You might be interested in the approach I have used to integrate a set of Ten Foot products:

  • Browser
  • Mail reader
  • Launcher
  • File manager
  • Program manager…

… with MCE.  I have built them all as stand-alone products that work with the standard MCE remote and which resize themselves dynamically to make the best use of the available screen.

Instead of creating them as MCE add-ins, I developed the Launcher which sits in the background listening for one of two hot buttons.  If you double-press the grey teletext button or the more info button, the Launcher activates minimising MCE at the same time (otherwise it tends to try to grab back the focus from running programs).  I can return to MCE at any time by pressing the Green button (or one of the other ‘menu’ buttons).  The Launcher can run any of the other Ten Foot products or any other programs you add to it.  For example, I use GB-PVR to watch and record Freeview so I have configured the Launcher to run GB-PVR.  I can switch backwards and forwards between MCE, GB-PVR and any of the Ten Foot products all without having to get up from my armchair.

There are several benefits to this approach:

  • The products work with MCE, any other media centre software or even if you do not have any media centre software running.
  • I get much better control of the screen and OS resources than I would with an add-in so I get more flexibility to deliver the services I want to provide.
  • People can switch between MCE and, say, the Browser and back again without losing their place.  They can browse the web during the ad break and switch back to MCE when the break is over.  At the next ad break they can go back to the browser and pick up exactly where they left off.
  • I find it easier to double-press a key than to navigate to the ‘More programs’ menu.
  • Anyone can add new facilities without having to create an MCE installer for each one.

There are some disadvantages:

  • Obviously, the approach works well because I don’t need to make use of MCE resources in my utilities.  There are clearly many features that could not be integrated this way. 
  • I can’t display the small window to let me continue to watch TV while I’m using one of the utilities (personally, I prefer to see web pages full screen; I still get to hear the current broadcast, DVD or music).
  • Double-pressing does have an effect on MCE, but double-pressing the default buttons tends to cancel out (the More button, for example, is usually cancelled when you press More a second time).

If you’re interested in seeing more, the product web site is

I’m interested in hearing what you think of this approach.

Andy Henderson

0 thoughts on “A different approach to integrating software with MCE”
  1. Some additional disadvantages…

    1) You miss out on all the features of the Windows Media Center API (PlayMedia, Dialog, Click To Record, among others).

    2) Doesn’t run on XBox 360 Media Center Extender.

    3) Doesn’t provide the UI goodness of Media Center Markup Language.

     We’ve seen folks take this approach (including the Games team) and found it largely does not work for the end user.

    The Windows Media Center Presentation Layer has a tough learning curve, and you can’t use HTML within — but it will give you the best user experience possible for the consumer.

    Charlie Owen, Microsoft Corporation

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