While office and image editing tools are usually able to open a very wide range of different files formats – there are very few image editors that force you to work in only the JPEG format, or office suites that will only open RTF files – the same cannot be said of media players. Out of the box, most media players have fairly limited support for different files, and this is why codecs are needed.
Windows 8 Codecs is a collection of audio and video codecs that helps to ensure that you will be able to open and play a wide range of files. Codec packs used to be notorious for causing conflicts and generally being more trouble than they were worth, but this collection just goes to show that things have moved on a great deal and the number of supported file formats and variants is impressive.
If you are experiencing problems with any particular file type, or you just like to be fully in control over how different files are used, you can use the settings application to configure a range of codec settings. There are some interesting features such as full-color thumbnails for all support video types, the ability to easily enable and disable codecs as and when required, and preview pane support for a wider range of video formats.
During the installation of the codec, watch out for the browser toolbar that is also included or you may find unwanted changes are made to your web browser. It’s also worth bearing in mind that Windows 8 Codecs will remove many other codec packs during its own installation – full details of what is uninstalled can be found at the program web site.