25 March 2010

Today, I would like to pontificate about my love for you control:tunes. This little add-on/plug-in for iTunes from you software has been around for a long time. I’m not sure how long, but I feel like I’ve been using it for years. And the cool part is, despite upgrades to the OS (we’re talking Mac only here) and to iTunes, it has always worked.

Although it can do lots of stuff, I’m not really a power user. On the other hand, I’m awfully sad when I’m without it.

Here’s what happens:

I’m working away at my desk, listening to music from iTunes. As each song starts, an unobtrusive overlay (sort of like a Growl notification) fades in to the lower left hand of my screen, telling me what the song and album is. Since the iTunes app is usually buried under heaps of other programs on my second monitor, and since I do tend to let iTunes DJ entertain me for hours at a time, or forget what record I’ve put on, or don’t know what song or album I’m listening to, or wonder what a song is called, it’s very handy to be able to consult this pop up. It’s also very easy to ignore it if I want to. I can also make it go away faster by clicking on it. And all of this is totally customizable. The size, position, color, duration, transparency or the very existence of the pop-up. It’s all in your hands.

Here’s another thing that happens:

I’m working away at my desk, blasting MC Yogi’s Elephant Power record (which has brought me untold hours of happiness this year) or some punk rock, or Fred Astaire or something when the phone rings and I see from the caller ID that it’s a client. Or the government, or some other party upon whom the benefit of answering the phone without a raucous party in the background should be bestowed. Of course, iTunes is buried under all kinds of stuff, and I’m not flight-fingered about the F8 “pause” button on the keyboard (as I tend to use those F keys as key commands in my Adobe software and don’t ever expect them to work in the Finder for some reason)… and, moreover, the phone ringing flusters me, and I’m generally busy trying to plug the earbuds of my headset in and act all cool and suave and like I don’t spend most of my days working in splendid isolation. You control: tunes comes to the rescue. There’s a very handy PAUSE button right there in my menu bar (along with, admittedly, a lot of other stuff with which I’ve cluttered it up — sorry Mac minimalists!). It’s super-easy for me to click it and stop the party asap. Phew, suaveness recovered.

You can also use that same menu bar interface to find out what you’re listening to or select something new to listen to and to do iTunes geeky things like set ratings and favorites. And you can customize this little menu thing too. It comes with a huge variety of button sets in various styles and colors — and apparently, you can also make your own. You can put them on the left or the right or not at all. Personally, I’m quite happy with the flat orange buttons on the right and have been for years. Familiarity breeds comfort.

You can also set it so that the name of the song you’re listening to scrolls by in this button area for the amount of time (and at a speed) you specify. I like that.

I’m totally sold, based on the features I’ve mentioned (especially because it’s a free app). But you can apparently also set up all kinds of hot keys to control various iTunes-y things in an even more streamlined manner. I’ve not pursued this option, as my braincells allocated to storing information of that kind are already filled up remembering that option-u is umlaut and option-x is almost equal to and what the typographic names of such things as æ, «», |, and # are. (ash, guillemets, pipe and octothorpe).

Thank you people who make good software and give it to us for free. You are very cool.

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