Get started with Zune Desktop on Windows Phone and the Nokia Lumia 800
Just picked up a Nokia Lumia 800 or another brand new Windows Phone? Here’s our guide to getting started with the Zune Desktop app.
Created at first as a competitor to Apple’s iTunes and iPods, Microsoft’s Zune software has been through a rocky few years. But it’s now pretty mature and, with the rise of Microsoft’s SkyDrive and Windows Phone 7, makes for a well managed interface between Windows media and your shiny new smartphone. Having said all that, many of its functions are best off managed directly from the phone and, in addition, there are a few notes and gotchas to be aware of when
using Zune Desktop – here are some pointers if you’re new to the Windows Phone platform and its Windows (media-centric) connectivity software.
Step 1: Platforms and requisites
There are huge caveats before we start. Obviously, you’ve got to have a PC running Windows. Ideally Windows 7 – if you have Vista then there’s an extra ‘Platform pack’ that you’ll be prompted to install when you first try to do something interesting in Zune Desktop. Secondly, Zune Desktop (which you should grab directly from zune.net, rather than using a CD that might have come with your phone) takes a while to install fully. Allow a good 30 minutes. Thirdly, so does Microsoft Live Essentials, which is also needed, if you haven’t got it on your hard disk already. Allow another 30 minutes.
Step 2: Commercial interests
Next, bear in mind Zune Desktop’s origins and Microsoft’s commercial intentions – Zune Desktop is fully functional in many areas but is most definitely slanted towards media and towards getting you to buy (or, in some cases, rent) apps, DRM-ed music, videos and more from Microsoft’s Marketplace. You’ll probably want to do some buying anyway, so all this commercialism isn’t necessarily a problem, but we wanted to warn you anyway. Zune Desktop may act a little fast and loose with your online wallet!
Step 3: Eye candy
An hour or two (and a few cups of tea) later, you’re up and running and admiring the eye candy that characterises Zune Desktop. In many ways, it’s done to mirror the Metro UI in Windows Phone 7 itself, with sliding panes, thumbnails of your content as playback window backdrops, and plenty of drag and drop. Zune Desktop’s core modules are ‘quickplay’, ‘collection’, ‘marketplace’, ‘social’ and ‘phone’, each of which we’ll dive into below.
Step 4: ‘quickplay’
‘quickplay’ is for people choosing to use Zune Desktop as their primary media player. OK, that’s possibly unlikely, but note for now that you can right click on any media item and choose ‘Pin to Quickplay’, giving you a bookmark system for favourite videos, photos and tracks.
Step 5: Windows media content
‘collection’ is where most of your media (on your Windows PC) is catalogued, here showing the music files found. Note the tabs for videos, pictures and podcasts. It’s a competent organisational system, so have a browse around.
Step 6: Video handling
If media on your PC isn’t picked up automatically, you can drag and drop it into the Zune Desktop window or (failing that) into the ready made ‘Zune’ shortcuts in Windows Explorer. There’s another caveat to note here in that these videos aren’t the files that your phone will end up playing – Zune Desktop transcodes everything down to lower resolution and bitrate to save space on the phone. This does introduce a delay later on when syncing your phone as you’ve got to wait for this process to finish.
Step 7: Sharing a photo from Zune Desktop
If you’ve created media on your Windows Phone then it’ll appear in these tabs, ready for onward sharing. For example, to share a photo you’ve taken (here displayed in ‘pictures’), click on the pop-up icon labelled ‘Edit and share with Windows Live Photo Gallery’.
Step 8: SkyDrive upload
Your photo then gets uploaded to your SkyDrive account and you can highlight any images there and ‘Share’ them with the world. Unfortunately, any descriptions and tags from Windows Live Photo Gallery seem to get lost, but perhaps this is a glitch that Microsoft can fix. You’ll be given the chance to choose to share at full resolution (recommended, as this is something that can’t currently be done on the phone).
Step 9: Your photo in place
And here’s the uploaded image in place in your Photos stash on Windows Live in the cloud. It’s true that this whole process could involve less steps, let’s see how the software evolves.
Step 10: Podcasts too
There’s also a (rudimentary) ‘podcasts’ section of ‘collection’, where you can paste in the RSS feed URLs of podcasts you love and they’ll be auto-gathered and synced later to your phone. There’s no podcast directory, mind you, so you’ll have to look up and type (or paste) in the right addresses to get started.
Step 11: Buying and renting things
‘marketplace’ is the main place in Zune Desktop where you buy stuff, of course. For example, click on ‘videos’ and you can then browse through commercial films, view their trailers and then buy or rent them online in either desktop-optimised or device-optimised formats. Note that the ‘search’ box at the top right of Zune Desktop works right across all content types in ‘marketplace’ and is a good way to find items that match a certain name (see also main image, left).
Step 12: ‘social’ and ‘phone’
Finally, ‘social’ is a messaging and contacts system that seems geared towards Xbox gamers and Zune music users (you’re identified as ‘PLAYER8272792′ etc.) and is probably best left alone for casual smartphone users. ‘phone’ is the final module and only appears when your Windows Phone is connected, showing the media items it currently contains. For photos, videos etc. that aren’t synced automatically, you can drag and drop content onto the phone icon at the bottom-left of the screen, which appears when the device is connected.
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