Windows Media Center is an application that was introduced to Windows from Vista onwards. Media center allows us to view movies, listen to music, play windows games, view pictures, listen to radio and watch internet tv. Though media center provides total entertainment package, it is not commonly used by most of the users. But now you can customize it’s interface and more features reading emails, viewing Facebook friend’s albums and watch favorite videos from YouTube, DailyMotion and SoapBox. Now let us take a look on how we can perform these actions.
Customize Windows Media Center Interface
Media Center Studio is a freeware application that allows you to change media center default blue background image with your favorite image of jpg and png formats only. These changes are made by creating separate themes and customizing them accordingly. It also provides options to change font size of different menu items and changing color combination of various tabs.
With this application you can change almost all images preset in media center. Suppose you want to change the background then you have to go to Images-> common-> Background-> COMMON.ANIMATED.BACKGROUND.PNG and change this image with image of your choice. Likewise there are other images under several category that can be changed. You can also add or remove menu items and create new menu straps. Once you are satisfied with the changes made the theme can be saved and applied.
Media Center Studio application works fine and effectively, but as it is still in beta stages and there is a restriction on applying themes while media center is open.
Adding Extra Features
Now that you have customized windows media center, why not add some extra features to it? We have already written about SecondRun.tv, a small handy plugin to view various network streams on media center. Installed third party plugins can be found in Extras section in media center. so here are few more plugins to extend media center functionality.
Photato adds facebook album view capability to media center. With this plugin you can view your albums, search for friend’s album alphabetically and view tagged photos. Selected album is played as slideshow in full screen. Apart from viewing albums, you will also get information on the creation and last updated dates.
Media center Mail is a small plugin that allows you to read your email account on media center. Unlike other plugins that work directly in media center with out any configuration, media center mail requires to be configured on desktop first before you can use it in media center. These settings are adding email server address, your username and password. These settings are same as those required to setup outlook or any desktop email client. You can also associate an image to be displayed for the user. Only operations that you can perform are reading mails, marking them as unread and deleting mails. You will need a free activation code to unlock media center mail for the first time.
Macro Tube enables you to watch streaming videos from popular networks like YouTube, Dailymotion and soapbox. You can select any of the providers and search for video category of your interest. If you do not get the video by browsing among the categories macro tube provides an advance search option to get them. Selecting the video file and clicking on it will play it with option of viewing full screen.
All these plugins are specially helpful as you can view and control these on your television. Customizing media center to get the desired looks and Viewing Facebook albums, reading emails, watching favorite streaming videos on television through media center is an experience that you will never want to miss.