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An impressive feature of XBMC is its ability to display custom thumbnails (also known as an "icon") on most items displayed. You can assign thumbnails to folders, programs, music, videos, bookmarks, and of course pictures. You can choose to let XBMC automaticly download thumbnails for music-albums and video/movies from the internet or you can create your very own custom thumbnails, (or you can download custom thumbnails that others have created).

Custom Thumbnails

You can easily create your very own user-defined thumbnails on your computer with image tools like Adobe PhotoShop or Paint Shop Pro (or even Paint in Windows). You can alternativly downloaded thumbnails that others have created from the internet (from places like,,, and many XBMC fan forums). Then you simply have to rename those thumbnails and transfer/copy them to the right location and XBMC will display them. Use JPG or PNG (with transparancy) image-format, and size of the picture to anything from 128x128 to 256x256 in pixel size, (the larger the image is the better it will look on a good display but at the same time large thumbnails loads slower). On a non-HDTV displays a image that is approx 100x140 is recomended for video/movies thumbnails (which is the size that is most common on IMDb), and approx 75x75 for music-albums (which is the default size on For 720p/1080i HDTV displays a size of approx 182x256 for video/movies thumbnails, and approx 200x200 for music-albums (such music-albums can be found on

Thumbnail Cache

XBMC will cache all Thumbnails to UserData\Thumbnails\ using the CRC of the path of the file or folder as a filename. That is the first location XBMC will generally look for a thumbnail for a given item.
In order for your custom thumbnail to show, you may have to delete the cached thumbnail.

Wide Icons


Some of the most visually appealing forms of thumbnails are Wide Banner Icons. They were added in XBMC on the 1st. of January 2007 and are now an integral part of the application. With different adjustments to the skin xml files, you may disable title names, or stack one icon on top of another.
To show big Icons, switch to one of the new views, Big Wide or Wide Icons.

Remember View: XBMC Will now remember what view you have for each folder. (Thus you can keep your TV Shows in Wide, and your Movies in Icon)

Thumbnailing Individual Items in a Single Directory

Name the icon file the same as the file you would like it to display for with a .tbn extension ie: Transformers.avi, Transformers.tbn. This is particularly useful for using custom thumbnails for movies.



Folder Thumbnails

If you store each of your media files in separate subfolders to keep things organized, you can also make the folder have a custom thumbnail image. To do this you either need to save your JPG/PNG thumbnail as folder.jpg and place it inside your movie/album folder, or you can save it as <foldername>.tbn and place it at the same level as the folder in the directory tree.

  • Remember, XBMC first checks for <foldername>.tbn before checking for folder.jpg.
  • Some documentation suggests that folder.tbn can be used. In general folder.jpg is superior as it is detected during a scan i.e. XBMC will correctly use folder.jpg but not folder.tbn.
  • Note that folder.jpg MUST be named .jpg, even if it is a .png format image.





Now your media folder will have a lovely custom thumbnail-image.

You can via advancedsettings.xml change the default filename of the image that XBMC uses for music folders. See the <musicthumbs> tag. for more information.


Program Thumbnails

In order to display the image displayed for a game, emulator or application, simply rename the desired image default.tbn and place it in the folder where the corresponding default.XBE is located.

Music Thumbnails

Music Thumbnails are assigned as part of a multitier process. First, the Tag Reader runs and caches any embedded art using the album name and album artist (or song artist, if that is all that is available). If the album name or artist is unavailable, it is cached using the path name of the song. This assumes, of course, that you have tag reading enabled.
You can also use "Get Thumb" to download the album thumbnail from (AMG) for a specific album/folder or do a scan of all your music files in all shares.
Thumbnails also get downloaded when you rip AudioCD's to your XBox with XBMC (which is described in the Ripping CDs section).
Recomended is that you store each of your music-albums or artists in a separate subfolder to keep things organized. You can also of course make the folder have a custom thumbnail image.

Notes: Running a scan automatically enables 'tag reading' so everything can be cached. Once a scan is run, all your files and their associated thumbnails are stored in the database.
The Album Information dialog (available from the context menu) will allow you to choose between the cover art available for download from and any user-defined thumbnail you may have.
Press the "Get Thumb" button to bring up a choice of the local thumbnails you have, the currently assigned thumbnail and the thumbnail.

The code which assigns thumbnails to files runs and assigns thumbnails in the following order:

1) Cached Album Thumbnail
This is all the embedded album art read by the tag reader and cached using the album name and album artist.
2) Cached filename.tbn
This includes an embedded thumbnail cached with the fully qualified name.
3) Remote filename.tbn
This is a filename.tbn on a remote share/folder which is then cached.
4) Cached folder.jpg
This is a folder.jpg which is cached based off the folder path.
5) Remote folder.jpg
This is a folder.jpg on a remote share/folder which is then cached.
6) Remote foldername.tbn
This is a foldername.tbn on a remote share/folder which is then cached.


In this example audiofilename.mp3 will use audiofilename.tbn as thumbnail:


The same goes for playlists, cue-sheets, SHOUTcast, and internet-stream files, example:


Video Thumbnails

You can either use your own custom thumbnails or XBMC can retrieve video thumbnails from the internet via scrapers and cache them locally.
XBMC applies thumbnails to video files in the following order:

1) Cached Thumbnail
Thumbnails are cached to UserData\Thumbnails\Video using the CRC of the path of the file or folder.
2) User-Defined Thumbnail
For files: XBMC checks for <filename>.tbn and uses that if it exists.The thumbnail is cached the first time it is read.

For movies, movie.tbn will override any other thumb.

For folders: XBMC first checks for <foldername>.tbn in the same directory as the folder is in. If no <foldername>.tbn exists XBMC then checks for folder.jpg inside the movie-folder. In either case the first found thumb of those is cached.

Examples for User-Defined Video Thumbnails

Single Video File

The following example "videofilename.avi" will now use the thumbnail "videofilename.tbn".

Multi Part (Stacked) Video Files

You can either use the filename of the first file in the stack or the name of the stack, so for:


Either of the below would work:


If content has been set to Movies, movie.tbn will override any other thumbs for media in that folder. In he following example "videofilename.avi" will now use the thumbnail "movie.tbn".

TV Show Season Thumbnails

In the following example, the thumbnail will be used for the appropriate season in the Video Library season node. Where xx is 01, 02 etc.


For specials:


For the all seasons item:


Playlist and internet-stream file examples:


Actor thumbnails

You can add actor thumbnails to any movie or TV show by adding an '.actors' folder in the corresponding movie / TV show / Epsiode directory.
The folder can then contain actor images using the following naming convention:

actor_name.tbn (spaces replaced with underscores)

Picture Thumbnails

XBMC applies thumbnails to picture files in the following order:

1) Cached Thumbnail
Thumbnails are cached to UserData\Thumbnails\Pictures using the CRC of the path of the file or folder.
2) Images
EXIF thumbnail in JPEG images are then read. If no EXIF thumbnail is available, XBMC will load the image and generate a thumbnail from the image. These are then cached.
3) Folders
<MyHolidayPictures>\folder.jpg is checked first. If that file doesn't exist, XBMC will generate a thumbnail from up to 4 random images inside that folder.

Thumbnails for Sources

You can change the thumbnail displayed for a source by editing UserData\sources.xml.
Note: Source thumbnails have to be in a folder on the local Xbox harddrive!

Simply modify your source as shown:


Custom Icons for Library Nodes

You can change the thumbnail displayed for a Library node by copying an icon to the media folder of the skin you wish to modify in this way. The filename for the corresponding nodes are as follows:

































In addition to these, there's also "DefaultProgramPlugins.png" and "DefaultPicturePlugins.png" that may be used.

Auto Switch to Icon Mode

XBMC tries to automatically switch to Large Icon view when the View Mode is set to Auto in the Settings. It first checks if the skin has Large Icon view, failing that switches to Icon view. If neither is available it goes for List View.
The rules are as follows:


Auto switches to Icon view when 50% of all the items (files and folder) have thumbs.


Auto switches to Thumbs view when the list contains more than 25% files. (In the case of Pictures, all items have thumbs as they are generated upon entering the folder.)


Auto switches to Thumb view when 50% of all the items (files and folder) have thumbs.


Auto switches to Thumb view when the list contains at least 75% folders and at least 50% of them have thumbs. (Remember that playlist files like m3u, pls, etc, are treated as folders by default)


The thumbnail .tbn file is created via a hashing function. As explained earlier, the hash is based off the CRC32 of the pathname (plus filename) in lowercase. Files which are local are hashed using their drive letter. Remote files are hashed using the smb:// protocol designation and optional username and password.


  • 123456789 returns 0376e6e7
  • F:\Videos\Nosferatu.avi returns 2a6ec78d
  • smb://user:pass@server/share/directory/ returns c5559f13
  • smb://user:pass@server/share/directory/file.ext returns 8ce36055


  • When hashing remote shares, use the path as displayed in the sources.xml file, which can include the username and password.
  • When hashing directories for thumbnails, include the final slash.

Sample Code

The following code is written in C# and produces the same output as the XBMC hashing function.

public string Hash(string input)
   char[] chars = input.ToCharArray();
   for (int index = 0; index < chars.Length; index++)
       if (chars[index] <= 127)
          chars[index] = System.Char.ToLowerInvariant(chars[index]);
   input = new string(chars);
   uint m_crc = 0xffffffff;
   byte[] bytes = System.Text.Encoding.UTF8.GetBytes(input);
   foreach (byte myByte in bytes)
       m_crc ^= ((uint)(myByte) << 24);
       for (int i = 0; i < 8; i++)
           if ((System.Convert.ToUInt32(m_crc) & 0x80000000) == 0x80000000)
               m_crc = (m_crc << 1) ^ 0x04C11DB7;
               m_crc <<= 1;
   return String.Format("{0:x8}", m_crc);