Watching movies and video content on the iPad is a real pleasure and can be a great way to relax. The problem with it, however, comes when you sit back and make yourself comfortable, only to realize you forgot to sync your latest content across and have nothing new to watch. It may happen to you far too often or it may happen very little, but either way, with limited space on your device it will happen.
Granting access to all of the latest videos being shared by your friends, a constantly updating featured stream of their own, and your entire catalogue from your computer. Boxee is a great way to avoid finding yourself stuck with nothing new to watch. So let’s find out how to liberate you from those storage space restrictions with Boxee for iPad.
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Getting Signed Up
After installing the free Boxee for iPad app from the App Store you will be greeted with a ‘Sign In’ box, allowing you to choose from a number of options in order to access the content on the app. For anyone with a Boxee account already it’s a simple case of signing in, for anyone else you have two choices here.
You can create a new account, or you can sign up with Facebook. Either option requires you to create a new account by inputting the data, opting to sign up via Facebook though simplifies the process as all this information is copied across for you. Once you are satisfied with the data you have provided, simply click ‘Next’ and you’re done!
Boxee sign-up screen.
At this point you will receive a prompt to connect any of the social networks you wish to have interact with the app. You can connect here or at a later date if you wish to skip the process, we will show you how a little later. Upon opening the app you will notice there are two tabs in the top most left corner of the screen. So what does each tab offer us?
What to Watch: Home Tab
The Home tab has a selection of three columns or rows depending upon device orientation. For purposes of simplicity, from this point on we can assume you are in landscape and as such shall refer to these as rows.
The Home tab.
Each row on the home tab; Friends, Watch Later, and Featured has the ability to display a series of videos which can be scrolled through and enjoyed at your leisure. Tapping on any of the videos will replace the three rows with a single row-viewing mode, which includes the row the video is on, the video and any accompanying text.
The Watch Later tab.
So lets run through what each row offers us and how best to use it.
Going Social: Friends Row
Now you have the app installed and have presumably skipped the option to connect to your social networks upon signing up, it’s time to link to those accounts and start finding out what content your friends are sharing. This is done fairly simply by tapping on the settings icon in the top right of the screen and connecting the various networks that you wish to use, with the options of:
After connecting these various accounts the Friends row will begin to fill up with all of the latest content being shared by those you are connected with. A network icon and the name of the friend who shared the video accompany each thumbnail allowing you to easily identify the source. By tapping on the video and entering the single row-viewing mode you can also find the accompanying tweet or status update.
Being a socially linked app, Boxee allows you to share any video you find within the Home Tab to your friends on the social networks you have connected with. Using the small heart filled speech bubble icon in the top right of the screen you are able to add a short description before sharing with the networks of your choice. You are also able to e-mail directly using the envelope icon if you prefer that only a select audience saw the video.
Connecting Social Networks
Come Back to That: Watch Later Row
If like me you are often finding videos online that you intend to watch at a later date because you just don’t have time at that moment, you will know how frustrating it can be to forget where you found it. Well the Watch Later row solves that problem. Allowing you to mark any video from the Friends and Featured rows as ‘Watch Later’ using the clock icon at the top right, and removing using the icon that replaces it. You can fill the row with all the content you don’t want to miss before it disappears as each row updates with newer content.
The other, and more interesting part of the Watch Later row is the ability to link to your Boxee account and load up any content you have added to your Watch Later queue. Using the Boxee Bookmarklet that is available for your computer, iPad, and iPhone you can add videos to your queue from all across the web to view when you have time. No longer will you have the hassle of remembering where you found the video of that cat falling into a box on YouTube, as Boxee will remember that for you.
What’s New: Featured Row
As you would expect, this is rather self-explanatory in terms of content and title correlation. The row is a large selection of videos that are chosen and selected by (I am assuming) the staff over at Boxee. The content is updated and continues to change so you won’t find yourself stuck for things to watch, and while some may not cater to your tastes there are more than enough to provide interest to each user of the app.
Space Saver: Streaming Content
While discovering new content via the plethora of means and sources provided within the Home Tab is a great feature, I suspect like myself, that most users are more interested in the ability to stream content to their iPad from their computer. If that is the case, even if it is not, this is where you should listen up as we’re going to go through the set up process momentarily.
The Boxee for iPad app removes all of the frustration that comes with attempting to view your own media on your iPad. No longer will you have to convert the files into an iOS friendly media format as the app takes care of all of that, and you will no longer need to sync them across, as you are able to stream directly within an instant.
So lets get set up shall we?
Installing: The Media Manager App
The set up is a simple process, but it does require you to install the Boxee Media Manger app onto your computer.
The Boxee Media Manager is available for both Mac and Windows using your Boxee account over at:
- Mac OSX 10.5+ Intel 64bit
- Windows 7, Vista, XP
*For the following set up I was using an iMac on OSX 10.6.8, and had the iPad connected to the same network via Wi-Fi (that part is essential). As such there may be minor differences in the setup process, especially on Windows and folder locations.
After installing I would suggest you rename the Media Manager to a name of your choosing, as this is what will display on your iPad. This is simply a case of clicking on the pencil icon and typing in a replacement for the default name provided. It is also an idea if you intend to use this on a regular basis to enable automatic launch at login. This is done by checking the selection box located in the settings by clicking through the cog icon in the bottom right of the window.
Catalogue: Adding Shared Folders
By default the Media Manager will add the movies folder located within your user folder on your computer. If like me you do not use this folder, as you prefer to organize your own files elsewhere then you can simply delete it from the list. Adding your own folders to the shared list is very simple and can be done within a matter of seconds, providing you know the location of each folder you with to include on the shared list.
Start by clicking on the + symbol in the bottom left of the window, this will bring up your Home folder on your computer along with any other devices you have connected. It is important to note at this point that you can share folders that are located on any of these external devices as well as those located on your computer. This is a great way of saving space on your internal drive and from my experience suffers no drop in performance when viewing on your iPad.
The Boxee Media Manager.
To locate the folders you wish to add to the shared list simply click the text of any device or folder you wish to enter. When you have located the folder add it to the list by checking the selection box within the Shared column. You can then continue locating any other folders or sub-folders you would like to share and check their selection box too. An aspect I liked about this was that I was able to add a sub-folder to my shared list even though its parent folder was also on the list. Although you can access sub-folders within the iPad app, this reduces the amount of browsing and scrolling required if you have a lot of files within the parent folder.
That’s it, just click on done and you’re ready to enjoy movies on your iPad.
Watching Your Movies: My Media Tab
Now that we are done with the set up process and you have selected all of the folders you want to access and added them to your shared list, we are ready to start enjoying them on the iPad. Provided the iPad is connected via Wi-Fi to the same network as the computer using the Media Manager, the app will automatically detect and pair your device for streaming.
Upon testing at this point I found that the Media Manager and Boxee for iPad do not require the same login credentials either. This could be useful for those that have multiple devices wishing to access the same shared files, or for those that wish to log out before handing their iPad to someone else in order to prevent them from sharing content you do not want sharing across your social networks. Either way it is a useful thing to know.
When you select the My Media Tab you will see a computer icon with the label that you gave to your media Manager, this acts as a parent folder for all of the other folders you have within your shared list. You can browse each folder and subsequently and sub-folders contained within them simply by clicking on the icon.
Your media in the Boxee app.
When doing so you will be taken to the chosen folder and notice that a title bar appears on the left of the screen (top when in portrait). These bars can be used for navigating back to specific folders without the need to find them again, an especially useful feature for browsing TV series.
Upon tapping any video within your shared media you will notice the inclusion of information regarding the video such as duration, resolution and file size, but importantly for many you have the option to select the audio track if multiple tracks are available. A feature that would be helpful for those that have multiple language tracks for their content.
Streaming your own content to the iPad!
Sharing: Send to TV via Boxee
Watching video on your iPad is great but for those that prefer to watch on the bigger screen, the app also has the ability to send its content to a TV via Boxee. As I do not have a Boxee device set up with my TV this is a feature I was unable to test myself. Although it is nice to see the integration of such a feature, I don’t really see the need for it. For those that this is available to, they are already running a Boxee device on their TV and as such would presumably have their content stored in such a way that it can be accessed via that device anyway, thus eliminating the need for the iPad share feature. Again though this is untested on my part so if anyone has found a use for it I would love to hear how well it has been integrated to the app.
What Is It Lacking?
Although the app is great at what it does I would love to see a few additions during updates within the future. One aspect I have encountered before with Boxee was the ability to integrate with IMDB and automatically add information to the files that were contained within my library. This would be a great feature to have when browsing on the iPad as it takes the viewing to a much higher level.
The main feature I would like to see added though, and I believe many would. is the ability to stream content to the device whilst it is not connected to the same local network. If this were to be integrated, even for an additional paid update, I think we would have a true competitor to the Air Video app that currently allows for this.
This is a well-rounded app that scores well across the board. Boasting a clean and easy-to-use interface it’s simple enough for anybody to pick up and understand. Making use of clear and easy to follow instructions for what could have potentially been a difficult set up process eases the process for users who may not have the confidence with competing apps. Streaming media becomes simple and effective.
Integrating social media into any app is becoming increasingly important to many users an the Boxee for iPad app does it well by allowing users to share what they enjoy as well as access content that is being posted by others. The use of each user’s Boxee account for the watch later stream is also a major bonus for those of us that find a lot of content online.