I haven't gone into much detail in previous chapters on how to set up the Harmony. Simply because there are so many features it would take forever to try to explain how everything works. And as long as you don't actually own a Harmony yourself, there's absolutely no point wasting time on the explanation. Just remember that the Harmony learns its tricks through the website so it's absolutely necessary you have an internet connection if you want to use this remote.

Once everything is setup, the Harmony has two major modes in which it can operate your devices. There's "Device Mode", and there's "Activity Mode". Device Mode is much the same as the way your original remotes work. The buttons control one single device, with a few extra features offered by the Harmony (like "favorite channel" buttons). The other mode is "Activity Mode". And this is where the Harmony separates itself from the competition.

Before I had the Harmony, this is what I needed to do to watch a DVD:

  • Turn on TV
  • Turn on DVD
  • Turn on AV Receiver
  • Turn off VCR (because it somehow caused interference)
  • Switch TV input to HDMI - which meant pressing a button on the remote 6(!) times
  • Switch AV Receiver to DVD Digital Input
  • Mute the sound of the TV

Now that I have the Harmony 880, this is what I need to do to watch DVD:

  • Press the "Watch DVD" button

Guess which was easier to explain to my wife.

"Watch DVD" is what Logitech calls an "Activity". Pressing the "Activities" button will list all available activities on the display. These activities are created on the website. When you create an activity, the website will ask you a few simple questions like "Do you use your tv or receiver for controlling the volume?", "Which input does your TV use for watching DVDs?". Once it has all the answers it needs, it will create the activity for you. You can add extra commands to an activity if you like. For instance, if you are going to watch an adult movie you can have the Harmony turn up the A/C too if it happens to be controlled by an InfraRed Remote.

When in activity mode, you do not need to switch between devices on your remote. In the "Watch DVD" example, the cursor buttons control the DVD, as well as the Play, Stop, Pause, etc. buttons. The Volume Up and Down buttons however, control your AV Receiver. You can switch between Activity and Device Mode, if you need to control something not available in this particular activity.

When you switch from one activity to another, the Harmony will also switch off devices not needed. For instance, if you are watching a DVD and switch to the "Listen to Music" activity, the Harmony will switch off your TV and DVD player.

The Harmony website will create a set of default activities for you, based on the devices you have.

One nice thing available in both Activity and Device mode, is the ability to create "Favorite Channel" buttons, complete with icons. These icons are uploaded to your Harmony through the website, and can be found either online, or they can be created by yourself.

The Harmony 880 also has an "Off" button. Pressing this button causes the Harmony to switch off all devices. The only drawback is that you cannot change this behavior. Everything that is being controlled by the Harmony will be switched off - no exceptions made. This means that you might switch off your entire house if you are controlling too much with the Harmony.

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