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About collections

A collection defines a set of games or menu level that generally have a common purpose, e.g. “Nintendo Entertainment System” or “Consoles”. RetroFE generally supports 3 types of collections:

  1. (Sub-)Menu collections
  2. ItemGame collections
  3. ItemSub/Merged collections

These types can be combined in one collection though, by simply having the required elements of more types in one collection.

Default collections

The basic RetroFE installation leaves you with 2 main folders but you will be able to add many other as you wish later on :

Folder Description
_commonShared icons and other artworks used for the categories, manufacturers, etc
MainDefault collection used for the main menu to work properly and containing the key file to be edited once you have created extra collections so they can be enabled on your screen (menu.txt)

PS: In the installation you downloaded, some pre configured sets may have been added for your convenience, they will not contain the roms of course, this is something you need to sort out on your own.

How to Add/Create Extra collections?

To create a new collection, depite the specific kind required, simply run the following commands at a commmand prompt. (assuming you are in the root of your RetroFE directory)

For Windows (example):

  core\RetroFE.exe -createcollection "Nintendo Entertainment System"

For Linux (example):

  ./RetroFE -createcollection "Nintendo Entertainment System"

Replace “Nintendo Entertainment System” with the collection name of your choosing.

This will create a “Nintendo Entertainment System Folder”, create the rom folder, artwork folders and default configuration files. More details on the other steps in the detailed setup section

PS: To enable your new collection in the interface menu, you will need to add the name of the collection in the menu.txt file stored in the Main folder

Directory Structure of a collection

File / Folder Description
info.confThis file can be used to add additional system information, such as manufacturer, year, generation, etc. that can be displayed from the theme layouts. This same information can also be defined within settings.conf, but this extra file allows for a clean separation of settings and system information.
include.txtIf not empty, include only those files to show on the list, if empty, all files in ROM folder will be included. This file must contain one game per line (without the file extension).
exclude.txt List of ROMs to exclude from showing up on the menu (if you want this collection to be a menu of collections). This file must contain one game per line (without the file extension).
exclude_all.txt List of ROMs to exclude from the all playlist. This file must contain one game per line (without the file extension).
settings.confSet ROM file extensions, launcher (emulator to execute), override default media paths, etc
<collectionname>.subImports a list of games from another collection. (i.e. Your collection is named “Mario”. You would have an “Nintendo Entertainment System.sub” and “Super Nintendo Entertainment System.sub”. Each sub file would contain a list of all mario games for that system. The .sub file contains one game per line (without the file extension).If the file is blank, the list settings defined for the subcollection will be used.
romsDefault location to search for ROM files (can be different if modified in the settings.conf file)
playlistsDefault location for the favorites.txt file allowing you to manage your favorites
medium_artwork/Artwork for individual games
medium_artwork/artwork_backDefault location to search for flyer, box and case backs
medium_artwork/artwork_frontDefault location to search for flyer, box and case fronts
medium_artwork/medium_backDefault location to search for disc and cartridge backs
medium_artwork/medium_frontDefault location to search for disc and cartridge fronts
medium_artwork/screenshotDefault location to search for screenshots for each individual game
medium_artwork/screentitleDefault location to search for screentitles for each individual game
medium_artwork/logoDefault location to search for logos for each individual game
medium_artwork/videoDefault location to search for videos for each individual game
medium_artwork/storyDefault location to search for game information story txt files for scrolling text display.
system_artwork/Artwork for the system collection. i.e. a picture of a Nintendo Entertainment System, its logo, or a “best of” video.
system_artwork/device.pngPicture of the system device
system_artwork/logo.pngPicture of the systems logo
system_artwork/video.mp4Video to play for this particular system
system_artwork/story.txtText file containing system information for scrolling text display.

The 3 kinds of Collections Explained

A menu contains a list of other collections, and can be defined via the menu.txt file. When you select that item in the frontend, it will load that collection in a submenu. RetroFE allows you to combine games and collections in a single menu, by using both a menu.txt file and a games collection. A (sub-)menu collection is used to create a hierarchical level within your menu structure, e.g. Main→Consoles→Nintendo Entertainment System.

Below is an example for a basic collections/<collection name>/menu.txt file:

Atari 2600
Atari 5200
Atari 7800
Nintendo Entertainment System
Super Nintendo Entertainment System

Note that for each item specified, a directory with an identical name (case sensitive) must exist in your collections folder, so e.g. /collections/Super Nintendo Entertainment System/.

Older versions of RetroFE used a menu.xml file in stead of a menu.txt file. For legacy support, such files are still supported. Below is an example for a basic collections/<collection name>/menu.xml file:

   <collection name="Atari 2600" />
   <collection name="Atari 5200" />
   <collection name="Atari 7800" />
   <collection name="MAME" />
   <collection name="Nintendo Entertainment System" />
   <collection name="Super Nintendo Entertainment System" />

As you can see: using the menu.txt file requires far less typing. :)

Games collection

Games collections are collections consisting of a list of games, e.g. for a certain system like “Nintendo Entertainment System”. It uses the contents of the rom directory in combination with the include.txt and exclude.txt file in the following manner:

If list.includeMissingItems in the settings.conf is false:

  1. Read the contents of the roms directory.
  2. Keep only the names defined in include.txt.
  3. Remove the names defined in exclude.txt.

If list.includeMissingItems in the settings.conf is true:

  1. Use the names defined in include.txt.
  2. Remove the names defined in exclude.txt.

Sub/Merged collection

Sub collections contain a subset of other collections, e.g. Capcom Play System I can be set up as a sub-set of Arcade. The sub-collection is defined by a <collection>.sub file, e.g. “Capcom Play System I.sub”.

Also, by using multiple .sub files you can also create a merged collection, e.g. all Contra games from different systems. You could have a “Nintendo Entertainment System.sub” file containing all the Contra games from the NES, and a “Super Nintendo Entertainment System.sub” file containing all the Contra games from the SNES. RetroFE will merge these collections into one.

A .sub file is simply a text file containing a list of game names, similar to the include.txt file, but rom file, art files, etc. will be pulled from the collection it refers to.

Example: You have a MAME or Arcade collection, and wish to add a “Capcom Play System III” sub-collection.

  1. Create the “collections/Capcom Play System III” directory.
  2. Add a settings.conf file; this file can be empty or just contain some system information.
  3. Add your system_artwork.
  4. Create a MAME.sub text file containing:

       5. Add the “Capcom Play System III” to your Main's menu.txt like you would with any other collection. Enjoy your new sub collection. :)

PS: If a .sub file is empty, it will use merge that entire collection according to the rules defined above for Games collections.


RetroFE supports playlists, a sort of sub collection within a collection. You can step through them using the previous/next playlist keys defined in your controls.conf file. You can use this feature to e.g. show a list of all games from a certain manufacturer or a certain genre.

Playlists are defined via txt files in the playlists directory of your collection, and like include.txt files simply contain a list of the games you want in that playlist. If a game is pulled from another collection via a sub/merged collection (.sub file), use _<collection name>:<game name>. The asterisk (*) can be used in stead of the game name to include an entire collection.

Example: playlists/example.txt

_Super Nintendo Entertainment System:Super Mario World
_Nintendo Entertainment System:Super Mario Bros
Super Turrican

This defines a playlist called example, containing the Super Mario World game from the Super Nintendo Entertainment System collection, Super Mario Bros from the Nintendo Entertainment System collection, and Super Turrican from this collection (available in the roms section and/or defined via the include.txt file).

A special type of playlist is the favorites playlist (playlists/favorites.txt). Games can be added/removed from this playlist directly from RetroFE using the addPlaylist and removePlaylist controls, and a separate key favPlaylist allows you to switch between the favorites list and the full game list. You can even use the autoFavorites = yes parameter setting in your global settings.conf file to automatically switch to your favorite games when you enter a collection.

collections.txt · Last modified: 2022/10/25 05:58 by igarikoitz