Although you could argue about the quality of the content, the most exciting time to watch TV has to be Christmas, thanks to the sheer variety of programming available.
Previously, the only way to survive during this busy period was to get down to your local newsagent, grab a copy of TV Times - or your choice of the many generic titles - and make a detailed plan of what would you'd be watching from start to finish.
Though some of us still prefer to use this tangible method of getting the most from TV, the internet gives us so many more avenues to go down, making it much easier to find out what's on the TV at all times - and whether it's any good. Ultimately, it's there to make our lives easier.
If you want to replicate the vintage experience of the printed TV guide, there's a great application available to download called Freeguide. Using XMLTV behind the scenes, Freeguide lets you create a custom electronic programme directory for the next seven days.
You can choose a day from the listing to get an idea of what's showing, then double-click a programme to add it. Anything added will appear in your personalised TV guide below the EPG. You can also favourite a programme so it's added to your guide every time it's broadcast.
If particular channels aren't to your liking, you can simply scrub them off the list altogether. If you want the physical aspect of TV Times, you can print off your TV guide for reference. It's worth bearing in mind that Freeguide is purely an EPG though; there's no functionality beyond what you see, so don't expect to be able to record anything to disk.
Ultimately, if you just want to record TV on your PC you'll be using something like Windows Media Center. If you want more functionality then you'll no doubt opt for something along the lines of Myth TV, which has the added benefit of allowing you to skip all adverts when you record, and plugging into XMLTV so you can add your own custom TV listings.
TV on the move
Speaking of mobile solutions, things have come along nicely in recent years thanks to the prevalence of tablets and smartphones, putting the power of TV discovery in your hands.
First, you have got Zeebox, which will point you in the direction of shows you might like and is hooked in to pretty much everything going on while you watch, so you can find out more about whatever you're watching.
Then there's Buzzoolu, which finds out what shows people are talking about online - ratings are based on the volume of tweets each programme gets - and then curates them into a neat little app on your phone so you get the real lowdown on what's worth watching and what you need to avoid. You can even watch programmes based on what celebrities are tweeting.
That's great if you're watching TV on your PC, but what if you want to discover shows on a tablet and watch them on the same device? That's where Tweek comes in. This nifty iPad app displays TV that your friends have recommended, the idea being that you will trust what they tell you.
The beauty of the app is that it links to external TV services so you can watch what's being recommended immediately, although only a select few providers currently offer their channels. These include iTunes, YouTube and Vimeo.
The ultimate PVR
Away from the PC side of things, there's a little-known company called Promise.tv, which sells what could possibly be the ultimate PVR. It produces set-top boxes in all diff erent shapes and sizes, and prices range from £599 for the basic version, up to £4,150 for an all-singing, all-dancing edition designed to connect a whole home.
While that might sound like a serious investment in any form, Promise.tv's unique selling point is its ability to record everything on TV to its hard drive, making it the ultimate time-shifting platform since you don't have to plan what you record when you're out - you simply play whatever looks interesting. The basic version can record three days of TV on 60 channels, so it's ideal for a long weekend away.
If you already subscribe to Sky, Promise.tv will be of little interest. What will intrigue you is the recently-released Sky+ app available for iPhone or Android owners, which allows you to see the Sky EPG on your phone and then remotely record to your Sky+ box when you find something you want to watch. It requires a little more user intervention than simply planning what you want to see, but it's perfect for last minute recordings.
Search for anything on TV
1. Where to find it
Download FreeGuide, select your operating system from the list halfway down the page, and then click on the exe file at the Sourceforge link.
The first time you open FreeGuide, it will take you through the setup wizard. Select your region, choose whether to receive updates and when you get to the final step, make sure you leave the tick box labelled 'Choose channels now' selected.
2. Channel listings
After this you'll be bombarded with a variety of questions related to your TV programming. The best thing to do is keep clicking 'OK' until you get to the question asking you which channels you'd like to see. Select specific channels, or just click on 'Select all' if you'd prefer.
Now you need to download the current TV listings, which might take some time. Once that's done, you'll see your personal EPG appear.
3. Search programmes
One of the best features of FreeGuide is the ability to instantly search for anything you want, no matter what it is. Use the [Ctrl]+[F] shortcut to bring up the search function and then type in whatever you want to find. That could be the name of a specific programme, an actor or a director. There are options to search descriptions as well as titles for a broader range of results.