A new program we’ve all been waiting for quite some time to get our hands on, Media Center Studio, has finally arrived allowing even the most novice users the ability to create their own custom Media Center themes and Start Menu arrangements. Media Center Studio, created by Advent of the Australian Media Center Community the author of Media Center Menu Mender, gives users the ability to do what could formerly only be done with heavy editing of system files and registry settings. All this has now been packed into one handy program that’s reasonably easy to use by comparison.
To get started just head over to the Media Center Studio website and click the Download link to get the latest version of the program. There is also a sticky thread for the app on the Aus Media Center Community Forums you can check out should you have any troubles getting started. The software is still very early beta and as a result there are still a number of bugs to be found.
Once the program has been installed launch it from the programs menu and you’ll find a well styled interface allowing you to create new themes and edit the Media Center start menu. Let’s start by creating a new theme. To do this make sure you are on the themes tab and press the New button. This will create a new tab with all the theme editing options available including changing fonts colors, fonts, and images for each theme.
Just select the item you’d like to modify on the left and use the settings on the right to change that item’s appearance. You can change font colors using a series of sliders allowing for any RGB color allow with an alpha setting. A color selector would have honestly been preferable to this system as it can take quite a bit of play to get the color you are looking for. A point and click color wheel or similar system would be much simpler. Also, under the fonts section a crash occurred whenever attempting to bring up the dropdown box to select a new font, likely due to it’s just released beta status and will likely be fixed soon.
Though the font color selector is somewhat tricky to master it is still a huge improvement over not being able to edit the colors at all. Modifying the font colors using Media Center Studio allow for successful font color changes for the first time which should open up a large number of possibilities for Media Center background images that would have previously conflicted with the bluish font colors that are default.
Changing images was also a snap. Just select the image that you’d like to alter and hit the browse button to select it’s replacement. However, after modifying the images another small bug was noticed as the option to save the theme wasn’t available until the font color was changed. There seems to be a bug in the detection of altered images and the save function.
Themes aside, Media Center Studio also provides an excellent Start Menu editor. Selecting the Start Menu tab will bring up an editor similar to the Media Center Menu Mender that was popular with Vista Media Center users. Selecting the Start Menu option at the top also allows you to create custom entry points. The editor made it fairly easy to create a new strip and add an all new application to it.
Start by creating a new strip, press the Menu Strip button at the top and a new strip will be added to the lower viewport. Edit the name and location by pressing the small notepad icon next to the name then dragging the strip to the location you’d like it to appear. Next create a new entry point by pressing either the Application or Game button at the top. This will bring up a pane allowing you to select the application and then edit the icon and details of the program.
The program options allow for some very advanced configuration of just what actions to perform before launching the program and how to exit the program and return to Media Center. There do seem to be some remaining bugs in the plugin that launches the programs however causing some Extensibility Host errors though they are being looked into and will hopefully be cleared up soon.
To add the program to your new start menu strip return to the Start Menu tab and expand the Entry Points pane at the bottom of the application. This will bring up a listing of all the available entry point which you can then drag and drop onto your new start menu strips. It should be noted that due to restrictions put in place by Microsoft you are still unable to add new tiles to the default strips.
Once finished be sure to apply any theme changes you’ve made by returning to the original Themes tab and pressing the Apply button. You’ll notice there are also options to export and import themes from other Media Center Studio users. Expect to see plenty of new themes popping up over the course of the next few weeks available for download. We’ll be bringing Theme7MC over to integrate more with the current Hack7MC setup and updating software to make submitting and download themes much easier than the current system so look for that as well.
That’s all there is to it! Relaunch Windows Media Center and bask in the glory of your newly customized interface. Be sure to stick around here on Hack7MC in the near future as we relaunch Theme7MC and bring it up to be the resource we know you’ll be needing now that it’s so easy to create and distribute your own custom themes. We’ll also be bringing you even more guides and updates on Media Center Studio so stick around and subscribe to Hack7MC!