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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

WishLists, Advanced and Otherwise

One of the most powerful features of TiVo is its WishList capability (see Figure 3.4). Here you move beyond specific programs you know you want to record, and shows that TiVo thinks you might like, to creating search-based recording requests on show and movie titles, actors, directors, categories, and keywords. With these WishLists stored in the TiVo software, your TiVo will continue to look for matches and will record anything that fits your list criteria (for WishList where you've requested auto-recording).

Figure 3.4Figure 3.4 The regular TiVo WishList screen.

We won't go into the basics of creating and maintaining WishLists here; you can find that information in your TiVo Viewer's Guide. We'll only cover a few tips and tricks you may not know about.

  • Think like an Internet search engine when you're creating your keyword-heavy WishLists. Try to guess which words and phrases will appear in show descriptions (pay attention to show descriptions as you use your TiVo to see how shows you like are usually described). As with most search engines, WishLists are very literal, so you'll get back good "hits" based on well-crafted search strings.

  • Use the categories/subcategories in WishLists. Here's an example: The booted off Survivor cast members usually make the talk show rounds the day after their torch is extinguished for the last time. If you wanted to catch these appearances, and you entered in Survivor as a Keyword WishList, you'd scoop up everything on TV that has that word in the program title or description. By creating a Keyword WishList for the word "Survivor" and then choosing a program category "Talk Show" (which you are offered after you've created the keyword list), you'll get only talk shows in which the word "Survivor" appears in the show description. You may end up with a few shark bite and avalanche survivor segments on the Today Show, but you'll also get to see every appearance of what David Letterman likes to call "the parade of Survivor losers."

  • Don't forget the special-use buttons when creating your keyword search strings in a WishList text-entry box: The Pause button on your remote is used for creating quotation marks (to constrain a search phrase), the Forward button enters a space, the Back button is used to delete characters one at a time, and the Clear button deletes everything in the box. The Slow button will create a "wildcard" asterisk (*). If you're a computer user (wait, who isn't a computer user at this point?), you're probably familiar with the use of the asterisk wildcard to find everything after a partial word (for example, every* would find everything, everybody, everywhere, and so forth). Creative use of this wildcard can yield some interesting results. If you're an auto, racing, motorcycle nut, moto* will hunt down motocross, motorcycle, motorboat, Motorweek, MotoWorld, motor sports, motor racing, and of course, the sledgehammered song stylings of hard rock anti-heroes Motorhead.

  • Remember that hyphens (-), colons (:), periods (.) and slashes (/) are not used in search strings. If they're in a show title or keyword description, just enter a space where these characters would normally go. For apostrophes (') and ampersands (&), close up the space (the 11 O'Clock News becomes 11 OCLOCK NEWS).

  • TiVo prioritizes what it's going to record next, working from your Season Pass Manager list, which includes auto-record WishList items. If there's a conflict, TiVo will go with what's higher on the list, if a WishList and regular Season Pass item conflict with each other. So, if you have a Season Pass for Alias, but have also created a Director WishList for Tim Burton movies, and Alias is lower in your SP queue, TiVo's going to record that Edward Scissorhands showing over your beloved Alias. To avoid this, make sure that your most desired programs are always at the top of your Season Pass queue.

  • If you're big on movie premieres, preview shows, and TV pilots, create Keyword WishLists for these words ("premiere," "preview," and "pilot").

  • Don't forget to set up keyword lists for all of your interests and hobbies. However obscure they are (model railroading, Hummel figurine collecting, Japanese gardens, sock puppetry). There are lots of channels these days. Eventually, TiVo may find a program that has what you're looking for.

  • You're on the phone talking to someone, yammering on about films, and they say "Oh my God, I can't believe you've never seen <name of film goes here>!" Tell him he's a pretentious snob, hang up, and then make a Title WishList for the film in question. If it shows up on TV, it'll show up in TiVo. And then the next time you're on the phone with a different friend, you'll get to say, "Oh my God, you cultural wasteland. I can't believe you've never seen <name of film goes here>!"

  • If there's a program that you're just crazy about and you don't want to miss it or anything associated with it, it's best to create an auto-record Title WishList rather than a Season Pass. For instance, if you had a Season Pass for Survivor, you'd get all of the regularly recorded episodes on CBS, but miss the Survivor MTV special. This feature becomes a "bug" if you only want first-run programs. For instance, if you create a Title WishList for NYPD Blue, it will record both the new episodes on ABC and the Caruso-era re-runs on FX.

  • One of the great uses of Keyword WishLists is for recording performances by bands that you like. Create a WishList for each artist, and wherever they appear on TV (if they're listed in the show description), TiVo will show them in your WishList queue (or auto-record them if requested).


All TiVo program listings include the first-run date of the shows. You can use wildcards on the dates to search for (or record) programming from a particular era. Let's say you're into suspense films from the 1950s. To find any that are scheduled, you would create a Keyword WishList for 195* under the Category Movies and the sub-category Suspense.

Enabling Advanced WishLists

WishLists are a wonderful TiVo feature, but they have their limitations. What if you want to search for a certain director AND a particular actor in a particular genre? With regular WishLists you can't do this, but TiVo has an undocumented feature called Advanced WishLists. Turning on this feature involves either a few carefully entered codes or a deep, slightly harrowing spelunk into the heart of your TiVo operating system, depending on which OS version you have.

The first thing you'll need to do to activate Advanced WishLists is to enable what's called TiVo's "Backdoors" or "Backdoor Mode." How to do this is discussed in detail in Chapter 5, "I'm Your Backdoor Code." Skip ahead to that chapter and return here when backdoors are enabled. The "secret" codes for enabling backdoors are known for TiVo operating systems up to version 3.0 and are printed in Chapter 5. If your TiVo OS is 3.1 or higher (as with a Series 2), you've unfortunately got a lot of hardware and software hacking to do to unearth TiVo's hidden treasures. We won't be covering this procedure explicitly in this book, but we'll point you to the appropriate resources in Chapter 5.

Once you have backdoors enabled, to turn on Advanced WishLists, all you have to do is go to the regular WishLists feature: TiVo Central -> Programs to Record -> Search Using WishLists, select Create New WishList, and then press 0 on your remote. You will be taken to the Advanced WishLists screen (see Figure 3.5).

Figure 3.5Figure 3.5 The Advanced WishList screen.

Permanently Enabling Advanced WishLists

With backdoors enabled, you can always access Advanced WishLists by hitting "0" from inside the WishLists feature, but there's also a way of permanently turning this advanced feature on. This involves accessing something called TiVo's Node Navigator. The Node Navigator is a part of TiVo's software that you were never meant to see or mess with. Basically it's sort of like a backstage entrance to all of the menus in TiVo's software. Unfortunately, these back entrances are not labeled; they're simply a list of numbers. Mucking around in them can be extremely dangerous, so unless you have a complete backup of your TiVo software (see Chapter 18, "TiVo Utilities" for details), you want to be extremely cautious. If you are careful and follow these instructions to the letter, you should be okay.


A little Que lawyer has just popped up on our shoulder to remind us to warn you of the dangers of traipsing around where you don't belong inside TiVo's sensitive bits. To be 100% safe, you really should do a backup of your TiVo software before cavorting about in the Node Navigator. If you don't, and your TiVo suddenly becomes a high-tech boat anchor, please don't send us threatening email.

  1. To access the Node Navigator (after backdoors are enabled), press the following sequence on your remote control:

  2. Clear -> Enter -> Clear -> 6

  3. Once you see the Node Navigator menu (see Figure 3.6), scroll through the numbered list to item number 30. Press Select.

  4. Figure 3.6Figure 3.6 What the Node Navigator looks like.

  5. You are now looking at the Node Navigator's WishList Options menu (see Figure 3.7). Select Expert.

Figure 3.7Figure 3.7 The WishList Options menu.

If you decide not to make changes to one of the nodes, simply press the TiVoGuy button to get out of the Node Navigator.

Now when you go to WishLists, the last item on the WishList screen should be Advanced WishList (you may have to scroll down the screen to see it in the menu choices).

Using Advanced WishLists

Basically the big benefit of Advanced WishLists is the addition of the AND and OR operators in search strings. Let's create an Advanced WishList item to show how this works. Let's say that we want to find all sci-fi/fantasy films directed by Tim Burton and starring either Johnny Depp or Christina Ricci (or both). Here's how we'd set that up:

  1. From TiVo Central, we go to Pick Programs to Record -> Search Using WishLists -> Create New WishList.

  2. From the Create WishList screen, we'd choose Advanced WishList (found at the bottom of the screen). If you don't have Advanced WishLists permanently enabled, you need to press "0" from within the Create New WishList screen to access Advanced WishList.

  3. On the Advanced WishList screen, we choose Select Genre and scroll down to Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Under the Sub-Genre menu, we'd choose Don't Select Sub-Genre.

  4. Back at the Advanced WishList screen, we'd choose Add Director, and then use the text-entry box (known among TiVo users as the "Ouija Screen") to find Tim Burton. Found and selected, we're taken back to the Advanced WishList screen (see Figure 3.8).

  5. Figure 3.8Figure 3.8 Entering the first search variable for our list.

  6. Selecting Add Actor takes us back to the Ouija Screen where we'd type out Depp, and select Depp, Johnny from the Actor list.

  7. We'd repeat the process to find Ricci, Christina.

Back at the Advanced WishList screen, we'd choose Edit list, scroll down to Burton, Tim, and give him a Thumbs Up. What this does is make him required in the search results (see Figure 3.9). With this complete, we'd use the back direction arrow to return to the Create WishList screen and choose Done Creating WishList.

Figure 3.9Figure 3.9 Making Tim Burton the required variable in our advanced search.

What we've done here is to create a search engine-like Boolean string that would look something like this if it was in a search engine:

Sci-fi/Fantasy AND "Tim Burton" AND ("Johnny Depp" OR "Christina Ricci")

Nifty, eh? Unfortunately, there isn't a NOT operator available in Advance WishLists, so you couldn't, for instance, add NOT "Sleepy Hollow" to this item.


Another cool feature of Advanced WishLists is that you can rename your list. If you create an AWL search string that's really long, it can look unsightly in your WishList and Season Pass lists. After creating your list, go to the main WishList screen, choose the WishList item, then "Edit Advance WishList" and "Rename WishList." Type in whatever title you like. In our case, we might say Burton Depp Ricci.

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