Keyboard shortcuts are a great shortcut to accomplishing this. Perhaps you use, as your remote, a joystick that mimics your keyboard (works well combined with an old Playstation DVD Remote). Or maybe you use another brand of remote that allows you to map buttons to particular keystrokes. Perhaps you mapped the essentials – arrow keys, escape and enter – in order to easily use XBMC or Boxee. If that’s the case for you, you’re going to want to add these keyboard shortcuts as well. They make using a computer as a media center even better, and aren’t much work to set up.
The idea here is obvious enough – you want your software to load at the click of a button. Luckily for you, Windows makes this easier than you think.
As Lifehacker recently explained, it’s pretty easy to make a keyboard shortcut for launching any program. Follow those instructions and you’ll have shortcuts ready to program onto your remote. Linux users can add such shortcuts using the “keyboard shortcuts” dialogue in their desktop’s control center to create shortcuts for launching any program. Mac users aren’t as lucky.
I find this really useful for launching Hulu Desktop when I’m in Boxee, as it’s no longer easily possible to watch Hulu from within Boxee itself. There are infinite uses for this setup, though, so experiment and fill us in in the comments below.
Sometimes you just need what’s currently open to close. Whether you were watching sports not broadcast in your country, launching ROMs and games from Boxee or just making use of a web browser to watch a video your favorite media center couldn’t handle, it’s nice to be able to close software quickly from the couch.
There’s no shortcut quite so universal for closing applications as “Alt” and “F4″, which can close just about anything on Windows and Linux computers. Mac users can instead use “Command” and “Q”; the effect is the same.
The point is this: add this command to your remote and you’ll always be able to close what’s on screen with one button.
Even better: in Windows 7 pressing “Alt” and “F4″ from the desktop brings up the system shutdown menu. You could turn off your computer, or put it to sleep, from the couch (assuming you’ve already mapped the arrows keys and enter to your remote, that is).
Closing isn’t always ideal. Sometimes you’re going to want to leave a given program open and switch to another. Programing “Alt” and “TAB” onto your media center remote gives you a quick way to do so. This is ideal for switching between two media centers or, on Windows 7, getting back to the desktop from whatever program you happen to be running.
Linux features “Alt” and “TAB” by default; Mac users should use “Command” and “Tab” to cycle by program.
Volume consistency is a big problem on the Internet. Web advertisers seem to love being much louder than the videos they sponsor, even more so than on television. Quick access to a Mute button can make this painless.
Frustratingly there’s no standard mute button on the Windows platform, but I was able to program my remote to copy my keyboard’s special “mute” button. If your keyboard doesn’t have such a button, I’d recommend following these directions from HowToGeek. They’ll get you set up. Linux users can set any combination of keys to work for this purpose; check your desktop’s settings for keyboard shortcuts. Mac users can simply use the volume button on their keyboard.
Can you think of any more shortcuts worth adding to your remote? Do share; I’m always wanting to improve my setup.
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