Sheryl Canter

Universal Remote Control Fine Points

In a previous post, I wrote about how I was able to use a learning remote from Universal Remote Control (the URC-WR7) to set up a Bose Wave Radio as the audio for my TV, cable box, and Blu-ray player. At the time I hadn’t fully configured everything. Now that I have, I want to share a few more things I discovered:

  • The secret to learning from the Time-Warner Cable remote, which at first appears not to work
  • What to do if you want to access more device features than the WR7 has buttons
  • Tips on using the punch-through and macro features

Learning from the Time-Warner Cable Remote

URC-WR7

URC-WR7

I rent a high-def DVR box from Time-Warner Cable. (The remote for the cable box also is made by URC, which I hadn’t noticed at first.) The default code for the cable remote assigned all the buttons on the WR7 correctly, but I wanted to add a few things (more later on how to add things when you’re out of buttons), and also I wanted to reverse the meaning of “Skip -” and “Skip +”.

On URC remotes, “Skip -” means “scroll the channel guide screen up” (channel numbers increase) and “Skip +” means “scroll the screen down” (channel numbers decrease). I could handle that on the Time-Warner remote because the buttons were arranged vertically with the “+” on top. That was positionally intuitive so I just ignored the labels. But on the WR7, the buttons are arranged horizontally with the “Skip -” on the left. I wanted the “Skip -” button to scroll backwards through the channels, and “Skip +” to scroll forward.

When I first tried to use the learning function to reverse these buttons it seemed to work – all the correct things blinked – but post-learning the buttons were non-functional. I tried over and over and couldn’t get it to work. And then finally, by accident, I discovered the solution.

To learn from the cable remote, the cable remote has to be at a 45° angle or greater, bottom up with nose pointing down at the WR7. Once I did that, problem solved – I could learn from any button on the cable remote.

To Access More Features Than the WR7 Has Buttons

URC-RF20

URC-RF20

The easy solution to this problem is to buy one of the other remotes made by URC. I tried the RF20. It’s incredibly configurable, and yet quite easy to set up. It can accomodate up to 10 devices (the WR7 handles 7), and it has an LCD screen. Each device can have up to 8 screens of commands, 5 commands per page. If you don’t want to be scrolling through all that, you can set some of the pages to “invisible”. By default, only 5 pages are visible.

When you enter the correct code for a device (for example, the cable box), all the buttons are assigned automatically. If you want, you can stop right there. But everything is configurable. You can customize the names of the devices, the names of the commands, and what each command does. Almost every button can be used to store macros. It also transmits both IR and RF signals, so it can be used with a receiver base station to control devices that are hidden behind walls and inside cabinets.

The RF20 costs a little more than the WR7, but it’s still quite a bit less than the Logitech Harmony remotes. And as far as I can tell, it’s just as configurable as the Harmony remotes while quite a bit easier to set up. I found the RF20 intuitive enough that I hardly had to glance at the manual, and setup took just a few minutes.

But if you prefer buttons to an LCD screen, there’s a way to get around the limited number of buttons on the WR7 (which has an especially nice button layout). The only component where I really needed more buttons was the cable box. I used the Auxilliary (AUX) mode to add them on. In AUX mode, when I press “Skip +” in the channel guide, it means “Advance One Day”. In Cable mode, it means “Advance One Page”. I also programmed the four colored “My Favorites” buttons in AUX mode to Settings, Rewind, Live, and List. (See the next section for why you should not reprogram these buttons in Cable mode.)

Tips on Using the Punch-Through and Macro Features

First, I want to take a minute to better explain the punch-through feature, which I mentioned only briefly in my previous post. This is a terrific feature that I haven’t seen on other universal remotes.

Punch-through can be applied to four sets of buttons:

  • Volume Control (Volume Up, Volume Down, Mute)
  • Channel Control (Channel Up, Channel Down, Last, 0-9, +10, Enter)
  • Transport Control (Play, Stop, Fast Forward, Rewind, Pause, Skip, Record)
  • On-Screen Display (Menu, Guide, Info, Exit, Select, the four cursor controls)

I only use it for volume, but that one feature solves a big problem. All the devices that display through my television (cable box, Blu-ray player, DVD player, VCR) use my Bose Wave Radio for audio. I want the volume control for all these devices to control the Bose Wave Radio, rather than their individual volume controls. The punch-through feature lets me do that, and very easily. It’s just a couple of button presses to set it up.

The macro capability also is useful. You can program the “On” button, for example, to turn on both your TV and your audio device (in my case, the Bose Wave Radio). People with fancier setups than mine will find many other uses for macros. But there’s one way the WR7 manual suggests that you use the macro feature that you really should not: Do not program the four “My Favorites” buttons in Cable mode!

Don’t Program the Colored Buttons in Cable Mode!

There are four colored buttons along the bottom of the WR7 that correspond to the colored buttons on the cable remote: A-yellow, B-blue, C-red, D-green. (The RF20 does not have separate colored buttons, but A, B, C, D, etc. are available from the LCD screen.) These buttons have special meanings in operating the cable box – different meanings in different contexts.

It’s extremely nice that the WR7 has these buttons built in – I’ve seen reviews of other universal remotes complaining that there’s no way to duplicate them. But if you program macros into them in Cable mode, as the WR7 manual suggests, you lose their native function, and you will no longer be able to fully control your cable box. Do not override these buttons in cable mode!

I don’t feel a need to set up favorite channels on the remote. I use the cable box to store my Favorites, which I can then access through the remote’s “Fav” button. But if you really want to use the colored buttons to program favorite channels, do it in AUX mode, not Cable mode.

URC remotes are exceptionally well designed and not enough people seem to know about them. Everyone talks about the Logitech Harmony remotes, but I really think these are better, and they’re a lot cheaper.

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9 Comments

  1. wm bailey:

    will this remote control my sony tv, comcast cable box and zvox 550

  2. Mood:

    I recently got the WR7. Thanks for the tip for not programming the 4 Fav in Cable mode. Is it possible to program a key for PIP? I tried but so far am unsuccessful.

  3. Doug:

    Sheryl, I just got the Universal WR7 remote. To the good, I’ve been able to transfer all the functions I want for my cable box, Blu-Ray DVD, Pioneer surround sound, and Insignia 42 inch TV. Maybe you could help me with two dead ends I’ve run into. No matter what I’ve tried, I can’t get the input button of the Insignia TV to transfer to the corresponding WE7 input button in the TV mode. I’ve been using the learning method which worked fine on every other transfers in various modes.I’ve even tried using another receptor button on the WR7 like the number one or one of the colored favorite buttons (which worked great to transfer an “open tray” button on my DVD),all to no avail. Also, what button on the WR7 could you use to transfer the Tivo button on my TV remote? Any suggestions would be much appreciated. Doug

  4. David Dornbusch:

    I assumed that one could have the WR7 “learn” input as part of creating a macro – wrong – only commands already in the WR7 can be used in a Macro. Still, the macro capability is great, e.g. since Dish requires 9 button pushes to turn closed captioning ON or OFF, the ability to put this in a macro is great (just be aware that as you are creating the macro you will not be able to see on-screen what your steps are doing since the WR7 button pushes you do will only be recorded in the macro and will not be put out at the same time for your Dish receiver to see. So the procedure is: 1. Press a component button, 2. Press at same time the MUTE and macro buttons for 2-3 seconds, 3. Press buttons on WR7 to be stored in the macro, 4. Press CH up to save macro

  5. Andrew:

    Just saw this in an Amazon review, in regards to one of the WR7 negatives:

    By One-Shot Scot (Berkeley, CA)

    The Universal WR7 is an upgrade from my Universal R7. I was very happy with the R7, but it had no three-digit code for my OPPO DVD player and the R7 was unable to learn the commands from the remote to my Roku digital video player. The WR7 has the OPPO DVD player code and it was also able to learn the Roku commands.

    Increased functionality and ease of programming can be realized with both the R7 the WR7 remotes by using an undocumented programming method. There is no problem entering TV codes into the TV button, DVD codes into the DVD button etc. However, it you have more than one DVD player, VCR or other component, programming the Universal remote control can be challenging. The WR7 may refuse to learn remote control functions from device categories that do not match the category of the function key being programmed.

    The following example shows how to enter a DVD code into a non-DVD button, but the same basic procedure can be used for any other component code that does not match the category of the button to which it is being assigned. This procedure can also be incorporated into other programming methods described in the owner’s manual. The key to success is step 2.

    1. Press the non-DVD component button (TV, VCR, SAT/CABLE, AUX, AUD or CD) that you want to program with a DVD code and the SEL button at the same time and hold both buttons down until the component button LED light turns on. Release the buttons.

    2. Press the DVD component button. This undocumented step tells the R7 and WR7 remotes that the next three digits will be a DVD code. (If you were entering a VCR code into a non-VCR component button, you would press the VCR button before entering the code. The same method would apply when programming a TV, SAT/CABLE or CD code into non-matching component buttons.) This is a variation of “punch through” programming for sound and channels.

    3. Enter the three-digit DVD code and press the lighted component button (it will blink three times) and save the code. You can also try several different codes as outlined in the “Three-Digit Code Entry Method” or the “Auto Search Method” in the owner’s manual, before saving the code. Any missing functions can be learned from the original remote control.

    Some functions assigned by the three-digit method, such as zoom or slow motion keys that must be held down to activate cycling, may not work exactly like the those of the original remote control. Re-learning these commands from the original remote may resolve these problems.

  6. Sheryl Canter:

    THANK YOU, DAVID!!! You ROCK!!! This one limitation of the WR7 has been driving me nuts. I finally found that there *is* a code that works with the Bose radio – 409 – but I can’t enter it on the AUD button. It only works on the AUX button. I also have the problem you describe. I have the correct code for my Panasonic DVD player, but it only works on the DVD button, not the CD button. If I want to use the CD button, I have to manually “teach” every button – PITA.

    Thank you very much for posting this. I’m going to go try it now. How did you learn about this??

  7. Ann:

    Can the WR7 learn the ‘picture size’ (aspect ratio) on a Samsung tv remote?

  8. Sheryl Canter:

    I have a Samsung TV and there is a code that adds most of the functionality. You can add buttons you particularly want through the “learning” function. I added the one for Source using the Input button on the WR7. You could program the Input button to be whatever the button is on the TV remote to control the aspect ratio.

  9. Ann:

    Great, thanks Sheryl.

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