2.27.2012

Plex: My HTPC Media Application

I have a very large media collection.  I'm a sucker for movies on DVD and TV shows on DVD.  I also have a giant photo collection, along with lots of home movies.  I'm also a hyper-organizer.  Given all of that, last year I put together a fully equipped home theater personal computer (HTPC) to house my media collection.  A HTPC is simply a computer that is connected to some sort of large monitor, such as a TV or projector.  The computer houses all of your media, as well as offers other great things such as video chatting and game playing.

In this post, I'll discuss Plex, the program that I use to access and navigate all of my media on my HTPC.  Plex pulls together all of your movies, TV shows, home videos, music and photography into one application with a great user interface.  It compliments your media with fan art, ratings, descriptions and more from popular online databases.  The result is an easy to use, visually impressive experience for experiencing your media.

Writing all about how exactly to set-up Plex and all that it does would require a very long post, and others have already written about how to use Plex.  What I'll do here is simply give you an overview of my experience with the program, what I use it for, and hopefully inspire you to consider using it yourself, as I really enjoy Plex.

One of the many browsing views of Plex.
What I most enjoy about Plex is the main purpose it serves: having all of my media in one place and easily accessible.  With all of my media fully organized and in Plex, it takes only seconds to pull up a movie, browse the photos from my most recent vacation, or share a home video with visiting friends.

I also like that Plex automatically pulls fan art to supply movie posters, background, TV theme songs and information for all of my media.  Some of my more obscure movies did not have images available, but Plex allows me to create my own posters to use, which is great.

Beyond the desktop Plex application, there are also iPhone and iPad versions, as well as online information about your media using myPlex.  These apps allow me to access all of my media virtually anytime, anywhere.  That's right, all of the media I have (see below) is available on all of my devices.

What I Have in Plex
  • my full DVD movie collection (more than 250 movies)
  • my full TV on DVD collection (hundreds of TV show episodes, seasons and full series)
  • my full home video collection (hundreds of short home videos)
  • my full personal photo archive (more than 27,000 photos)
  • my full music collection (thousands of songs)

What I Like About Plex
  • all my media in one place
  • beautiful, customizable interface
  • the Plex iPhone and iPad apps work great with the desktop version
  • the Plex forums are a great knowledge base community

What I Wish Plex Had
  • photo metadata searches

If you're willing to put in the work to properly organize your media, I highly suggest you look into Plex or a similar application, such as Boxee.  It will help you get your movies out of their dusty DVD cases and onto your TV.

Do you use Plex?  What do you like about it?  What things have you done to customize Plex to your personal media collection?

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