Understanding media file formats can be rather like measuring spaghetti or trying to insert a USB device: no matter what you do, you’re doing it wrong. If you’ve ever had a PNG when you needed a JPEG, or wished for an MP4 when all you have is a WMV, Format Factory is the tool for you.
Type: File converter
Developer: Free Time (opens in new tab)
Operating system: Windows
Everybody who uses media files needs a decent file converter, and Format Factory is particularly good for people using photos, music or video files. You can convert music files to or from MP3, WMA, OGG, AAC, WAV and more, video to or from MP4, 3GP, AVI, WMV, SWF and others, and convert images from or to JPG, BMP, PNG, TIF and even Google’s WebP format.
You can rip music directly to an audio file, and rip unprotected DVDs to video. It’s particularly useful if you want to convert files to run on phones and other mobile devices, with support for 3GP and various other mobile video formats.
This would all be for naught if the interface were confusing or complex, but it isn’t; Format Factory is simple and straightforward, and an excellent addition to any PC.
While installing Format Factory, you’ll be prompted to install Chromium Browser and the Search Manager extension for Chrome. If you’d rather give these a miss, uncheck all available boxes before clicking ‘Next’. Once it’s done, you’ll be asked if you want to install Picomos Picture Tools; again, uncheck the appropriate box if you want to skip it. We recomemnd leaving ‘Install Format Factory to system menu’ checked, as this enables you to convert files from within File Explorer or on your desktop.
Batch conversion with Format Factory is a piece of cake. First, use the buttons on the left-hand side to pick the format you want to convert to. Format Factory can convert video, audio, image and ebook files, and rip media from CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs.
Once that’s done, select the files to be converted and tweak the export options if necessary. Format Factory's output settings give you a huge choice of advanced encoding tools, which you can adjust to create a custom profile for future use.
You can also choose from various preset options, though these aren’t tailored for specific devices, so if you want to convert a video for your smartphone you’ll need to do a little homework first to work out what format is best.
If you're converting videos, Format Factory's strangely named ‘Option’ button contains a handy mini editor that lets you choose start and end points, or crop the video as it’s converted – a thoughtful little addition that shows how much care has gone into making Format Factory a practical, useful tool.
Finally, Format Factory offers a set of tools under the heading ‘Utilities’, including a batch file renamer, audio and video file joiners. There’s also a mix tool for combining multiple audio files, and a mux utility for adding a new audio stream to a video – extremely handy if you want to apply background music to a clip.
Format Factory is incredibly useful for wrangling files of all types, and its context menu support means it’s accessible with a single click. Highly recommended.