Getting a Custom Menu Look and Feel in Media Center

Make your media center your own

Adam Thursby

One of my favorite uses of MCE7 Reset Toolbox is creating custom menu strips. I consider this one of the main functions of the application and it's the first thing I look to do when working on a new HTPC. Being able to remove unused strips, customize the ones you use or to even add new strips and entry points makes Media Center even more usable than it already was.

As an example, if you only use Media Center for TV recording and viewing, you could eliminate all of the other menu strips completely. Why have them there if you have no use for them?

Another example would be adding custom entry points for games or other software you want to run on your HTPC. While this isn't a practice that most HTPC users would recommend, the application does allow you to do so.

Let's take a look at how you might perform each type of menu customization. I've broken these down by function: removing, customizing and adding. You can feel free to jump to the section that relates to what you're looking to do.

Removing Entry Points and Menu Strips

There really isn't much to say when it comes to removing different features of Media Center. Once you open MCE7 Reset Toolbox, you'll first want to click on the "Start Menu" tab at the top of the application. You'll be shown your current Media Center menu. Next to each menu item and strip, there are checkboxes which you can use to remove each item.

To remove an item, simply uncheck the box next to that item. This works for both individual items and entire strips. In this way, the item is still there, able to be added back at any time and you won't have to recreate it at a later time.

Once the checkbox has been unchecked, you'll want to save what you've done. At that point, the item you unchecked will no longer appear in Media Center.

It should be noted that you'll also notice red "X"s next to each time. These can be used to completely delete the entry point if you want to. This isn't something I recommend however as you may want it back later. It'll be much easier to simply re-check a box than to recreate the entire point.

Adding Entry Points and Strips

Adding custom menu strips and entry points can be as easy as drag and drop. It can also get more complicated but let's start with the easy stuff. For adding entry points, you can head to the bottom menu for a list of items already available to you. This list includes many of the pre-installed Media Center apps, as well as third party applications you may have installed such as Media Browser.

To add these points, you simply drag them onto the strip of your choice. Once there, you can re-order and rename them as you wish.

To add a custom strip, you use the selection tool on the ribbon at the top of the application. Simply click this button and your custom menu will be added near the bottom of the standard strips. You can now change the name or add custom tiles to your new strip. You can also move the strip to another place in the menu, either up or down, and place it exactly where you'd like.

Adding applications that don't appear in the "entry point" menu can be a bit more involved. You'll need to know the path to the application on your PC as well as any special instructions for running the application. You can customize the icon, as well as the name if you'd like.

Customizing Entry Points and Strips

The last item to review is actually customizing different entry points and menu strips. Along with deleting them, this is probably one of the easiest functions you can perform using MCE7 Reset Toolbox.

You can easily edit the names of each entry point by simply clicking the text above each item and typing the name you'd like to assign. You can also edit images by double clicking each item and then selecting the new active and non-active images on the item editing screen.

You can also move entry points to other strips if you'd like. This is a drag and drop action and is extremely simple to do. The only caveat I've discovered so far is that you can't move native Media Center entry points to custom menu strips.

Once you've made all of the changes you want, you need to save the new menus before exiting. To do so simply hit the save button in the upper left-hand corner of the application. Media Center will need to be closed in order for changes to be saved but the application will warn you so you don't need to worry. You should be aware however that if someone is using Media Center on an extender, their session will be terminated so you may want to wait until no one is watching TV before making changes.

Making It All Yours

Editing your start menu within Media Center is one of the best features of MCE7 Reset Toolbox. It allows you to create the menu you want and one that will function perfectly for you and your family.

One last thing to keep in mind: Unlike other Media Center editing software I've used in the past, MCE7 Reset Toolbox will allow you to restore default settings at any time. While it seems like a small thing, mistakes happen and being able to jump back to a default setting is a great addition.