Keep it Simple, Stupid!
A primary goal of Team XBMC has always been to make the user experience as straightforward as possible. The theory goes that I should be able to accomplish nearly everything I want from within the XBMC interface.With that focus in mind, as some of you may know if you troll the message boards enough, the team has been seeking to improve and streamline the way additional applications and skins are installed into the XBMC system. While it isn’t exactly painful for a user of Windows Vista to figure out how to get to the appdata folder, forcing her to do so for the sake of installing a prettier skin or a method of viewing trailers just doesn’t seem to fit the XBMC mantra.
To fix this problem, in the short term Nuka1195 and BigBellyBilly have provided us with something called an SVN Repo Installer, which is automatically packaged in the Windows and OSX builds of XBMC. If you can find it (hint, it’s in the “Programs” folder*), you should be able to install all those skins and programs you know and love WITHOUT exiting the XBMC user interface. If it is not in the Programs folder, just click the SVN Repo link above to get the most recent download.
*With a clean install of XBMC, the Programs folder may not be immediately available. Do not despair. Simply click “Settings” in the home window and then click “Skin settings,” which may be found on the left portion of the screen. Highlight “Home window,” and then click “Show programs in main menu.” Voila!
All of which brings me to my point today. I recently decided to nuke my entire XBMC install, and, as I prepared to install the newest Windows revision provided by Knoxville, TN native kricker, an idea occurred to me: What if I tried to install all of my traditional installations without once leaving the XBMC interface?
I wasn’t even sure if it was possible, but I figured I’d give it a try.
One word of warning before I continue. The SVN Repo Installer is, at best, beta software. Aside from the work of the application creators and the occasional glance of an XBMC dev or two, none of the products currently receive any form of Quality Assurance. My understanding is that, as the Repo Installer (and addons in general) become a bigger part of the XBMC experience, this may change. At present, though, it is not officially supported by anyone or anything. (In fact, it may not actually exist at all!) You may get help in the Forums for each individual application, but don’t expect a whole lot of support elsewhere. Therefore, as always, attempt these things at your own risk.
First, I clicked the Programs folder. Then I clicked Program Plugins. And then I was there. The SVN Repo Installer Holy Grail! Ahhhhhhh!
I clicked the link and found myself at a new menu.
This menu was intense and not clear at all. I could guess what “check for updates” means, but who knows who dandar3 or queeup are? Hopefully, when the dev team has figured out its solution, this section will make a bit more sense.
Anyway, before I went any further, I figured I’d like to add a few skins. I’ve lately been a pretty big fan of Transparency! and MiniMeedia, because both do a great job of really emphasizing the fanart. Plus, the Transparency! author ronie is an even bigger nerd than I am when it comes to getting excited about new features. As far as I can tell, there are almost no user created mods of Transparency!, because ronie is too quick to change his own skin when something new and cool pops up.
So I clicked xbmc-xbox-skins. I’m guessing these skins are mostly for xbox users and not Windows 7 users, like myself, but I thought I’d give them a try anyway. Then I clicked the link entitled “skin.” Finally I was at a directory of “lite” skins. And luck was with me! Both MiniMeedia and Transparency! were on the list!
I installed both. MiniMeedia was downloaded pretty quickly. Transparency! took longer, but Transparency! has always been a large file. XBMC does not give you the option of automatically applying the skin after download, but it was a simple matter to change the skin myself by going back to the main menu, clicking Settings, clicking Appearance, and then selecting Transparency!
Ladies and Gentlemen, Transparency!
Alright, I’d gotten my skins. I figured that was a pretty big step already, but I wanted to see what else I could do. So I clicked xbmc-addons, figuring that was the important one, as it had the right name. I’m a sucker for video applications, so I clicked through the plugins until I got to the video list.
It’s quite a list.
So, just for the sake of seeing what I could see, I installed a bunch of apps, from Game and Apple Movie Trailers to Family Guy and Adult Swim to the MTV Network and CBS.
With my apps installed, I returned to the main menu. Transparency! actually allows me to make a link specifically for Video Plugins on the main menu, so I naturally did that. After clicking the link, I found myself at this page.
And here it is looking even more awesome!
And here it is looking vaguely like a cooler version of my… small mp3 player that shall remain nameless…
So there you go. Without leaving the interface, I was able to install my favorite skins and grab a bunch of pretty awesome looking applications to boot. Keep an eye out for future updates, as the team works to make plugins a much bigger part of the XBMC experience.