Building Your First Boxee App – Now Updated For Beta!
27 January 2010 by Rob Spectre

The popular step-by-step gonzo guide to building your first Boxee app has now been edited to reflect the API changes in the Boxee beta.  Several typographical errors and content applicable only to the Boxee Alpha client has been changed and the guide now produces a working app for the new Boxee Beta.


The Developer’s Recap of the Boxee Beta Launch (Part 1 – Beta!)
11 December 2009 by Rob Spectre

As we were walking up to the Music Hall of Williamsburg after the developer pre-game at Brooklyn Bowl, it was clear the early fear that crossing the river would keep Manhattan Boxee fans away from the beta launch was laughably unwarranted.  The doors had been open for fifteen minutes already and the line around the newly renovated venue was still around the block with still more people showing up in droves.  A crazy mix of dorks, home theatre enthusiasts, entertainment suits, and new media journalists mingled in the frigid Brooklyn air, all equally grateful the wait for the Boxee Beta was almost over and that the weather cooperated for the long wait in line.

By the time I got in, the hall was already bulging – early arrival, as is usually the case with the Boxee community, ended up being crucial.

With a couple days of rest and recovery to organize thoughts from the event that followed, I’ve put together this first person recap of the Boxee Beta launch party from the developer’s perspective.  The evening was pivotal for Boxee the Product, Boxee the Company and Boxee the Community; here are the highlights from this coder to you.

I’ll be talking about the night  in three parts – first the Boxee Beta software, then the Boxee Box and finally the new apps launched, all with some tasty anecdotes from the evening snitched in.

Pure eye candy

Pure eye candy

Believe it or not, the moment the Beta hit the big screen was not accompanied by a riotous cheer by the ravenous audience, but rather a collective gasp of astonishment at the new interface.  The new look for Boxee is a bold, dramatic change from the far more XBMC-like interface that came before it and it slammed the audience like a falling piano.    With a clean new interface, sexy color palette, and simplified navigation, it was like graduation day for Boxee where the software stopped being a social port of Xbox Media Center and came into its own as an open source project aimed for the mainstream consumer.

Here’s the rundown of the hottest sauce for Boxee developers in the Beta release:

1) Content Consolidation

Consistently the biggest problem for Gonzee users has been remembering which application had what content.  The effort to consolidate the navigation for television shows and movies has paid off big with the beta interface, allowing users to search *and* browse all the content Boxee can deliver without having to remember if MacGuyver was in the Crackle app or in Hulu.

Every TV Show that Boxee can view, now in one menu.

Every TV Show that Boxee can view, now in one menu.

The potential for developers is huge, as it puts the content center stage regardless of the application it is in.  We know that a lot of people use Boxee just for Hulu television shows -  Boxee Beta’s content consolidation gives high quality, hilarious independent content greater visibility and another avenue to hook fans than just app install.

2) Huge App Improvements

The App Box has undergone a similar interface change, now giving users a far superior  Boxee app experience.  To install an application in Boxee Alpha, users had to navigate to the App Box, scroll through all 158 apps to find the one they were looking for by thumbnail alone, click to install then navigate back to the Applications menu to actually launch the app.

Global Menu - now apps can be two clicks away from anywhere in the interface.

Global Menu - now apps can be two clicks away from anywhere in the interface.

All that is streamlined in Boxee Beta.  The apps that the user has already installed and the apps they can install are now accessible from within the same menu.  Further, users have three options once they find an app that is interesting: start, add to my apps or add to shortcuts.  “Start” allows the user to immediately launch the app, taking users directly to the app without committing to a full install.  “Add to My Apps” installs the app much like the original Boxee Alpha experience.  Finally, “Add to Shortcuts” adds the app directly to the home navigation screen, letting users keep their favorite apps no more than two clicks away from anywhere in the Boxee interface.

The streamlined application navigation is a very powerful display of commitment by Boxee to the dev community, which bodes extremely well for the future of the software as a real development platform.

3) Queue

It's queue-tastic!

It's queue-tastic!

As a Boxee user, the feature I was most excited to see demonstrated was the new Boxee queue.  Working much like one’s DVR or Netflix queue, the Boxee queue allows users to mark any media into a queue to watch at a later time.  The big revelation with this feature, however, was the fact that the queue will be web-enabled with a Boxee bookmarklet, meaning users will be able to add content to their queue from their non-Boxee computers and mobile devices.

This is another feature that has great potential for the Boxee developer.  “Add to Boxee” buttons for  video services and other content distribution channels?  An iPhone Boxee queue manipulation app?  A Wordpress Widget displaying a user’s Boxee queue on his/her blog?

Similar functionality was available with early Boxee apps like L8R (which I loved), but the full integration makes the experience a lot easier.

This feature could get really cool, really fast.

Next up: The Boxee Box!

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