New MythTV Interface Preview

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One of the biggest new features of the next version of MythTV (version .22) will be its new user interface. This new interface will offer many new features to MythTV, including animation, better interactivity, and faster and easier development for themers and developers alike. MythTV is an open-source DVR that was created by Isaac Richards back in 2002 because of his frustration with his low quality cable box. Since then MythTV has progressed into a full featured DVR/media player. It has users all over the world and a huge number of developers working to make the software even better.

Now, lets get back to what you came here to see. Currently, the interface is fairly static, theme designers can change the look of the screens and move around the preexisting elements, but are very limited in what other changes they can make. It is possible to add new elements to the interface but these can’t be dependent on information in the database. The image above simply shows a curved list in the new UI, it’s not overly exciting, but it wasn’t possible before either. The first pictures below show the existing Watch Recordings screen and how it looks after being recreated in the new interface. As you can see the green dots, to indicate a current recording, were added to this layout. These wouldn’t have been possible with the old system. Continue reading to see some more drastic changes.

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Below is an image that contains some of the bigger changes that could show up in the Watch Recordings screen in the new version. The pieces of elements can now be moved and rearranged (the groups have been moved to the top and horizontally). Before a list could’ve been shown vertically or in a Grid, they were predefined in the program and all the theme designer could do was change the placement and size, now they have much more freedom.

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Another new feature is animation, it’s kind of hard to display this in pictures, but you can imagine what possibilities this provides. Transitions between screens (which is technically in there already, at least for menu transitions), transitions between elements (such as smoothly sliding between elements), or status messages that have motion, which is what is being shown in the gallery below.

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Of course, this isn’t just about the Watch Recordings screen (though that’s the screen I use the most), the rest of MythTV including the plugins benefit from this new UI. On the right is the Netflix Browser plugin showing a possible stylized list. It shows how the selected element can be changed to display different information than the other elements.

Below are a few images of MythTV’s photo plugin, MythGallery. The image on the left is similar to the current version, but it’s showing how an information window could be popped up over the other elements on the screen. The image on the right shows the same data but in a much nicer looking layout (this is the same screen, only the theme has changed). You can imagine how the new animation effects will look on this screen. The images could slide in from the right and out on the left and the new highlighted picture will slide forward. You can also see the reflections on the images taking further advantage of the OpenGL effects added in the last version of the software.

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On a more technical side MythUI (the new User Interface library that provides these new features) allows for inheritance and many other advantages for MythTV Developers. According to the MythTV Wiki:

“Mythui aims to make theme creation easier by introducing the concept of inheritance. The basic style of widgets can be defined once and then copied from each other or from global definitions. This reduces the amount of copying and pasting required and means that theme-wide changes can be made by editing just a couple of lines.”

“MythUI brings a lot of code simplifications, migration of plugins to mythui has so far eliminated thousands of lines of code. It seeks to remove layout and behaviour responsibility from the programmer, handing it to the themer instead. There are fewer widgets to understand and there will be greater consistency across screens.”

These are just a few examples of what’s possible with the new User Interface. Personally, I can’t wait for this new version to be released.

Because of the new user interface the next version of MythTV (.22) looks like it will not only be prettier but even more functional than it currently is. If you’d like to know more about MythTV check out the website, the wiki, and more importantly the incredibly active users mailing list. There are even a few books about MythTV: Practical MythTV and Hacking MythTV they’re both a little outdated, but they explain the concepts behind MythTV very well. Don’t forget to thank your friendly neighborhood MythTV developer, it’s their hard work that’s gotten MythTV so far.

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