Displaying a webpage inside Windows 7 Media Centre

There may be times when you want to view a webpage through Media Centre, for example to view local weather or cinema listings, and this is something that is easily achievable. This post will take you through the steps, and whilst I’ve used Windows 7 for my screenshots the same technique works on Windows XP Media Centre Edition as well.

The webpage

The first thing to do is to get the URL of the webpage that you’re after. Media Centre will use Internet Explorer to render the page, so it must be a page that works properly with the version installed on your PC. The other thing to remember is that whilst Media Centre is happy to display webpages, you cannot navigate around once it’s been displayed. You can only use the arrow keys to scroll left/right/up/down as appropriate.

The MCL file

In order for Media Centre to know about the webpage a specifically formatted XML file needs creating. I shall use an example to show my local cinema listings and then go through the pieces that need to be set:

<application url=”http://cinema.msn.press.net/venue.php?venueid=notsho#whatson”
name=”Showcase”
bgcolor=”RGB(255,255,255)”
startimage=”.\projector.png”
thumbnailImage=”.\projector.png”
sharedviewport=”false”>
</application>

  • The url is the exact address of the webpage you want to display, all on one line.
  • Name is the text you want to appear next to the item in Media Centre
  • bgcolor is the background colour that should be used when displaying the webpage. I’ve used plain white, but you can use any colour you like by setting the appropriate Red, Green and Blue values.
  • startimage and thumbnailimage are both paths to a PNG format image that you want to use as the icon within Media Centre. If needed you can use Windows Paint to save the image as a PNG.

Saving a picture as PNG in Windows Paint

  • sharedviewport is used to control the behaviour of any video that is playing at the time. Setting it to “false” is equivalent to pressing the stop button.

This file should be saved as a .mcl file, my example file is called “showcase.mcl”. Save both .mcl and .png files in the following location, depending on which version of Windows you have and whether you want the webpage accessible to all users on this Media Centre computer, including to extenders, or just to one specific user:

Windows XP Media Centre Edition For all users:

C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\Programs\Accessories\Media Center\Media Center Programs 

For one specific user:

C:\Documents and Settings\<username>\Start Menu\Programs\Accessories\Media Center\Media Center Programs

Windows 7 For all users:

C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Accessories\Media Center\Media Center Programs 

For one specific user:

C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Accessories\Media Center\Media Center Programs

Depending on your personal settings you may need to show hidden files in order to browse to this location in Windows Explorer. On Windows 7 you will probably also need to create the last two folders.

Viewing the webpage

To use your newly created webpage link start up Media Centre and go up to the Extras Library where you will find your icon.

Media Centre Extras Library showing icon for newly added webpage

Simply click on it and Media Centre will load the page.

On your first time viewing a webpage through Media Centre you are likely to encounter a pop up message telling you that this page wasn’t designed for Media Centre. I suggest just choosing the “Don’t ask me this again” option and pressing View Now. It’s basically a warning that you won’t be able to navigate around a regular webpage through Media Centre, but since you carefully chose the page you want (didn’t you?) this won’t be an issue.

Media Centre prompt

You may also like to right click the icon (or press i on the remote) and choose to “Add to Start Menu”. This will place a copy of the icon onto the Extras menu and mean that you don’t need to go into the Extras Library to use it again.

 

image

image

 

 

All done!

That’s it. Use the file above as a template to modify for the webpages you want, save and use.

 

*Just one proviso…

Microsoft has deprecated the use of .mcl files to add items to Media Centre, so whilst they still work in Windows 7 there is every possibility that some future version of Media Centre will remove the functionality. There is an alternative supported method which, whilst not terribly hard, is a lot more hassle than saving a file in the right place and having everything “just work”.

About the author mark1234:
TDL writer and lover of the digital lifestyle
  • byronomo
    Great article….a few questions:

    1)Is it possible to add the ability to do some basic navigation/selection ability to this method in the future or is WMC totally locked down by Microsoft in this regard.
    2) should websites using flash display correctly in WMC using this method?

    Ultimately where I’m going with this is that I’d like to be able to use Sling.com from within Media Center to access my Slingbox.

  • mark1234
    Hi, thanks for the feedback.

    1) I think it’s locked down without hope of change. Even if you have a mouse attached and use it to click on a link then Media Centre just ignores you.

    2) As long as you have Flash installed then it should display just fine. The page should look exactly like it would in IE. Might not be so good on an extender though.

  • halcion1
    I use Mozilla Prism and Media Center Studio to get around the issues with navigation and offer a little more flexibility. I created a YouTube tutorial on this here:

    http://www.youtube.com/rix480#p/a/u/1/fQJhklk98GU

  • TV_MCE
    Hi and thanks for the artiicle. I was trying to set up youtube/leanback for use within MCE. I created the .mcl file and .png file as explained in the article and created the dirs for them in C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Accessories\Media Center\Media Center Programs. However, the icon and application do not show up in the Extras Library. I have Win 7 SP1 with IE9. Any help with what might be wrong would be appreciated.
    • mark1234
      If you look closely at the mcl then the quotes are not simple straight ones, but have been 66/99d when I typed the article up in Word originally. Change them to straight quotes and it’ll work. I’ll see if I can correct them in the blog post as well, and also see if I can get the pictures restored.

      Sorry about that.

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