-frame, seeking to a current frame and buffering for a network streams. It just means you are coming back soon (phone, loo, whatever)…

    Stop is a full stop: it means you will not go on with the file. It goes back to the playlist, empty the buffers and the selected audio/spu tracks and close all connections. It allows you to select something else to play in the playlist. If you start again, it will go back to the main menu of the DVD or so on.

  28. > arriving and telling people that what they do is all the mistake of the last 20 years is rude.

    What I meant is that the presented player design is in almost no way different as the very first media players. I saw it and thought: What the heck is new with such sort of media player layout. The is just no innovation whatsoever. However, the visual design is quite slick by the way.

    > Stop is a full stop [..]

    I understand. Is there no way to show such distinctive controls when *required* only.

    Or to look from the other side. The current design of the narrow timeline slider makes it extremely difficult to actually *use* it.

  29. I’d like to mention that while the time slider appears small in the posted screenshots, it actually much larger when playing a larger video.

    This screenshot demonstrates it:

    For small videos as the Ellen Feiss clip displayed here, we intend to add a hover time line, which will be as width as the actual video. Regrettably, that code wasn’t finished in time for VLC 2.0, but will be part of VLC 2.0.1.
    Since most of VLC’s users don’t play 480*360px content, this will probably be a minor limitation of the initial release of this interface.
    We had to stop the implementation process at some point, otherwise VLC 2.0 (which already took too long) would never have been finished.

    Additionally, I’d like to underline that the fullscreen controller panel known from previous releases is still there and clutter free. Have a look at this screenshot posted last summer to get an idea:

  30. > For small videos as the Ellen Feiss clip displayed here, we intend to add a hover time line, which will be as width as the actual video.

    I thought of such approach as well. However, it will be interesting to see how you solve the problem that the indicator will jump because of the resizing of the timeline when hovering over it. Might be tricky.

  31. > However, it will be interesting to see how you solve the problem that the indicator will jump because of the resizing of the timeline when hovering over it. Might be tricky.
    CoreAnimation will be our friend here. The actually tricky part will be supporting 10.5 for this..

    just added a few screenshots showing VLC 2.0 on Lion with the fullscreen button where it should be.

  32. @Edward: we are currently looking for a contributor to implement this. It’s a time consuming work, we couldn’t do for 2.0 in preference of a reworked interface.

    @Norton: we decided against that for space reasons. However, you can click on the time counter to switch the mode.

  33. It’s nice to get all the feedback for the interface here.

    However, please keep your language reasonable. There is no need to insult people, just because they like where we’re going with VLC for Mac or not.

  34. Is this only a UI redesign ?
    Did you change anything on the gorgeous preferences side of the software ?

  35. Don’t listen to all the haters, I think the VLC 2.0 for Mac interface looks very nice and has improved functionality.

    Are similar improvements planned for the Windows and Linux interfaces? How can we expect them to differ from the currently shipping default skin?

  36. @rgm: the default interface appearance on Windows and Linux was slightly improved for the 2.0 release as well. However, from what I’ve heard from the respective developers, a major overhaul is scheduled for the next major release after that.

  37. I’ve been using the nightly for awhile now, and can say that in practice it is still a lot like the old VLC, just prettier. You can drag and drop a movie onto the icon and it will just start playing. I mostly use VLC as a simple video player and it continues to work wonderfully for that. I’ve never used VLC much as an audio player or media library, so I can’t comment too much on how the interface revision works for that.

  38. What was that?
    3 times more cpu time while playing xvid that normal offical VLC (1.1.12)
    custom UI, ugly UI.
    Get to life guys and don’t waste your time.

  39. After readings the comments, I decided that I had to try for myself, and it couldn’t be that horrible.

    I download it, then start the app and see what it’s all about:

    – The unified UI is good idea but is done completely wrong. The use of having a playlist, or a library is to able to switch or launch quickly a movie while you are watching one.
    – This is way slower to open, and to start videos/movies, to an unacceptable point.
    – There are still some bugs or some non-working functions that I don’t really understand like Record


    – There is a better image quality, obviously VLC fined tune the filters or something. But we should have quick or simple options to choose them
    – There is a scroll bar which let you change the speed more easily
    – The video and audio equalizer are more extensive, and here they did a good thing with the integrated UI
    – You can set the track synchronization manually. I don’t know if you can repair the file or save it with this function, but it’s probably more useful than pressing H or J.

    The UI is not that horrible, in fact it doesn’t change much and the button bar should just be customizable, however the integrated Playlist/Library window is really a mistake. Also it is way to slow and bloated.
    BUT there are lots of new functionnalities or enhancements that we don’t about: Why doesn’t VLC makes a clear list of user side functionnalities except for the format support

  40. It’s perfectly fine to provide media shortcuts to people who want them but could we get the possibility to switch off this left panel and minimize the player ?

    I’m only speaking for myself but I don’t want a library access or anything like this in my player, otherwise I’d use Itunes.

  41. @ MarcoDos: as mentioned in my Q&A on VLC 2.0, we will provide a way to minimize the main window in VLC 2.0.1 🙂

  42. Yuck, had to go back to 1.1.9.

    Just put an option to switch to a minimalist interface.

  43. There is such an option. It’s called “Show video within the main window” and is located in the “Interface” category of VLC’s preferences. The resulting window is quite minimalist in the 2.0.0 release, but will be really useable in 2.0.1, as the window gets playback controls of its own.

  44. I don’t want a second iTunes. I’m staying on 1.x unti there is a new version that is just a simple player. Small, simple, efficient, no library, no playlist if I don’t want one, no scanning or tracking any files. It’s all I need so if VLC continues to go the iTunes route, mplayer will be the thing to use – the command line version!. I need simple. Drop one video, play, stop. Done.

  45. @Felix Kuhne:
    Please, just update the different parts of the UI so it’s the right approach of minimalism: minimalism is not about having to switch from one window to another every time one wants to access a critical feature, it’s about having drawers rather than floating windows, that are accessible at any time while watching the video.

    Alsol I haven’t seen benchmarks but for me VLC 2.0 was way too slow compared to the previous version which I stayed on, I hope it doesn’t take the iTunes road and becomes heavier and bloated.

  46. I can take or leave most of the new features – as many have said I don’t need a new iTunes, but the most ridiculous aspect are those pre-populated categories in the sidebar that automatically expand every time I open VLC to show me a bunch of links I’m never ever going to use.

  47. First of all, thanks for the work you put in this project! I am using VLC on various platforms for years. The new look is OK except for the lack of customization. I won’t install 2.0 before I cannot turn off the media library (sidebar). I don’t ever use this and i don’t want to have to look at (be it free) internet services. I tried reducing the size of the sidebar to 0, but my setting is not respected. Please bring back an advanced option “Use media library” as there is in 1.x. Or is there one and I simply don’t see it?


  48. @Anon: Thanks for making me aware of that. It seems like the sidebar’s size isn’t stored reliably. This will be fixed in VLC 2.0.2, which will be out this week.

  49. I actually switched back to the 1.x version after trying the 2.x out. I liked the simplicity, and the seek bar in 2.x was too narrow and the toolbar was too big IMHO.

    Besides, the 2.x version did not bring any new needed features, like remembering the last play position in a video.

    But we appreciate the effort.

  50. Two things are very annoying in the new UI. I stay with the last version (1.1.9) until this change! Things annoys me:
    1/ Vlc UI still opens library with the launch and cant remember not showing it (e.g. via settings)
    2/ The controller is at the bottom of the playlist and cant be sizeable to the smaller compact mode (also with the playlist)

    Im not too conservative, but want to have an option to use simply an compact mode without library and so on. I chosed vlc to play movie files and music also cause I miss winamp simplicity since I changed win to mac…

    Of course – its only my opinion. But I think that there is no reason for having an option using still the old UI, which I am satisfied with!

  51. The UI is very poorly thought out. For starters, few people will ever actually use the Internet services, and those who don’t, choose not to but are forced to keep them prominent in the UI. The “Enable”/”Disable” contextual menus for each of those services doesn’t do or mean anything. Disabling it doesn’t make it vanish or change anything about its appearance to make you think it’s “disabled” in any way. Going back to right-click on it again will re-activate it and the contextual menu then says “Disable” again. This makes NO SENSE.

    Since the last thing I tried to play was a 1080i file, the window is now filling my screen with a huge, pointless “drop media here” icon, while the My Music folder gives me quick access to the iTunes Album Artwork cache. Yes, it auto-opens the cache, thinking that me opening in the iTunes folder means I want to play the whole thing, starting with the Artwork cache.

    Even Apple lets you disable Ping, the Store, Genius, etc. But you militantly refuse to allow anyone to turn off anything in the Sidebar. Or even ADD anything to it, making the Sidebar itself pointless.

    Guys, you flat-out broke it, and you broke it badly. I’m not averse to change, but your new paradigm doesn’t make sense, doesn’t work the way people expect it to (the way every other Mac app works), and doesn’t give people choice any more.

    Biggest UI fail so far this year. Only reason Skype isn’t beating you is that their f**k up was introduced last year.

  52. 1) The Disable/Enable stuff is for manually enabling / disabling the underlying modules. Normal users shouldn’t need to fiddle with that.
    1.1) We had quite a bunch of users who requested more easy to use internet services, both for private and commercial reasons.
    2) Feel free to resize your window afterwards or play the video in a separate window (Interface category of VLC’s preferences), which gives you the 1.1 experience back.
    3) We can’t know what your ~/Music folder looks like, which is why we are showing it completely. Since iTunes stores its cache there for whatever reason, well, you’ll also get its cache.
    4) You can hide every element in the sidebar by clicking the respective hide button. Additionally, you can hide the sidebar completely as well. Note that both of these options won’t be saved in 2.0.1 (so, yes, it’s pointless atm), but will be in 2.0.2, which is scheduled for release this week.
    5) You probably didn’t read my post linked directly above your comment. VLC’s 2.0 interface is quite customizable already and will be even more in consecutive releases, so you can set it up the way you want, which is way more flexible than VLC ever was on the Mac.

  53. I am looking for a replacement for iTunes, tired of all the crap dealing with their trying to control my music collection. I grew up in a time when I would buy an album, tape, or CD and then I could do whatever I wanted to. VLC looks to be an awesome app, but I am struggling with the mindset here. So many people that just want to throw a video at it, watch it, then throw it away. I need something that will let me develop playlist with tracks in a specific order. I don’t want to have to wonder around my hard drive and dive 3 or 4 levels deep to find a saved playlist, I need it saved right in the app in a media library. VLC looks to be the best potential player I have seen. I just struggle with the interface differences between PC and Mac versions. I can work the PC version with no issues, I can’t navigate the Mac version to save my life. I can set up the media library, but the playlists have to be saved externally. The top menu on the PC interface is missing in the Mac version. I can find any way to skin the Mac version, but on the PC version it is easy-peasy. I think the interface looks great, I just need help with learning the app. I have searched youtube, google, and the site.

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