The Dharma Guide: Advanced Launcher

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The Advanced Launcher is an add-on which was developed by XBMC-Community-Member Angelscry. This Add-On enables you to launch installed programs on your computer from inside the XBMC. Through this Add-On you practically can build a library from programs/games which are installed on your machine. The Add-On also makes use of some advanced features for emulator-applications. You can add specific Command-Line options in order to browse and launch your games which are running through an emulator. This again gives you the opportunity to index your Nintendo 64 games for instance which are present as ROM-Files on your system and launch them with the proper emulator. The Add-On also features scraping mechanisms. These will scrape the information about your games like XBMC does with TV Shows and Movies.

Contents

1 Installation

The preferred method for installation of this add-on is via its repository. When installed by this method Advanced Launcher will automatically update itself as updates are released. This way you stay on top of current developments.

Obtain the repository installation zip file from here.

In order to install the Repository go to your settings-menu and open up "Add-Ons". You should see a line "Install from zip-file". Choose this option and in the dialog that appears and navigate to the repository zip file.

Afterwards click on the Button "Get More..." and choose the newly installed repository. Under "Program Add-Ons" you should find an entry "Advanced Launcher" - click it in order to install it. If you do not see any entries in this repository, navigate back and open up the context menu while highlighting the right repository (It should be "Angelscry Add-On Repository") and choose the option "Force Refresh" - now go back inside the repository, you should see everything now. After the installation completes head to the next section.

Hint

For the Windows-Version of XBMC you should disable the fullscreen for "Advanced Launcher" to work properly. Head to "Settings" -> "System" in your XBMC and click on the menu "Video Output". You will see a line "Use a fullscreen window rather than true fullscreen" - set this option active.

2 Configuration

You have some options available for Advanced Launcher which will help you with your setup. Click on the Add-On again in order to bring up the "Add-On-Page". You will find an option "Configure" inside it. After you clicked this option you will be presented with the options-screen of the Advanced Launcher. Configure it to your likes (note; this guide is based upon this tutorial)

2.1 General

This menu contains general configuration options for Advanced Launcher.

2.1.1 Launchers Thumbs Default Path

Define the default folder in which your thumbs are being stored (more in the section Thumbnail/Fanart/Rom-Folders below). If not defined Advanced Launcher will ask for the folder-pathwhenever you create a new launcher.

2.1.2 Launchers Fanart Default Path

Define the default folder in which your fanarts are being stored (more in the section Thumbnail/Fanart/Rom-Folders below). If not defined Advanced Launcher will ask for the folder-path whenever you create a new launcher.

2.1.3 Action on Playing Media

Define an action that will be executed if you are currently playing media when you launch an application. The available options are: stop (stop the current playback when launching an application), put into pause (pause current playback), or let to play (just let the current playback continue).

2.1.4 Recursive Scan

Activate or deactivate the capability or Advanced Launcher to recursively scan items in subfolders.

2.2 Data & Infos

This menu contains configuration options for the data scrapers.

2.2.1 Scraper Source

Define the scraper-source. The data-scraper will look here in order to receive information about your stored media-files. Results may differ depending on the kind of games you scrape.

2.2.2 Import during scan

Select which method will be used to import the data (when you run a scan for new items): None (nothing will be imported), Semi-automatic (you will be asked to select from a list of results) and Automatic (will automatically select the first matching result).

2.2.3 Ignore BIOS Files

This option is dedicated for MAME games. When activated, Advanced Launcher will automatically ignore any detected BIOS files during folders scan.

2.2.4 Clean Items Titles

Activate or deactivate the clean title option. For example, the title "Alien Invaders (1983)(UA Ltd.)[aka Alien aka Les Envahisseurs Etrangers]" will be displayed as Alien Invaders. Any text after brackets will be ignored.

2.2.5 Titles formatting

When activated any articles at the beginning of a title (like "The", "An" or "A") will be placed at the end of the title.

2.3 Covers & Thumbs

This menu contains configuration options for the thumb-image-scraper.

2.3.1 Scraper Source

Define the scraper-source. The data-scraper will look here in order to receive information about your stored media-files. Results may differ depending on the kind of games you scrape.

2.3.2 Thumbs Region

Select the geographic region (America, Japan or Europe) for the box-art. If this is not activated the first found thumbnail will be used.

2.3.3 Images Size

Select the resolution (size) of the images which will be downloaded while scraping.

2.3.4 Import during scan

Select which method will be used to import the data (when you run a scan for new items): None (nothing will be imported), Semi-automatic (you will be asked to select from a list of results) and Automatic (will automatically select the first matching result).

2.3.5 Overwrite Existing Files

If this option is selected, existing thumbnail images will be overwritten by new scraped ones.

2.4 Screen & Fanarts

This menu contains configuration options for the fanart-image-scraper.

2.4.1 Scraper Source

Define the scraper-source. The data-scraper will look here in order to receive information about your stored media-files. Results may differ depending on the kind of games you scrape

2.4.2 Images Size

Select the resolution (size) of the images which will be downloaded while scraping.

2.4.3 Import during scan

Select which method will be used to import the fanarts (when you run a scan for new items): None (nothing will be imported), Semi-automatic (you will be asked to select from a list of results) and Automatic (will automatically select the first matching result).

2.4.4 Overwrite Existing Files

If this option is selected, existing fanart images will be overwritten by new scraped ones.

2.5 Debug Menu

This menu contains configuration options for debugging Advanced Launcher. It could be used by advanced users during the built-up of their XBMC/Advanced Launcher/Scripts/Executable Application system.

2.5.1 Show Batch command windows

This option show/hide the window display of started .BAT scripts by advanced launcher on windows operating system.

3 Sources

The "Advanced Launcher"-Add-On uses your program-sources. In order to add a source to this specific type you have to do the following: Go back to your home-screen and select the "programs" item (assuming you are using the "Confluence"-Skin which is default) - do not open the menu-item! -and click on the arrow next to the title "Programs". A little menu should extend - select "Files" in this menu. In the next screen add a source via the "Add Source"-Button. Now technically it does not matter what you add as a source. In order to use your whole hard-drive just add the whole hard drive to the sources, you won’t have any side-effects (except you will have to navigate more while creating new launchers).

4 Thumbnail/Fanart/Rom-Folders

It is recommend to use separate standard-folders. Create a folder on your hard-drive for the "Advanced Launcher"-Thumbnails and -Fanarts. Advanced Launcher can download those images automatically while scraping for new games but more on that later. The Thumbnails represent the Box-Arts of the several games (like the poster in the movie-section) and the Fanarts are exactly the same as in the video-library. Several Skins have own views defined for Advanced Launcher, you can use them in order to make use of the advanced features like Fanarts. It is also recommended that you keep the ROM-Files in a folder, where you have subfolders for the different gaming systems. So you would have a Folder "ROM-Files" with the subfolders "N64" and "PS2" for instance - this way you can handle the setup in a quicker, easier way. If you want to add Windows-Games to your Advanced Launcher it is also recommend that a subfolder is used inside the ROM-Folder for shortcuts. Place a shortcut (an ".lnk"-file - note it is an "l" as in "low") to the exe-file of the games you want to add inside this folder.

5 Adding a Launcher

When you run Advanced Launcher for the first time (click on the programs item in the home-menu in order to bring it up) it will ask you to add a launcher. You will be presented with two different choices: "Standalone" and "File launcher". For explanation: The "Standalone" simply runs an executable which sits on your hard-drive while the "File launcher" is used to start an application with a special file passed to it. So for example you will run an emulator with a ROM-File passed to it, so that the emulator will then begin to run the ROM you passed to it. In order to use this feature with an application, this application has to understand command-line arguments.

The general configuration of those two launchers:

5.1 Standalone Launcher

  1. Select the "Standalone (normal PC executable)" option
  2. Browse and select the executable file of the application you want to start
  3. In the next window you can pass command-line arguments. If the application you want to run does not need any arguments or does not support them you can leave this field blank. Otherwise just fill in the argument you have to pass.
  4. This title will be used when viewing the application in Advanced Launcher.
  5. Choose the game platform. This indicates the platform of your game-system for the image-/data-scrapers. If you do not add a game but an application, this option does not matter.

If you did not configure Advanced Launcher to use default fanart- and thumbnail-folders you have to do these steps too, otherwise you’re through at this point:

  1. Select the thumbnail path. This is the folder where the thumbnail image of the launcher will be downloaded to. If there is already an image (jpeg, gif, png or bmp format) with the same name as the executable file (can include the _thumb suffix),, this image will be automatically used for the launcher.
  2. Select the fanart path. This is the folder where the fanart image of the launcher will be downloaded to. If there is already an image (jpeg, gif, png or bmp format) with the same name as the executable (can include the _fanart suffix), this image will be automatically used for the launcher.

5.2 File launcher

(You’ll find more specific explanations on the items below - indicated with a footnote link)

  1. Select the "File launcher (e.g. game emulator)" option.
  2. Browse and select the executable file of the application you want to use (the emulator’s "exe"-file for instance)[1].
  3. Enter the arguments you want to use with the application[2]. To fill these arguments you have the possibility to use 5 variables:
    %rom% : this tag will be replaced by the complete path of the file.
    %romfile% : this tag will be replaced by the filename (name + extension).
    %romname% : this tag will be replaced by the name of a file (name without extension).
    %appath% : this tag will be replaced by the folder path of started executable file.
    %rompath%: this tag will be replaced by the folder path of launched files.
  4. Select the folder containing the file which will be launched with the application you choose (the folder of your ROM-Files for instance - we’ll call this folder ROM-Folder from this point onwards)
  5. Indicate the files extensions that will be listed by the launcher. The extension must be separated using the | character[3].
  6. Indicate the title of the launcher. The Launcher will be displayed using this defined title.
  7. Choose a platform. The selected option will correspond to the platform system of the started application or emulated system. This option will be used by the scrapers to identify the games in the ROM-Folder[4].
  8. Select the thumbnails path. This folder contains all the thumbnails of the items inside the ROM-Folder not of launcher itself! If there is already an image (jpeg, gif, png or bmp format) with the same name as an item in the folder you defined (including the _thumb suffix) this image will be automatically used with that item.
  9. Select the fanarts path. This folder contains all the fanarts of the items inside the ROMFolder not of launcher itself If there is already an image (jpeg, gif, png or bmp format) with the same name as an item in the folder you defined (including the _thumb suffix) this image will be automatically used with that item.

  1. If you want to add Windows-Games just choose any application, it does not matter what you select, the launcher will always launch the shortcut which is placed in the directory.
  2. The arguments are defined by your application. If you use an emulator for instance, there is the highly possible chance that it can use command-line-arguments to pass a certain file. So normally you could just open a command-line window in Windows and type something like "Path\to\emulator.exe -s Path\to\ROM-File.rom" to launch a desired ROM-file inside the emulator. Advanced Launcher makes use of those command-line arguments. So in this case it would be the argument "-s" followed by the path to the actual ROM-File which is needed by the emulator to launch directly to load a ROM. You then should type the following into the argument-textbox: "-s %romfile%"

    If you do not know what command-line arguments you can use with what application you should look on the page of the emulator. It most likely will explain the command-line usage somewhere in the manual or the wiki.
  3. For Windows-Games type "lnk" ("l" as in "low") in order to start the right applications. Otherwise choose the file-extension of the ROM-Files. If you have more than one file-extension per file-type you can add multiple extension, separated with the "|"-character.
  4. For Windows-Games choose "IBM PC Compatible"

You will notice that after adding a "File launcher" you have no items in it, regardless of the contents of the ROM-Folder. This is because Advanced Launcher needs to be instructed to add the items to the launcher. Highlight the specific launcher in Advanced Launcher and open up the Context-Menu ("c" on your keyboard) - pick the item "Add Items" from the list. In the next step you will be asked how the items in that folder should be scraped. In "automatic"-mode Advanced Launcher will scrape all items in the folder automatically using the scrapers you defined in the configuration. Advanced Launcher will use the best matching title and does the rest alone (including the import of Thumbnails and Fanarts). If you pick the manual-mode Advanced Launcher will prompt you for an item. Specify an item you want to add and Advanced Launcher will scrape it. You could also choose an item which is not located in the ROM-Folder but somewhere else. This can take a while - of course depending on the contents of your ROM-Folder. After it finishes importing, the File launcher will open itself and you’ll see all the scraped items.

6 Advanced

Look at this post for more features and a take on how to use them.

In order to make full use of the Advanced Launcher it is probable that you want an item for it on the home-screen so you do not have to go to "Programs -> Add-Ons" every time. Most skins allow you to add items to the home-screen which are present in you "Favorites"-File. To add Advanced Launcher itself to your list of favorites navigate to "Programs -> Add-Ons" and highlight "Advanced Launcher", then bring up your context-menu and pick the item "Add to favorites". You also have the possibility to add the specific launchers to your favorites. Just open Advanced Launcher, highlight the specific launcher and open up the context-menu. Pick here "Add to favorites" as well.

Now get back to your settings-menu and choose the option "Skin" from the list. Open up the section for "Custom Home" - you can now pick individual home-screen items to display.


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