Macros - the keys to remote control user-friendliness


Jim Richardson

Jim Richardson is the managing editor for home audio/video and pro audio learning content on

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If you have a universal remote control, you may have already discovered the wonders of the macro. If not, well, a macro is a function that lets you program multiple steps into a single command. For example, say you want to watch a DVD, with surround sound. That might involve six operations:

  1. Turn on TV
  2. Turn on receiver
  3. Select DVD input on TV
  4. Select DVD input on receiver
  5. Turn on DVD player
  6. Play DVD

But with a macro, you can combine those six steps into one command. Start by putting your universal remote in macro-learning mode. Step through the usual sequence of operations and save the sequence under one of the macro buttons. It sounds simple enough, and often it is.

But there's one place where macros can fall down on the job - power-on commands. If one of the components has been left on - perhaps by a family member who simply can't remember to use the remote - it will be turned off when you hit the macro button. Fortunately, there are a few ways around this, which don't require forcible re-education of your kids or your roommate:

  1. Create a separate "Power Up" macro to turn on the TV and the receiver first. Leave those steps out of your "activity" macros, to keep them as simple as possible.
  2. Find a button that turns a component on, but won't turn it off. Use this "on-only" button (instead of the component's power button) when you program your macro. For instance, if you hit the play button on most DVD players, the player will turn on. Hit the play button again, and the DVD player stays on. Sometimes a receiver's input buttons (labeled TV, VCR, or DVD) don't just select the inputs, they also turn on (but won't turn off) the corresponding components. These "on-only" buttons help you make macros that are much more reliable.