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Using Windows Media Center

Windows Media Center, like Windows Media Player, can play all types of media supported by Windows. However, Windows Media Center can also watch and record TV on computers equipped with a TV tuner. Because it can be used to watch and record TV, Windows Media Center is designed primarily for use with big-screen TVs and home theater systems. It includes a 10-foot UI (user interface) and support for optional infrared (IR) remote controls.

Initial Setup

Windows Media Center must be configured before you can use it. Here's how to perform initial setup.

  1. Click Start.
  2. Hover the mouse over All Programs.
  3. Click Windows Media Center.
  4. When the Windows Media Center window opens, click Continue.
  5. The Get Started dialog appears. Click Express to perform basic setup.
  6. Windows Media Center displays its main menu (see Figure 4.19). Each major category, such as Movies, Music, and so on, is often called a "stripe."
Figure 4.19

Figure 4.19 Windows Media Center's main menu.

Navigating Through Windows Media Center

You can use a mouse and keyboard or a Windows Media Center-compatible remote control with Windows Media Center. Use the following methods to navigate Windows Media Center with a mouse and keyboard:

  • To return to the main menu, click the green Windows Media Center icon at the upper-left corner of the current dialog.
  • To return to the previous dialog, click the left arrow next to the Windows Media Center icon in the upper-left corner.
  • To scroll horizontally, move the mouse to the left or right edge of the screen and click the arrow that appears.
  • To scroll vertically, use the mouse's scroll wheel.
  • To move in any direction (up/down/left/right) with the keyboard, use the directional arrows.
  • To control playback of videos or music, use the DVD/VCR-style control cluster in the lower-right corner.

Figure 4.20 illustrates the on-screen controls just listed.

Figure 4.20

Figure 4.20 Windows Media Center mouse-based navigation controls.

Setting Up Libraries

By default, Windows Media Center displays media found in the current user's Pictures, Music, and Videos libraries and recorded TV and movies folders on the current system. To add additional locations on the same computer or other computers on the network, follow these steps:

  1. Click the green Windows Media Center icon in the upper left-hand corner (if you are using a mouse), or press the Windows Media Center Home button on your Windows Media Center remote control.
  2. Click Tasks.
  3. Click Settings.
  4. Click Media Libraries.
  5. Select the media library to manage; in this example, we work with the recorded TV library (see Figure 4.21).
    Figure 4.21

    Figure 4.21 Selecting a media library.

  6. Click Next.
  7. Select whether to add or remove folders from the library.
  8. Click Next.
  9. Select where to browse for folders: This Computer; Another Computer; Manually Add a Folder (in this example, we choose Another Computer).
  10. Click Next.
  11. Scroll down to the location you want to add.
  12. Click the empty check box for the location (see Figure 4.22); you can scroll and select multiple locations in this step.
    Figure 4.22

    Figure 4.22 Adding the My Videos folder from a network computer to a Windows Media Center library.

  13. Click Next.
  14. To complete the process, click Finish.

Playing Media with Windows Media Center

The following sections discuss how to play back videos and photos from Windows Media Center. The methods in these examples are similar to those used to play back other types of media, such as recorded TV shows, music, and movies.

All TV shows, including Internet TV, live TV, recorded TV and movies recorded from broadcast, cable, and so on, are accessed from the TV menu stripe. Movies on DVD, Blu-ray (when you add a third-party Blu-ray player), or ripped from those media, are accessed from the Movie menu stripe. All music tracks on CD, ripped from CD, or downloaded from the Internet, are accessed from the Music menu stripe.

Video Playback

Videos other than those recorded from TV are viewed in the Video Library section. To view videos from the main menu:

  1. Click Pictures + Videos.
  2. Click Video Library.
  3. Click the wanted view: Folders, Date Taken, or Shared.
  4. Highlight an item to see details (see Figure 4.23).
    Figure 4.23

    Figure 4.23 Selecting a video in the Video Library's default Folders view.

  5. Navigate to the video you want to play, and click it.
  6. To play all videos in the current view, click Play All.

Viewing Photos

Digital pictures and scanned photos are viewed in the Picture Library section of the Pictures + Videos task. To view pictures from the main menu:

  1. Click Pictures + Videos.
  2. Click Picture Library.
  3. Click the wanted view: Folders, Tags, Date Taken, Ratings, Slide Shows, or Shared. Figure 4.24 illustrates a typical Date Taken view.
    Figure 4.24

    Figure 4.24 Viewing Picture Library by Date Taken.

  4. Click to navigate to the specific item you want to view.
  5. Click a photo to view it individually.
  6. To view all photos in the current view, click Play Slide Show.
  7. To stop playback, press the Esc key or click the square Stop button in the media playback control cluster (see Figure 4.20).
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