A new feature to Windows Vista is the Volume Mixer which allows users to choose the volume for any application that is running. In Windows XP there is only one single control for all sounds which means that you could find yourself constantly making adjustments. This is why the volume mixer in Vista is so convenient, yet many users don’t even know that it’s there. To access the Volume Mixer, just right-click on the speaker icon in your system tray and select “Open Volume Mixer.” You’ll notice that there is a master control for the device and then individual volume controls for each application that is running.

Vista Volume Mixer

If you increase the device volume, it adjusts the volume for your applications proportional to what they were set to.  For example- as shown above, I raised the volume for Google Talk to the maximum.  Windows Media Player was set to about half of the speaker volume, and the Windows Sounds were the lowest. When I adjusted the main volume, each application volume adjusted accordingly.

So now you’re probably wondering when you’d actually use this.  Say that you wanted to play your music quietly in the background while you were talking to a friend on Google Talk.  You could set it so that Google Talk is always twice as loud as Media Player so that you’ll be able to hear your music faintly in the background, and hear the person that you’re talking to loud and clear. If you want to mute a program entirely, you have that option as well. Should you change the output device from speakers to headphones, you’ll need to readjust the volume for each application again.