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Using Macros to Simplify the Use of a Home Theater Remote Control

Do you find yourself fumbling around with multiple remotes to operate your home theater system? Of course not, you picked up that universal remote some time ago to solve that problem, but now are frustrated because you find yourself having to hit 10 different buttons just to turn on your most used components? Fortunately, there's a much simpler way. Many advanced home theater remote controls allow you to program macros, a concept that can really simplify the operation of your home theater system.

What is a Macro?

A macro is a series of commands that, when executed in sequence, perform a particular function, such as turning on all of your home theater components. Macros make controlling your stuff easier by performing many common functions with a single button push on your remote.

Not getting yet? Macros can be a little tricky to figure out, but let's use an example of somthing that we've probably all done at some point or another. Say, for example, we're whipping up some home made cookies. In order to to make cookies you need to execute a series of steps in order those tasy morsels of freshly baked goodness from the oven. Making the cookie batter is a great example of a macro. You could add one ingredient to a bowl, stir, and repeat. This is how most people operate their home theater system - one step a time. However, it is more efficient to put all the necessary ingredients in the bowl and then stir once.

That is what a macro does. It puts all the ingredients needed to do something in one bowl so you only have to stir once. In the home theater world, you can turn on the TV by pressing the power button, then pick up another remote and power on the receiver, and then pickup another remote and power on the cable box. Many of these commands can be condensed into one step, so that when you press the single macro button, it turns on the TV, receiver and the cable box all at the same time.

Setting Up a Macro

To plan for a macro, you need to identify steps that you usually always perform at one time. Turning on or off your equipment are common macros. Rather than power everything up or down individually, you can program a macro to turn everything on or off for you at once.

You can also setup macros to do more advanced things like go to favorite channels. Lets say your favorite network is on channel 50. To go to channel 50 on a universal remote, you press 'Cable Box (or whatever button tells the remote you want to control the cable box), 5, 0, and enter'. To set this up in a macro, program your macro to send those same commands 'Cable box, 5, 0, enter' to your cable box when you press one button. Other examples include turning on your system and playing a DVD, or performing a series of TiVo commands like going to the list of recorded programs and play the first one.

Remote Control Macro Limitations

The options for macro programming is nearly endless. The only limitations are in your remote control. Some home theater remotes only allow for 3 macros, others for many more, and many don't allow any at all. Some remotes also limit how many steps your macro can execute at once. Touch screen remotes, like those based on the common Pronto or Harmony platforms, allow for nearly an infinite number of macros with hundreds of steps for each. Remotes like these allow you to setup a macro for nearly every commong thing you do.

Plan Ahead

Proper planning is critical to successfully programming a macro. Think hard about what you want to accomplish or ask your friends for ideas. Also, don't forget that to program an effective macro, you must plan for every step in the process. So, if you normally press "enter" when entering channel numbers, you need to include "enter" as a step in your macro.

Hopefully with these tips, you can set up useful macros that make it much easier for you and the whole family to operate and enjoy your home theater system.

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