Plex (software)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Plexapp Logo.png
Developer(s) Plex, Inc.
Stable release (client) / December 13, 2013; 4 months ago (2013-12-13)
Preview release (server) / March 26, 2014; 21 days ago (2014-03-26)
Written in C++ based front end and proprietary back end/server (with Python Scripts as plugins)
Operating system Mac OS X v10.6 and above, Microsoft Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and Linux (media server only), iOS, Android, Windows Phone
Platform x86
Available in International (multiple languages)
Type Media server, Media player
License GNU GPL and Closed Source (Proprietary Software)

Plex organizes all personal media, no matter where its kept, so it can be accessed on any screen.[1] It is a media player system and software suite consisting of a player application with a 10-foot user interface and an associated media server that organizes personal media stored on local devices. It is available for Mac OS X, Linux, and Microsoft Windows.[2] Plex also offers streaming apps for Roku and Chromecast.[3] Integrated Plex Channels provide users with access to a growing number of online content providers such as YouTube, Vimeo, TEDTalks, and CNN among others.[4] Plex also provides integration for cloud services[5] including Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, Copy and Bitcasa.[6]

Plex's frontend media player, Plex Home Theater (formerly Plex Media Center[7]), allows the user to manage and play video, photos, music, and podcasts from a local or remote computer running Plex Media Server. In addition, the integrated Plex Online service provides the user with a growing list of community-driven plugins for online content including Hulu, Netflix, and CNN video.[8]

Before the release of the closed source Plex Home Theater in November 2013,[7] Plex Media Center's source code was initially forked from XBMC Media Center on May 21, 2008; this fork is still used today as a front end media player on Linux for Plex's media server backend media host component.[8][9][10] Plex Media Server, unlike the open source frontend, is proprietary software.


Plex began as a freeware hobby project but since 2010 has evolved into a commercial software business that is owned and developed by a single for-profit startup company, Plex, Inc. It is a high tech company based in the United States that is responsible for the development of the Plex Home Theater and Plex Media Server front-end and back-ends, its client–server model, and all accompanying software under the "Plex" brand name, as well as the Exclusive copyright of the closed source proprietary software parts, both when distributed on its own or when it comes as third-party software component in products by other manufacturers via a strategic partnership.[11][12][13]

Plex Home Theater[edit]

Plex Home Theater is the main front-end media player component of the Plex platform ecosystem, which, since November 2013, is now completely based on closed source and proprietary software. Its predecessor, Plex Media Center was initially forked from XBMC in 2008. Both Plex Home Theater and Plex Media Center allow users to browse and play local media, as well as utilize plugins and content which are hosted by a Plex Media Server. [7]

Plex media player software supports a wide range of multimedia formats and includes features such as playlists, audio visualizations, slideshows, weather forecasts reporting, and an expanding array of third-party plugins. As a media player software, Plex can play most audio and video file formats, as well as display images from many sources, including CD/DVD-ROM drive, USB flash drives, the Internet, and local area network shares. DVD playback is not yet fully integrated and requires the use of helper applications like Apple's DVD Player.[14] Plex media player software can also play files from a local hard disk drive, or streaming over SMB/SAMBA/CIFS shares (Windows File-Sharing), ReplayTV DVRs, or UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) and DLNA shares and media servers. Plex is designed to take advantage of an Internet connection if available, using, by default, TheMovieDB (TMDB.ORG) to obtain thumbnails and synopsis of movies, TheTVDB for TV show thumbnails and metadata, CDDB (via FreeDB) for audio CD track listings, and AMG for album cover images. It also has music and video playlists, slideshows, a karaoke function, and many audio visualizers and screensavers.

Plex media player software is able to decode high-definition video up to 1080p, as well as 10-bit H.264 sources.[8][15][16] With the appropriate hardware, Plex supports hardware decoding of H.264 video.[17]

The Plex iOS remote control application screen for an Apple iPhone can be used to control a home theater PC running Plex Home Theater

Plex Home Theater (and Plex Media Center) can be controlled remotely using an Apple or Harmony remote control, or via mobile apps.[14]

The Video Library, one of the Plex metadata databases, is a key feature of Plex. It allows for the automatic organization of video content by information associated with the video files (movies and recorded TV Shows) themselves. The Library Mode view in Plex allows the user to browse video content by categories such as Genre, Title, Year, Actors and Directors.

The Music Library, one of the Plex metadata databases, is another key feature of Plex. It allows for the automatic organization of a music collection by information stored in the ID meta tags, like title, artist, album, genre and popularity.

For audio playback, Plex includes the audio-player called PAPlayer (Psycho-Acoustic Audio Player) which was originally developed in-house by the XBMC developers. Some of this audio-player core's most notable features are on-the-fly audio frequency resampling, gapless playback, crossfading, ReplayGain, cue sheet and Ogg Chapter support.

Plex Media Server[edit]

Plex Media Server is the back-end media server component of Plex, which is closed source as proprietary software. Introduced in 2009, Plex Media Server is used to host the content and plugins that are then streamed to Plex Home Theater or Plex Media Center and Plex mobile app clients, either on the same machine, the same local area network, or over the Internet. In addition to the platforms supported by the front end, the server is also available for Linux. Plex Media Server can be configured to index content in any directory on the machine it is run on, as well as automatically acquiring iTunes, iPhoto, and Aperture content. Content may be transcoded by the server before it is streamed in order to reduce bandwidth requirements, or for compatibility with the device being streamed to.

Plex Media Server allows extensibility through the addition of plug-ins. Many of these plug-ins are available through the built-in Plex Online digital distribution service. This service can be used directly within Plex Home Theater or Plex Media Center's GUI.[8][18][19]

Plex uses the metadata from several free open-source online libraries to automatically find all artwork, media descriptions and theme music for the entire library.

Mobile software[edit]

Plex mobile apps exist for iOS (version 4.1 onwards), Android (version 1.6 onwards), and Windows Phone (version 7.5 onwards). The apps allow remote controlling the required Plex Home Theater or Plex Media Center software on a computer. They also allow browsing and streaming content directly to the device from a Plex server, using transcoding when necessary, as well as from various online content "channels". Both require a MyPlex account for remote access (over the Internet) to Plex servers. Unlike the desktop versions of Plex, these apps are not freeware.[20][21] Third-party applications are also available on all three platforms for remote controlling Plex.[citation needed]

Media formats[edit]

Like other XBMC-derived media players, Plex uses FFmpeg and other open source libraries to handle all common multimedia formats. It can decode these in software, using hardware video decoding where available and optionally passing-through AC3/DTS audio directly to an external audio-amplifier/receiver via S/PDIF.

An example of the TV Episode interface on Plex. Includes fan-art background

Plex video-playback uses a video-player "core" which was originally developed in-house by the XBMC developers as a DVD-player for DVD-Video movies, including the support of DVD-menus. This video-player "core" supports all the FFmpeg codecs, and in addition the MPEG-2 video codec, and the audio codecs DTS and AC3.

PAPlayer handles a very large variety of audio file-formats.

Plex handles all common digital picture/image formats with the options of panning/zooming and slideshow with "Ken Burns Effect", with the use of CxImage open source library code.


Plex Home Theater and Plex Media Server, which respectively make up the main frontend media player and server hosting backend component of the Plex platform ecosystem, are completely based on closed source and proprietary software.

Before the release of the closed source Plex Home Theater in November 2013,[7] Plex Media Center's source code was initially forked from XBMC Media Center on May 21, 2008; this fork is used today as a front end media player for Plex's back end server component.[8][9][10] Plex Media Server, unlike the open source frontend, is proprietary software. Plex Media Center is still distributed under the GNU General Public License, with source code on GitHub. The founder of Plex, Elan Feingold, was part of the official XBMC development team for a short while, but tensions over direction and philosophy led him to leave the project and create the Plex fork.[8][9][10]

Plex Media Center is primarily programmed in C++, and makes use of the SDL (Simple DirectMedia Layer) framework with an OpenGL renderer. Some of the third-party libraries that Plex depends on are written in C, but are used with a C++ wrapper and loaded as shared libraries when used inside Plex. Since Plex Media Center is based on XBMC Media Center it shares its flexible GUI toolkit and robust framework. With themes based on a standard XML base, theme-skinning and personal customization are very accessible. Users can create their own skin (or simply modify an existing skin) and share it with others via third-party public websites for XBMC skin trading.

While Plex Media Server and Plex Home Theater are closed source, developers can make plugins for the Plex Media Server proprietary plugin architecture using Python and XML. They can then submit these plugins to Plex Online.[18][19] Many plug-ins for Plex Media Server leverage WebKit to display video from online sources using the same Flash and Silverlight players that the sources provide for web browsers.[8]

Plex Home Theater uses a skin called RetroPle by an skinning artist named se.bastian.[22] While the latest version of Plex Media Center uses a modified version of the "MediaStream" skin as its default skin, a skin that was originally designed by Team Razorfish for XBMC.[23]


Plex media center software is licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL) by the developers, meaning they allow anybody to redistribute the Plex media player source code under the conditions of that GPL license. Plex Media Server, the proprietary back-end server that all plugins for Plex are dependent on, is closed source.

For most popular video and audio codecs, Plex includes native support through free and open source software libraries, such as LAME, faad (for faac), libmpeg2, and libavcodec (from the FFmpeg project). Since these source code libraries are released under free and open source licenses they are legally redistributable. However, some of these compression method's algorithms, such as the popular MP3 format, are in many countries protected by software patents. Absent a license, this could possibly make it illegal in certain countries to distribute compiled versions of Plex which includes support for these formats.

Plex can automatically fetch metadata information and artwork from sites including IMDb, TheMovieDB, TheTVDB, freedb and Allmusic using built-in web scraping functionality.

Plex includes libdvdcss in order to support playback of DVD-Video movies encrypted using the CSS (Content Scramble System) encryption scheme.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Janko Roettgers (2011-10-31). "Plex gets Windows client, cloud service, media sharing". Gigaom. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b c d Plex desktop app rebranded as Plex Home Theater
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Nicholas Deleon (2010-01-15). "CrunchGear Interview: We talk to the lead developer of Plex Media Center for Mac OS X: It was doing Boxee-like stuff before Boxee was cool". CrunchGear. 
  9. ^ a b c "XBMC for Mac forked for a separate project called PLEX (formerly known as "OSXBMC")". XBMC Community Forum. 2008-05-23. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  10. ^ a b c Kevin Anderson (2009-10-07). "Thinking inside the box". Guardian. 
  11. ^ "Plex and the Future of Television". Plex Inc. 2010-09-02. Retrieved 2010-10-21. 
  12. ^ "Plex to Enable Next Generation of Netcast Connected TV's". Plex Inc. 2010-09-03. Retrieved 2010-10-21. 
  13. ^ Stevens, Tim (2010-09-03). "Plex announces partnership with LG, pledges to beat Boxee Box and Apple TV for free". Engadget. Retrieved 2010-10-21. 
  14. ^ a b Vähäkainu, Matti (2008-10-12). "Plex media player hands-on". Retrieved 2009-10-31. 
  15. ^ "Plex Review". 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-31. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Hardware Accelerated H.264 Decoding on Plex". Plex Blog. 2010-04-27. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  18. ^ a b Arya, Aayush (2009-06-29). "Plex media center software competes with Front Row". Macworld. Retrieved 2009-10-31. 
  19. ^ a b Weintraub, Seth (2009-02-23). "Plex Media Center blows us away with App Store". Retrieved 2009-11-19. [dead link]
  20. ^ Deleon, Nicholas (2010-08-30). "Exclusive Hands-On With Plex/Nine For Mac OS X & Plex App For iOS Devices". CrunchGear. Retrieved 2010-10-31. 
  21. ^ "Plex on iPad impressive, but not perfect". 2010-09-02. Retrieved 2010-10-31. 
  22. ^ Plex Home Theater 1.0 released
  23. ^ Team Razorfish. "MediaStream Skin by Team Razorfish". Team Razorfish. 

External links[edit]

  • Plex – official site