Boxee has been getting a lot of press this year and it’s no wonder. Each version is better than the last and the Beta version is no exception. The following is a walkthrough of Beta build 9.21.114 and can be downloaded at: http://www.boxee.tv/download. For a rundown on just the latest features now available in this latest version of Boxee, be sure to checkout my post at: http://gregms.com/2010/04/boxee-released/
For those who don’t know, Boxee is a free cross-platform media center application based upon XBMC. Boxee can scan your network for shared (or hosted) video, music and photo files. It then searches the web for album art for each file and organizes them within Boxee by media type (TV Show, Movie, Music, Photos).
The best part of Boxee is its ability to play a wide-variety of Internet content all from within its own application. Instead of going to Hulu.com to watch episodes of Fringe, V or Caprica, you can watch it from within Boxee and if you like the episode, you can recommend it to your other Boxee friends. And now with the latest beta version, video shared from your friends on Twitter or Facebook now show up for you view from within Boxee. The latest version of Boxee is available for Windows, Linux and Mac/ATV. Internet content currently available for all these platforms include Hulu, CBS, Comedy Central, PBS, Pandora, Last.FM, Flickr and much more.
After launching Boxee, it presents a login screen. From here you can create a new user account (new with v.21.114), or login with an existing account. If you login and leave the default options, the next time you launch Boxee, you’ll be automatically logged in with that account, or you can change it to allow you to pick which account you want to login with if you have multiple accounts.
The Home screen is the first thing you see after you log in. On the top is the different categories of internet and local content. PHOTOS and MUSIC both only show local content while MOVIES and TV SHOWS are a combination of local and internet based content (more on that later). APPS are all of the Boxee applications and FILES allow you to view files and folders on your local and network based computers (via SMB or UPnP).
On the left is shared content from your friends, either shared via Boxee, or through one of the many social networks sites including Facebook, Twitter and FriendFeed (new with v.21.114). In the middle is featured applications or video recommended by Boxee staff and to the right-side is your person queue of video that you have either manually added to watch later, or a show has been marked to automatically add new episodes to your queue when they become available online (see TV Shows section for more details).
You can press the Esc (or Backspace) key from any menu to bring up what I call the Home Menu. The Home Menu consists of three levels, the Systems Level (top), the Media Center Level (middle), and the Shortcut Level (bottom). What is amazing with the Shortcut Level is the ability to add any application or show to this list and then arrange it in the order you prefer. The order can be adjusted by clicking to the far-left button on the short-cut menu.
If your familiar with the Alpha version of Boxee, the TV Shows section may look similar, but a lot has changed. While all of your local content still shows up as normal, content from online providers has now been integrated into into your library. TV Shows starts you off by showing you all of your local television shows you have added to Boxee (along with any shows you’ve subscribed too). If you click to the right and select TV Show Library, you will see shows available from online content provides such as Hulu, CBS and SyFy. Click My TV Shows to return to just your shows.
After clicking on a show (in this case Caprica), you can see all episodes that currently have content available for you to view. Any episode you have previously watched will turn gray, while unwatched episodes will be white. Clicking to the right brings up the option to add the show to your queue (which will only add the new episodes as the become available), or to add the show as as shortcut to your Home-Shortcut Level. In my case, I’ve already subscribed to Caprica, so my option instead of adding, is to Remove from my shows which means that new episodes will no longer automatically appear in my queue. I can’t emphasize enough how amazing the new episode queue is, but sadly this only works when new episodes become available online, not when new local episodes have been added to your library.
Once you decide on which episode to watch, click on the episode and a screen will appear asking you from which source you wish to play it from. In my case, my DVR has recorded this episode of Caprica and it is also available from both SyFy and Hulu. If I have previously only watched part of the Caprica episode from a Local File, it will ask if you wish to resume from there, or start the episode from the beginning. This bookmarking feature happens automatically when you exit a show, so you don’t have to do any extra work if you want to save your position. This is another amazing feature that Boxee now has!
Some of the online integrated sources now include: Hulu, CBS, SyFy, PBS Kids, the WB, MTV and VH1 with more being added by Boxee.
The My Movies section has many similar features to TV Shows, such as the bookmarking feature, but also several things that are different. While you can manually add a particular movie to your queue (same as TV Shows), there isn’t a way for it to automatically add newly added movies to your queue. In a way this makes sense, but Boxee has created what they call “Unwatched Only”. By checking this, it will only show you the movies you haven’t watched or manually marked as watched. You can also Search, Sort by Genre, or click on Manage Sources to correctly identify movies that were previously marked as incorrect (new with v.21.114).
There have been plenty of additional applications added to the Boxee platform since the Beta with several apps becoming my new favorites. When first going into Apps, you are brought to My Apps. This area is initially filled with several applications that Boxee thinks will be of interest to you, but you can add or remove these from your collection. Removing them doesn’t actually remove them from Boxee, you can find the entire list of available applications from the App Library section.
After clicking on an app, it will give you the option to run the app, add it to your My Apps collection, or add it to your shortcuts. By clicking to the right-menu, you will find many new options for sorting your apps by Recently Used, Most Used, or A to Z. You can also filter the apps by category such as Video, Music, Photos or General. And by clicking on the Repositories button, you can add third-party repositories such as http://dir.gregms.com for my repository or http://dir.fuzzthed.com for a huge collection of third-party repositories including my own.
If you enjoyed what you saw, make sure to download this latest version of Boxee for Apple Mac OS X, Ubuntu Linux, Microsoft Windows or Apple TV at: http://www.boxee.tv/download.
Click below to watch the promotional video created by Boxee and see it in action: