If you are a Windows Media Center user, you’ll really want to check out Media Browser. The Media Browser plug-in for Windows Media Center takes your digital media files and displays them in a visually appealing, user friendly interface, complete with images and metadata.
- Windows 7 or Vista
- Microsoft .Net 3.5 Framework
Preparing your Media Files
For Media Browser to be able to automatically download images and metadata for your media libraries, your files will have to be correctly named. For example, if you have an mp4 file of the movie Batman Begins, it needs to be named Batman Begins.mp4. It cannot be Batmanbegins.mp4 or Batman-begins.mp4. Otherwise, it’s unlikely that Media Browser will display images and metadata. If you find some of your files aren’t pulling cover art or metadata, double-check the official title of the media on a site like IMBD.com.
TV Show files
TV show files are handled a bit differently. Every TV series in your collection must have a main folder with the show’s name and individual subfolders for each season.
Here is an example of folder structure and supported naming conventions.
- TV Shows\South Park\Season 1\s01e01 – episode 1.mp4
- TV Shows\South Park\Season 1\South Park 1×01 – episode 1.mp4
- TV Shows\South Park\Season 1\101 – episode 1.mp4
Note: You need to always have a Season 1 folder even if the show only has only one season. If you have several seasons of a particular show, but don’t happen to have Season 1, simply create a blank season 1 folder. Without a season 1 folder, other seasons will not display properly.
Installation and Configuration
Download and run the latest Media Browser .msi file by taking the defaults. (Download link below) When you reach the final window, leave the “Configure initial settings” box checked, and click “Finish.”
You may get a pop up window informing you that folder permissions are not set correctly for Media Browser. Click “Yes.”
Adding Your Media
The Browser Configuration Tool should have opened automatically. If not, you can open it by going to Start > All Programs > Media Browser > Media Browser Configuration Wizard.
To begin adding media files, click “Add.”
Browse for a folder that contains media files and click “OK.” Here we are adding a folder with a group of movie files.
You can add multiple folders to each media library. For example, if you have movie files stored in 4 or 5 different folders, you can add them all under a single library in Media Browser. To add additional folders, click the “Add” button on the right side under your currently added folder.
The “Add” button to the left will add an additional Media Library, such as one for TV Shows. When you are finished, close out of the Media Browser Configuration Tool.
Open Windows Media Center. You will see Media Browser tile on the main interface. Click to open it.
When you initially open Media Browser, you will be prompted to run the initial configuration. Click “OK.”
You will see a few general configuration options. The important option is the Metadata. Leave this option checked (it is by default) if you wish to pull images & other metadata for your media.
When finished, click “Continue,” and then “OK” to restart Media Browser.
When you re-enter Media Browser you’ll see your Media Categories listed below, and recently added files in the main display. Click on a Media Library to view the files.
Click “View” at the top to check out some of the different display options to choose from. Below you see can “Detail.” This presents your videos in a list to the left. When you hover over a title, the synopsis and cover art is displayed to the right.
“Cover Flow” displays your titles in a right to left format with mirror cover art.
“Thumb Strip” displays your titles in a strip along the bottom with a synopsis, image, and movie data above.
Settings and options can be changed through the Media Browser Configuration Tool, or directly in Media Browser by clicking on the “Wrench” at the bottom right of the main Media Browser page. Certain settings may only be available in one location or the other. Some will be available in both places.
Plug-ins and Themes
Media Browser features a variety of Plug-ins and Themes that can add optional customization and slick visual appeal. To install plug-ins or themes, open the Media Browser Configuration Tool. Click on the “plug-ins” tab, and then the “More Plug-ins…” button.
Note: Clicking on “Advanced” at the top will reveal several additional configuration tabs.
Browse the list of plug-ins on the left. When you find want you like, select it and then click “Install.”
When the install is complete, you’ll see them listed under “Installed Plug-ins.”
To activate any installed theme, click on the “Display” tab. Select it from the Visual Theme drop down list. Close out of the Media Browser Configuration Tool when finished.
Some themes, such as the “Diamond” theme shown below, include optional views and settings which can be accessed through a configuration button at the top of the screen.
Clicking on the movie gives you additional images and information such as a synopsis, runtime, IMDB rating…
… and even actors and character names.
All that’s left is to hit “Play” when you’re ready to watch.
Media Browser is a fantastic plug-in that brings an entirely different level of media management and aesthetics to Windows Media Center. There are numerous additional customizations and configurations we have not covered here such as adding film trailers, music support, and integrating Recorded TV. Media Browser will run on both Windows 7 and Vista. Extenders are also supported but may require additional configuration.
Andrew is a media center geek with some serious Windows skills. He's never far from a WiFi connection or a great cup of coffee.
- Published 03/30/10