Since I didn’t give you all an App of the Week last week (Sorry – finals took up all my time), I’m going to deliver a double dose of App of the Week as an early present for all you HackCollege readers out there. Beyond email, browsing the web, and writing research papers, I’m sure many of you also use your computers to listen to and watch your favorite content. If you’re looking for a media player that can do it all and decode any type of file you throw at it, look no further than VLC media player, this week’s App of the Week.

Platform Availability: Windows 2000 and up, Mac OS X 10.5 and up and Ubuntu 10.10 – Maverick Meerkat and up. VLC media player is also available on a litany of other Linux distributions and more obscure operating systems. If it’s out there, chances are that VLC supports it.

Cost: $0. Find the download link for your OS here.

What it is: VLC media player is a simple, powerful, and fast media player that can play pretty much any type of media file you throw at it. Not only does it play many different file formats, but it does so right out of the box, meaning that you don’t have to download any special codecs to get your files up and running!

What it Does: Play files, discs, webcams, and streams. Here’s a list of all the file formats it supports: MPEG (ES, PS, TS, PVA, MP3), AVI, ASF / WMV / WMA, MP4 / MOV / 3GP, OGG / OGM / Annodex, Matroska (MKV), Real, WAV (including DTS), Raw Audio: DTS, AAC, AC3/A52, Raw DV, FLAC, FLV (Flash), MXF, Nut, Standard MIDI / SMF, and Creative™ Voice.

Features: Simple File Compatibility – It’s incredibly wonderful to discover software that just works without any configuration issues pretty much every single time. As you can see from the list above, VLC has incredible support for a very diverse set of file formats – all without having to download separate codecs! This is by far my favorite feature of VLC.

Play Incomplete/Damaged Files – VLC reads data in packets, granting it the ability to play incomplete or damaged files. This is very cool and useful if you’ve found an old file on your hard drive that’s been corrupted for whatever reason. Save all your old media!

Subtitle Support – If you watch Japanese Anime or foreign movies and you don’t speak that language, subtitles are pretty much essential. Just like its wide-reaching file format support, VLC can read a whole bunch of subtitle files. If you’re interested, check out the whole list.

Skins – Hate the way VLC looks by default? Check out VLC’s skins page to download whatever catches your eye.

The Competition: There are tons of media players out there, and here are a few I think are worth mentioning.

Media Player Classic Home Cinema – Free – Windows Only

MPlayer – Free – Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux

K-Multimedia Player – Free – Windows Only

Why the Featured App is Best: While KMPlayer is incredibly powerful and gives you many, many options on how customizing your video/audio output, they really are overkill for the majority of users. If you just want a media player that works without having to change any settings, go with VLC. Media Player Classic is also very extensible, but unfortunately it’s Windows only while VLC is cross-platform. Finally, MPlayer works on as many OS’s as VLC, but you often need to compile it, and it’s pretty archaic for most users.

Summary: For its combination of simplicity yet incredible OS, media type, and file format support, VLC is simply the best media player out there for most folks.

What are your favorite VLC features? Are there any media players that you like better than VLC? Let us know in the comments!