It might seem a little odd that Microsoft has chosen not to include a DVD playing application in Windows 8 for free, but there’s a great alternative application that you can use to play all sorts of video files and, best of all, it's completely free.

VLC Media Player is an incredible little application that can play just about any video or audio file you throw at it. The interface is really simple to use and takes just a few minutes to get to grips with. Of course, that VLC will play your DVDs without you having to shell out up to £99 for the Windows 8 Media Centre Pack so that you can do that in Windows 8 is just one benefit of the app.

Though VLC Media Player is completely free it’s very flexible and well designed with loads of useful features built-in. You can control all manner of video playback options such as aspect ratio and subtitles or cropping, you can have the video display full screen or in a window and control other things like audio performance and setup.

Once you dig a little deeper into the application you’ll find the level of control you have over video and audio quite dizzying. You can fine tune video with options to control brightness, contrast, gamma as well as sharpness and film grain. There’s a graphic equalizer for audio control that will allow you to nudge at every level in every spectrum until you have the sound precisely as you need it. This is just a flavour of the options available too as there’s simply not enough space to go into all the controls that VLC gives you over your video files.

If you don’t like the interface there are a number of ‘skins’ available to change the look and feel of the application, a simple web search will find many of these. For free there really is no better alternative than VLC Media Player and it’s one of the few truly must have applications out there.

This article is part of the Dell Tech Zone series. Click here for more