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Advanced Front Row Tips

Although Front Row is a powerful and slick entertainment solution, there are some things that can improve the Front Row experience. Here are some ways to expand upon Front Row.

  • Watch additional file formats. Video files come in many formats and can be encoded and compressed using a number of techniques. As I mentioned, with the right additions to your Mac formats, Apple’s QuickTime technology enables Front Row to handle many common formats (.mov, digital video streams, mpeg and its variants, .avi, and so forth). However, two capabilities are missing in a standard QuickTime installation: Windows media and Divx. You can add Windows media support by downloading and installing Flip4Mac’s QuickTime components. Divx encoding, which can be used in a variety of file types as well as its own file formats, is more problematic. You can download Divx codecs for the Mac and install them. More information on Divx codecs for Mac OS X and Front Row can be found here.
  • Storing video content. When you navigate the Movies menu of Front Row, you’ll find that you can navigate through the contents of your Movies folder as well as the video content stored in your iTunes library. You can, however, expand it to include other locations (most typically, a large external hard drive) by placing an alias for the alternate location in your movies folder. To have access to any location on your Mac (including alternate hard drives, mounted network shares, and data CD or DVD disks), you can place an alias of the /Volumes directory in your Movies folder. This is the Unix directory in which all your various types of drives are listed and it is also typically a hidden folder. To add /Volumes, select Go To Folder from the Finder’s Go menu. Enter /Volumes in the dialog box. When the /Volumes folder opens, hold the option and Apple keys down and drag the icon from the title bar of the window into your Movies folder to create the alias. This will allow you to browse any video content anywhere on your Mac.
  • Use the Apple Remote to sleep/wake a Mac in your entertainment center. If you install a Mac mini (or other Mac model) as a unit in your home entertainment center, you might want to operate it completely from the remote (as a piece of home theater equipment instead of a computer). Not only can you invoke and navigate Front Row all from the Apple remote but you can also put the computer to sleep or wake it from sleep by holding the play/pause button on the remote for three seconds. Pressing any button on the remote wakes the computer. This approach can also be helpful if you want to use a TV (or external display) with a MacBook or MacBook Pro while keeping the computer closed because you can connect the TV or display, sleep the computer by closing the lid and wake it with the remote.

One final tip to include here, which comes by way of the folks at Mac OS X Hints is that you can configure Apple’s Speakable Items to support detecting Front Row commands by speech recognition. Doing so takes you to a whole other level of home entertainment that is reminiscent of Star Trek and other science fiction shows. Details are available here.

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