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
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
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.