Advanced Topics

Configuration options designed for advanced users

This document is to cover some interesting topics that are intended for advanced users only.


Manual TiVos

Normally, cTiVo discovers TiVos on the local network automatically using a network technology called BonJour. Normally this will work fine, but if you need to enter a TiVo address manually or wish to access your TiVos remotely, you'll need to enter their information here. Simply use the Edit>Edit Manual TiVos menu item. This will show any TiVos you've previously entered. Use the + button to add a new one, or the - button to delete one. If you'd like to temporarily delete one, just uncheck the "Enabled" button. You can get the TiVo's current local IP address from its Networks and Settings screen, although this may change over time, especially when your TiVo is restarted. For the local network, you should always use the ports provided (80/443)

Interestingly, you may also be able to use cTiVo remotely, although this can take considerable network ability and patience. Patience both in the sense of trial and error as well as in the upload bandwidth available on your connection to the Internet. You will need to set your router to pass external accesses to your main IP address through to your TiVo. As you may be doing this for other devices as well, we also let you adjust the ports cTiVo uses to match whatever port mapping you're doing in your router. If you didn't understand this paragraph so far, then you probably shouldn't be doing this. Note that whether this violates your terms of service with your cable company, TiVo Inc, your internet provider, any random film studio in Hollywood, or anybody else is entirely up to you.

Edit Formats

If you'd like to configure a different video encoder, or provide different parameters to the built-in ones than we have configured, then you can use the Edit>Edit Formats menu item. This gives you a screen where you can configure a new encoder format, or use an existing format as a template.

  • Start by selecting the closest format from the Formats pulldown.
  • If it's a built-in format (or you wish to have two versions of your own format), Duplicate it to create a new one that you will modify with your new parameters. You cannot edit a built-in format without duplicating it. You could create one from scratch with New, but it's probably easier to modify an existing one in most cases. Obviously, if you no longer want a user-defined format, you can Delete it here as well.
  • All formats can either be hidden or visible in the main user interface. So if you don't have any use for many of the built-in formats, just mark them as hidden.
  • Below the line are all the parameters available for editing. Again, built-in formats cannot be edited without Duplicating, so their parameters will be greyed out.
  • Name of the Format as displayed in the menu. This must be unique versus all other built-in or user formats.
  • File Extension for Encoded File. cTiVo will use this to generate the filenames. Some encoders ignore an incorrect extension, and put the correct one in, which will cause problems, so be sure this is correct.
  • Description. This is just a short human-readable reminder of what the other options mean.
  • Input Filename/Output Filename/Edit List Switch: these are passed in the command line to the encoder (see Arguments
  • Encoder to Use: See Encoder To Use
  • Regex for Encoder Log: If the encoder cannot support simultaneous encoding (e.g. HandBrakeCLI), the encoder should provide in its standard output the percentage complete as a number from 0-100.  You will need to provide a regex expression for extracting this number from the last few lines of the standard output.  For example, HandBrakeCLI writes its progress as 87 %, so the regex is ([\% This will only be used when doing sequential downloading, decrypting, and encoding.  When doing simultaneous encoding, the data flow through the pipes is used to measure progress.
  • Video/Audio/Other Options for Encoder: These are passed on the command line to the encoder; see Arguments.
  • Comskip Options: ComSkip is an experimental feature for cTiVo; See the comskip project. Included in this implementation is a configuration file (comskip.ini), which can be found on the cTivo source code page. In addition to other command line parameters, you can replace the built-in comskip.ini with your own comskip.ini file by entering "--ini=\<full path>/comskip.ini" providing the full path to your own file.
  • ccExtractor Options: ccExtractor exports subtitles from the video stream into a .srt text file. See the ccExtractor project
  • Can run download and encode at same time should be set only if the encoder can run as a final stage of a pipeline (stdin being the source pipe).

  • Can be added to iTunes means that the file format generated is compatible with iTunes, and will simply enable or disable that option for the user.

  • Can Skip Commercials means whether to enable that option for the user. If enabled, the encoder must handle the edl as generated by comSkip.

Encoder to Use

Enter either the name or the full path to the encoder to be used. The paths searched for the encoder are (in order)

        <cTiVo Bundle>
        /usr/local/<encoder name>/bin
        /opt/local/<encoder name>/bin
        <Full path>

If the encoder accepts - (dash) for standard input, you should check 'Can run download and encode at the same time' to allow simultaneous encoding. The encoder must be marked as executable. mencoder & HandBrakeCLI are included in the cTiVo bundle.

Your encoder can be a script file (with standard first line of #! to specify script type, such as #/usr/bin/sh for shell script or #!/usr/bin/osascript for Applescript), provided it accepts the above arguments and is marked as executable. Be sure to test script-based encoders with shows having special characters like single or double quotes or Unicode characters in their names.


The command line passed from the options are:

        <Video options>
        <Audio options>
        <Other options>
        <Edit List Switch>   //These two only if running comSkip to skip commercials.
        <.edl FileName>

OR, if no outputFileFlag:

        <Video options>
        <Audio options>
        <Other options>
        <EDL Switch>        //These two only if running comSkip to skip commercials.
        <.edl FileName>

If you are debugging a format, you can use the advance preferences to increase the debugging level. See Log Files below for more information. You can also set the "Don't Delete tmp files" option, which will save the subsidiary program log files (from your encoder, comskip, etc) for your perusal. Be sure to set it back when finished debugging as it will generate massive temp files.


For MPEG files (.MPG, .MP4, .MOV, or .M4V), cTivo can embed a still picture inside the file to represent it in iTunes, iOS devices, or other players that understand this standard. By default, this picture is one of the first frames of the video, but you have many choices available. First, in Preferences, you can specify that all videos should have the same cTiVo icon, representing that it came from your TiVo. Secondly, in Preferences, you can enable cTiVo retrieving fan-generated, episode-specific artwork from (although this is dependent on the series/episode being in the database). Third, you can create a "thumbnails" directory in your download folder containing artwork that is added to episodes as they are generated. These files can be in almost any format supported by the OS, but the filename has to be in a specific syntax.

The filename must start with the series title (e.g. "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart") with any slashes or colons replaced with dashes. Then you can create a series-generic file (no suffix), a season-specific file (suffix of Snn, or an episode-specific file (suffix of SnnEnn).

These local files can be stored in the download directory itself or in a "thumbnails" subdirectory of the download directory. If you have enabled series-specific subdirectories within the download directory, they can also be in that directory, or in a "thumbnails" subdirectory of that subdirectory. To give as much control to you as possible, if more than one of these artwork types are available, it will use the first one it finds in the following order:

  • Local episode-specific (SnnEnn)
  • theTVDB artwork (if enabled and available)
  • Local season-specific (S00)
  • Local series-generic
  • cTiVo icon (if enabled)
  • Initial frame from video

Advanced Settings

There are a few preferences that are intended for debugging purposes or for very advanced users only. These are hidden, but can be activated by holding down the Option key while pulling down the cTiVo menu and selecting Adv Preferences (alternatively Option-Cmd-Comma).

Debug Levels

This will increase the level of detail written to the Console log from major events to verbose. As "verbose" is indeed very verbose, you can also set the debug level separately for each of the major modules in the program. This would mainly be of use while reading the source code or under the direction of someone helping you debug a problem.

Disable Drag to Select in UI

OSX has an inconsistency of what "click on a filename and drag across multiple files" means. This can either mean "drag the first file", or "select multiple files". Our default is the latter, but you can change it with this option.

Don't Delete tmp Files

During its processing, cTiVo creates several intermediate files, which are deleted upon completion. The video files are typically in the download directory, and the others (sub-program log files, etc) are in the /tmp/cTiVo/ directory. For debugging purposes, this option lets you turn off the automatic deletion. Setting this option can burn up your hard drive very quickly, so be sure to disable after debugging.

Download Retries

If cTivo encounters a failure (network not available, encoder problem, etc), it will retry automatically. This option lets you change the number of times it retries before giving up entirely; default is 3.

Don't use memory buffer for downloads

For performance reasons, cTiVo will normally download the TiVo file into memory rather than writing it to a temporary file. Sometimes for debugging purposes, it's convenient to have it write these files directly to disk, and this option enables that.

TiVo Refresh Rate

How often (in minutes) should cTivo check the Now Playing list of your TiVos

Temporary Files Directory

While the video files are stored in the download directory, during processing many other files are stored in a working directory. By default this is in /tmp/ctivo, and is emptied as each transaction is finished and when cTivo starts up. You can change this directory here.

View TVDB Stats

Displays the results of theTVDB lookups since cTiVo has started, or since an Empty Cache command. See [below for more on interpreting this information.

Empty Cache

Empty Cache erases the caches stored in the program and reloads the information contained. The two caches are theTVDB information and the detailed XML loaded from the !TiVo for each show. If you think something is wrong with the information being displayed this might be useful, but more important is to reset theTVDB statistics to go directly to the source. See theTVDB below for more information.


For some reason, TiVo has recently not been filling in the season/episode information on many shows. Oddly, this information may be available in the user interface, but not delivered to cTiVo. We attempt to work around this by accessing and looking up an episode to fill in the season/episode information or to get access to the fan-generated artwork available there. Fair warning: the following paragraphs on how this all works may be more information that you want!

There are several steps involved here, and as theTVDB is fan-maintained, the process is not always successful. TiVo licenses show information from the Chicago Tribune Media Services company Zap2It. This information is organized by Episode IDs, which look like EPnnnnnnnnmmmm, where the N's are 8 digits representing a series ID, and the 4 M's specify the episode within that series. provides a way to find a show using these Zap2It IDs, which are entered by users of the database.

First, we use the EP<8 digits> to find the series, which is how they're supposed to be entered into theTVDB. If that fails, due to historical reasons, we also look it up under EP<6 digits>, SH<8 digits>, and SH<6 digits>. If all those fail, we look it up by name, which is not going to be as accurate in general.

Second, we look for the episode using the "Original Air Date" as listed in both databases. This works well overall, but there is one major conflict area. If a show is first shown in one country and then shown again in another (e.g. Doctor Who, or most shows on BBC America), theTVDB considers them the same series and uses an Original Air Date from the first country. On the other hand, Zap2It considers them separate series and uses the second country's Original Air Date. Unfortunately, theTVDB does not provide a way to look up episodes by name, so we cannot match in this case. Also, many recurring shows (e.g. news) do not track episodes.

Finally, if we do find the episode, then we can then use the fan artwork, if any exists for that show (usually a particularly appropriate frame from the show). And if TiVo does not have that season/episode info, we can use theTVDB's instead. Note that there are frequent cases of season/episode mismatch, where theTVDB has a different information than TiVo provides, we've chosen to follow TiVo's lead.

There are two buttons relevant to this process in the Advance Preferences window. The first is View TVDB stats, which shows you the result of this process summarized since the program began. Note that for performance reasons, we cache the TVDB results, so if you want a true picture of the results for the current list of shows, you will need to use the other button Empty Caches. After a few seconds (or even a minute or two), View TVDB stats will show you how many series were found (and by which method), which episodes were then found, and how many episodes matched, and which ones didn't match.

        "Episode Found" = 20;
        "Episode Found in Cache" = 16;
        "Episode Not FoundCount" = 17;
        "Episode Not FoundList" =     {
            "Access Hollywood" = "EP00188707 aired 2013-07-03 ";
            "Antiques Roadshow: Vintage Milwaukee" = "EP00203652 aired 2013-07-01 ";
            "Entertainment Tonight" = "EP00001457 aired 2013-07-04 ";
            "Masterpiece Classic: Mr. Selfridge: Part 1" = "EP01088332 aired 2013-03-31 ";
            "Selling New York: The Push" = "EP01231570 aired 2010-05-27 ";
            "The Doctors: Must-Know Gadgets, Gizmos and Health Trends" = "EP01074571 aired 2012-11-08 ";
            "The Wendy Williams Show: Mistresses" = "EP01061654 aired 2013-06-05 ";
            "Throwdown With Bobby Flay: Fried Chicken" = "EP00841501 aired 2007-01-24 ";
            "Wipeout: Boss & Employee: Third Shift" = "EP01046187 aired 2013-05-30 ";
        "Season/Episode Info Added" = 15;
        "Season/Episode Info Match" = 16;
        "Season/Episode Info MismatchCount" = 5;
        "Season/Episode Info MismatchList" =     {
            "MythBusters: Painting With Explosives; Bifurcated Boat" = "12/9 v our 92/6; EP00557678 aired 2013-06-26; ";
            "Phineas and Ferb: Knot My Problem; Just Desserts" = "4/16 v our 44/3; EP00948847 aired 2013-07-05; ";
            "Raising Hope: The Walk for Runs" = "3/8 v our 3/6; EP01279218 aired 2012-11-27; ";
            "Raising Hope: What Up, Bro?" = "3/6 v our 3/4; EP01279218 aired 2012-11-13; ";
            "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" = "10/169 v our 10/162; EP00599270 aired 2013-05-30; ";
        "Series Found EP" = 25;
        "Series Found SH" = 1;
        "Series Found by NameCount" = 1;
        "Series Found by NameList" =     {
            "Sandwich King: Comfort Food Classics" = "tvdb has (null) for our EP01432865; ";
        "Series Not FoundCount" = 4;
        "Series Not FoundList" =     {
            "Bang for Your Buck" = EP01131026;
            Challenge = EP00876404;
            "Extreme Waterparks" = EP01071497;
            "House Hunters: Beachfront Homes" = EP01413091;

For those series, episodes that weren't found or mismatched, a URL is provided to go to theTVDB and update their information if appropriate. Note that remarkably huge controversies have erupted about how to number seasons and episodes, so just because TiVo is providing one set of information doesn't necessarily mean that theTVDB is incorrect or will take kindly to being changed. See their forums for more context. On the other hand, series that are "Found by Name" that are missing EP IDs, or "Not Found" at all are probably good candidates to fix in the central database for the benefit of all.

Advanced Subscriptions

For the basics of subscriptions, see Subscriptions. Manual subscriptions are actually implemented using standard Regular expressions, which you can enter by hand. Regular expressions are quite complicated, and a description of how the work is beyond the scope of this document. The offical syntax is at ICU syntax.

As an example, if you want all shows beginning with House and you just entered House, you would get Warehouse 13 as well. Instead you could enter ^House, which would match House, House Hunters International, but not Warehouse 13.

If you want the subscription table to look a little better, you can add after the regex and it will display that string rather than the regex used. So, you might use ^House in the example above.

As another example, the shortcut ALL to download all recorded shows is implemented with .*\<\<\<ALL SHOWS>>>, so dot-star will matches all series, and it will display as \<\<ALL SHOWS>> in the list.

Log Files

cTiVo stores its main log files at ~/Library/Logs/cTiVo. The last four files are kept with up to 10M each. They are named with random numbers, so use the creation date to figure out the order. These files can be opened in any text editor, or the Console application, which provides a nice filter option.

As there's an enormous amount of data flowing through cTiVo, we let you control the amount of logs generated by the different parts of the program. There are five levels:

  • None: No output generated
  • Normal: General tracking of events
  • Major: Key points in the work flow
  • Detail: Detailed work flow
  • Verbose: Logs of all major data elements

Go to Advanced Preferences (Option-Cmd-Comma) to set these levels. The main objects in the program, at least the ones that generate log information, are:

  • AppDelegate: The main program
  • TivoManager: Holder of the major data items and cross-!TiVo activity
  • TiVo: Communicating with an individual TiVo
  • TiVoShow: A show as stored on a TiVo
  • Download: A request to copy a show to the Mac
  • Format: Which encoder and parameters to use for a download
  • EDL: Edit Decision List (generated by comskip to indicated where commercials begin/end)
  • SRT: Sub Rip Text (subtitle format as generated by ccextractor )
  • iTunes: Communication object with iTunes
  • Task: An individual activity, such as commercialing, or decoding to be monitored
  • TaskChain: A set of Tasks to be executed in parallel
  • Subscription: A request to store all episodes of a series

In addition, there are the User Interface Components, which log user requests, and

  • MainWindowController
  • ProgramTableView
  • DownloadTableView
  • SubscriptionTableView

While diagnosing an issue, you probably want to set all components to at least Major, with relevant ones to Detail and the one you're most interested in to Verbose.

For example, if you're interested in debugging a new encoding format, most of the debug activity you'll be interested in will be in Download, so set that one and Format to Verbose. In the event of a failure, this will include the recent entries in the sub-program's (e.g. encoder, comskip etc) log files to help you diagnose the issue. Beyond the Normal level, the logs are primarily intended as a guide to which part of the code is being executed, so it's best to read them in conjunction with the source code. One string to filter on is "DL Status", which shows the transitions each show makes from one phase to the next. To get maximum information about a download, also set Task and TaskChain to Detail or Verbose, although this generates a lot of data.

Filename Templates

By default, cTiVo will save the downloaded files as SeriesName- EpisodeTitle.ext; for example, The Big Bang Theory- The Hofstadter Insufficiency.mp4. However, for some environments, a different filename format might be desired. For example, Plex likes to see filenames like The Big Bang Theory - S07E01 - The Hofstadter Insufficiency.mp4.

To make filenames configurable to whatever format you choose, you can provide cTiVo a filename template with embedded keywords in [brackets]. cTiVo will then use that template, replacing each keyword with the appropriate value for the show being downloaded. (FYI, This system is based on KMTTG’s filenaming format to make it easy to move back and forth from that system.)

You set this Filename Template in cTiVo’s Advanced Preferences. Just type it into the template; although for easy entry, you can use the pulldown menu on the right to fill in individual keywords. In addition, at the bottom of the list, we have also provided a few default formats; for example, two Plex formats: one for a shared directory, one for a structured directory with individual folders for each show and each season of a show.

The keywords below refer to the same example, specifically using the seventh season, first episode of Big Bang Theory called The Hofstadter Insufficiency first aired on 9/26/13, recorded on a TiVo named Main on Thursday, 10/17/13 at 8:00pm on channel 706 KOINDT.

The keywords available, and the results for this case are:

[title] = The Big Bang Theory – The Hofstadter Insufficiency
[mainTitle] = The Big Bang Theory
[episodeTitle] = The Hofstadter Insufficiency
[channelNum] = 706
[channel] = KOINDT
[min] = 00
[hour] = 20
[wday] = Thu
[mday] = 17
[month] = Oct
[monthNum] = 10
[year] = 2013
[originalAirDate] = 2013-09-26
[season] = 07
[episode] = 01
[EpisodeNumber] = 701
[SeriesEpNumber] = S07E01
[startTime] = 2013-10-17T04-00-00Z  //“zulu” time
[TivoName] = Main                         
[movieYear] =                       //non-Movies don’t have a movieYear  
[TVDBSeriesID] = 80379              //from website 
[/] = subdirectory separator        //see below

Example templates: cTiVo default: [mainTitle]- [episodeTitle] //or just a blank field ==>The Big Bang Theory- The Hofstadter Insufficiency.mp4

Plex: [mainTitle] - [SeriesEpNumber] - [episodeTitle] ==>The Big Bang Theory - S07E01 - The Hofstadter Insufficiency.mp4

Other: [title] (Recorded [month] [mday],[year],[channel]) ==>The Big Bang Theory- The Hofstadter Insufficiency (Recorded Oct 10, 2013, KOINDT).mp4

If that’s not complicated enough for you, just wait; there’s more!

You can include a subdirectory separator keyword [/] to separate your downloaded files into separate subdirectories. For example, [mainTitle][/][seriesEpNumber] would create a subdirectory of your cTiVo folder for each separate series, wherein each show would be just named like S02E01.mp4 (maybe not a good idea). This feature allows you to emulate (or modify) cTiVo’s Create SubFolders for Series option. As an aside, the subFolders option occurs “first”, so you could use that option to divide the main folder into series folders, and then use the subdirectory keyword to divide those folders into seasons, if you wished.

Example: emulate cTiVo subdir Feature: [mainTitle][/][mainTitle]- [episodeTitle] ==>The Big Bang Theory/The Big Bang Theory- The Hofstadter Insufficiency.mp4

And more!

Depending on various issues, certain fields may not be available. The most obvious example is that movies don’t have season/episode information, but do have 'movieYear' information. So you can create a compound keyword, which contains one or more keywords separated by spaces as well as literal text in quotes. If ANY of the keywords included in the compound keyword are empty, then the ENTIRE compound keyword becomes empty. So, the compound keyword [" (" SeriesEpNumber ") “] would become (S07E01) for our episode above, but be omitted for a movie. Alternatively, the compound keyword [“ (“ movieYear “ )”] would represent (2013) for a movie released that year, but be omitted entirely for our episode of Big Bang, as movieYearwould be blank.

Example: naming a show with either season information OR movie information, as available: [mainTitle][" (" movieYear “)"] [" (" SeriesEpNumber ") "][" - " episodeTitle] ==>The Big Bang Theory - S07E01 - The Hofstadter Insufficiency.mp4==>Machete (2010)`

And you can put these together: [mainTitle / "Season " season / mainTitle " - " seriesEpNumber " - " episodeTitle]["Movies" / mainTitle " (" movieYear ")"] ==>The Big Bang Theory/Season 07/The Big Bang Theory - S07E01 - The Hofstadter Insufficiency.mp4 ==>Movies/Machete (2010)

A couple of final notes:

  • Capitalization is irrelevant in keywords.
  • Quotes are not allowed inside quotes.
  • Brackets cannot be used as text.
  • Colons are converted to dashes.
  • You cannot control the extension of the filename here; that is determined by the format you choose.