PlexFlix, creating the unified library of tomorrow…today!

PlexFlix

We love our HTPCs, and even more, the media center software that makes them the miracles of modern entertainment consumption that they’ve become.  We love how they streamline our owned content, and more recently, how they integrate online offerings such as Hulu and Netflix.

Plex has had this functionality for years through its app store now called “Plex Online”, and more recently, XBMC and Boxee have followed suit, but the one downside of all of these implementations:  too much navigation.  Your local content is one section, Netflix another, and Hulu yet a third.  Who needs that?  Say you are browsing your local content TV shows, saw nothing that tickled your fancy, and decided you wanted to watch the next episode of Sons of Anarchy in your Watch Instantly Queue, that takes a minimum of 11 clicks – that’s 10 too many!  Wouldn’t it be nice to have all your TV Shows – local content, Netflix, Hulu, etc all in one library that you could browse seamlessly?  Sound like nirvana?  It is, and it exists…but only on Plex.

VicariousMe, an enterprising Plex user, created PlexFlix a Mac-only app that brings harmony to the universe (actually it just seamlessly integrates your local and far flung Interweb content).  Currently only available on the Mac, PlexFlix is a gem of an app that creates files that Plex can read and incorporate into your movie (from your Netflix Watch Instantly Queue) and TV show (from both Netflix and Hulu) Plex libraries. And best of all, once you set it up, there’s no user involvement thereafter, who could ask for more?  So lets get down to brass tacks and run through setup.

  1. Where you’d like, create two folders, one for TV shows and one for movies (here are two creative ideas – PlexFlix Movies and PlexFlix TV Shows)
  2. Add these two folders to your existing TV show and movie library sections in your Plex Media Manager respectively.
  3. Download the plexflix dmg file and drag to your applications folder.
  4. Open PlexFlix (pretty easy thus far!)
  5. Using the two “Choose” buttons as seen in the screenshot below, select the TV show and movie folders you just created in Step 1 above respectively.                  
  6. In the “Repeat after:” box, input an integer as to how often you want PlexFlix to check for new items in your queues.
  7. If you use Hulu, the setup is more involved (damn you Hulu!), but what you are essentially doing is copying and pasting the RSS feed for each show you’ve subscribed to and paste it in the “Hulu Feeds” box. Detailed instructions are here.
  8. Netflix setup happens the first time you press ‘Create queue’.  When you do, follow the instructions in the popup dialog box to enable PlexFlix to access your Netflix account.
  9. Wait and enjoy.  Plexflix will download and create the requisite files, and then instruct Plex to update your media library, downloading thumbnails, fanart and all the other metadata goodness Plex collects.

With PlexFlix, all your media – owned and streaming – are gloriously merged into a single library.  Now when you scroll through your TV shows library in Plex, its  your local content, Hulu and Netflix content all rolled up into one.  Select a Netflix show, it launches Netflix and plays.  Select a Hulu show, it launches Hulu and plays.  When the shows end, you are back in Plex.

Now as with any good technology there’s the fine print.  Firstly, it requires Silverlight to be installed, and upon occasion, when the monolith known as Microsoft releases a new version, you may see a popup box within Plex asking if you wish to download and install the new version which is a minor annoyance, but don’t hold that against Plex.  Second, PlexFlix won’t delete Hulu or Netflix shows that have become no longer available on either service.  Third, it requires that both the Hulu and Netflix plugins are installed in Plex.  And finally, the watched/unwatched status isn’t updated for Netflix/Hulu shows, so you’ll have to manually mark watched shows.  Beyond those caveats, PlexFlix is a terrific add-on to Plex, and has become indispensible in my household, greatly increasing the family-acceptance-factor in my household, and further easing cutting the cord.   Now if only one could play live TV in Plex we’d be all set (oh wait, you can, but we’ll discuss that another time).

So give PlexFlix a try, we think you’ll find it as terrific as we do.   So let’s raise a glass to cutting the cord and the good folks at Plex for helping make it reality.  Happy cutting…

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